25-12-1959 to 19-1-2003
10 years ago this weekend since Mum passed away at the young age of 43. Derek and Karen organized a big memorial event back home in Killybegs, but I was unable to attend, so this is my little tribute to Mum.
This was probably Christmas 1984, as Alan was born in March 1985. That's Harry cat sitting up on the back of the sofa. Left to right; me, Derek, Mum, Alan in the belly and Jenny. This was taken when we were still living up St. Cummin's Hill. Mum would have been around 25, actually this would have been her 25th Birthday as it was taken on Christmas day.
Great picture of Mum at a Poetry Reading. Not sure where, but I think it might have been in The Sail Inn.
This picture was taken in Christmas 2001, I was home for a few months and got to spend a bit of time with Mum. This was an Aran Knit Sweater she got made for me for my Christmas/Birthday Present. Still have it. Though it's a bit tight now round the big belly.
I love this photo of Mum. Think my Uncle Kevin Sharkey took the photo. Derek might know better. As you can see it was taken in 1990 out at our house in the Five Points, Augheyvogue.
Here's a few poems of Mum's from her book Promiscuous Winds:
I did not really have a say
never dreamed I would need
or plan to be so alone.
So when we led up to it,
the concept of choosing
was not visible in my realm.
I waved good-bye so joyously
because I sensed freedom
brings itself in unharnessed,
slips in early in the morning
and watches loved ones sleep.
There is no penalty
for standing silently on the side
as the effects of love
never wear off but fashion us
further to the shape we attain.
For a long time we stand on a bridge
temporarily lost above the flow
we look both ways seeking signs
clinging to a middle rung.
I will wave to you from here
one more time before I release
you by invitation to my farewell.
(for Pat Boran)
He holds it up between forefinger and thumb
"I find this slight, an ancient issue...
might suit journalism better.
Better stick to higher things,
a good poem
has no opinion on outside matters.
Show, don't tell,
a whisper, not a shout,
an altar, not a soap box."
Talk of beauty is compression.
You introduce the haiku;
for busy housewives.
The Ball and Chain Syndrome
Unearthed by accident
From the deep core of the floor:
A huge ball and chain.
As it tore up, link by link,
It became visible, she was a fool.
Not once had she head it rattle,
Or had she been stone deaf?
Till that fatal day
When she failed, not one,
But every vital function of being a wife.
Grovelling, she relaid the surface,
Buried the rusty chain
And made sure to toe the line,
Because she knew
A silent wife is a good wife.
So, she sucked his cock
and cooked his dinner:
Was content to be peripheral.
Life is simple; he had his job
And she had hers, so he told her,
As she shivered in a submissive state,
Too powerless to find a language
To convey the huge pain
That made childbirth a simple endurance,
And all men's matters more important
Than your own need to have a will.
Of course, we now know
From the wisdom of doctors,
That it's to do with our hormones
And the lack of oxygen in our homes.
We were, and still are, very proud of Mum as a writer, a mother and a friend. She spoke her mind, bucked the establishment; she acted first and thought later. She encouraged us to always go with our heart's desires and go out into the world as if we owned it.
But when I was a shitty young teen just starting out at the Tech in Killybegs, I didn't think her way with words was all that cool, especially when a teacher would mention the poetry to me in front of the whole class at school. Which lead to me having a teenage meltdown and telling my mother just what exactly I thought of her writing. Which in turn lead to the following poem.
It is embarrassing
to have a "poet" for a mother;
who sits staring out the window
filling the ashtray with butts.
Locks into the study
first thing in the morning;
comes out for cups of tea,
holding the concrete image in her head --
"Can't talk now!"
Her eyes like a zombie;
zooms past the chaos,
holding it and us at arm's lenght.
It is embarrassing when friends
peer round the door,
see her with one hand on her brow
bent over the old Bishop's desk --
chewing on the top of a ball-point pen.
My shirts not ironed,
my bed not made --
dinner cooking by itself in a low oven...
It is embarrassing when teachers ask,
"How's your mother's poetry?"
and everyone in the class looks
at me, as if I was personally
responsible for this affliction!
"I don't know sir -- it's not my scene!"
Shaking off any potential Stigma.
Why can't she be like other mother's? --
I'd never be asked in school,
"How did your mother do at bingo?"
-- "She won twenty quid, sir, but she told the old boy
she only won ten."
And to my great shame, this poem was read on BBC radio and Mum got a check for about six hundred pounds and gave me a chunk of it to shut my pup mouth up! Saying something to me like "not so useless now" with a smile, knowing that she'd trumped me.
This next poem is one I wrote in the months after Mum passed away. She loved Fintra Beach and just before I moved to the US to go to college she drove me out to Fintra and there was the most amazing "harvest moon" shining over the water and making the wet sand glitter like gold. A treasured moment.
Girl on a Beach
You were just a little girl
Sitting on the beach,
With a pen and scraps of paper;
While a storm raged on.
You could have run away,
Sought safer ground,
But you wanted to capture the fierce beauty
That lay within the winds.
Sand blasted your face,
Stinging your eyes; grit in your teeth,
But the words kept coming,
Your hand kept moving
And you stayed to catch them all.
All around you waves crashed off rocks
Hurricane strength winds lifted sand-banks,
Changing your surroundings.
You clung to the edge of your towel,
Grasping to something familiar.
The tides rose higher and higher,
The waves crashed closer and closer:
Caught between the moon and the Earth
In their giant game of tug-o’-war.
It was too late for anyone to save you;
No lifeguard on duty, nobody watching.
Swept away in a deafening roar
By an awesome natural force.
Your pen, clutched by a lifeless hand,
But the scraps of paper blew inland.
The ink was running, wet from sea-water and tears,
But the words, the beautiful words, could still be read:
You suffered, gave yourself as a poetic sacrifice,
So we could know the beauty that lay within a storm.
This next one is founded in memories of Mum coming home on a Friday night to relieve the baby sitter, boil some milk for us and she'd tell us about all the great poems and people and the craic. And she'd also tell us about all the bitching and infighting that went on in their little group of fishwives.
Founder Member you brought together,
Bedraggled housewives, unhooked from sinks,
Torn from marital duties, unplugged from appliances,
Such bare-faced defiance, braver than your dreams.
Meeting in Rogers back corner, near the fire,
The smoky cocktail bar of the Sail Inn.
A little menagerie, forming an outlet valve
For suppressed, oppressed emotions and voice.
Work-shopping poems, the length of cigarette ash,
Reading stories, deep as your wine glass.
You fooled yourselves and escaped
Once a month, to your make-believe.
Clothes cut from yesterday’s tight-fitting-fashion,
Hair growing out, back from depression;
Pain, resentment never slowed the Fishwives,
Only fueled further their tough inspiration.
Scribbles about love, virginity’s lost,
Lives not taken, masquerading sexual moments.
Work-shopping together a better fantasy,
With bronze torsos and endless, painless sex.
Upon leaving the confines of the monthly meet,
The reminding wind slaps you in the face,
As you step from the warm doorway,
To the cold reality: your life.
Another month of transcribing feelings,
Tending to husband and offspring,
Confusing their identity, for one seems
More in need than the other: depending on you
With effort you learned to block out,
The draining montage of helpless folk,
Sucking your energy, your freedom,
Your ability to wear the world as a lace
Negligee, flowing in the wind.
Someday Founder Member, the wind will catch;
Your garment will become sail,
And off on a wishful wisp,
Leaving all behind, to live your life
For the first time since you were born.
Go found yourself among the people,
People you’ve never seen nor heard,
Except from the inside of Cosmo’
People so cold and uninterested,
They’ll let you be whatever you dare.
Love you Mum and miss you every day.