Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2021
Anne McDonald is a Dublin based spoken word poet, dramatist and creative writing teacher whose work is centered on the challenges we face in a society that is changing rapidly and how we respond or react to those changes. Through her writing she explores themes of parenthood, aging, death, loss, inclusivity and response to the human condition, the changes to the political landscape in Ireland and the guttural reaction to those changes on a personal and societal level. She in interested in the power of enabling people who would otherwise not be considered “writers” to find ways to give voice to their own experience. She has had work published in Women’s News, Hot Press, Electric Acorn, Woman’s Work Anthologies 1 & 2, The Blue Nib, The Strokestown anthology and online journals and reviewed and broadcast on RTE Radio.Anne has an M.Phil in Creative Writing. Her first collection of poetry “Crow’s Book” is due out in October 2020.
Dawn and primroses
As the sky broke its blackness
and the streaks of silver
sliced the dawn, I planted primroses.
I pressed the damp earth from roots
circled in a plastic pot,
weeping silently for room to grow
and placed them in a soft bed of peat,
spreading out the tendrils
so they could wrap themselves
around warm earth,
to take their place
in the springtime garden.
I know the day will fill itself
with things to do,
and people needs,
and places to go,
and jobs to be done,
so I loved the earth a little bit
in the quiet hour
when it was just me,
the dawn and primroses.
Today I opened my new front door of my mother’s old house
to my sister, to my brother, to their husbands and wives,
and for once in our lives we could talk about
patio heaters and plants and fairy lights in a hawthorn hedge,
and what we could do with the patch of meadow
beginning to sprout with cowslips.
No need to say I am sorry, no need to say I was suffering.
I didn’t need to hear anyone explaining why their hurting
split their tongues in two and who said what to who.
It’s all gone now. The worry and the stress,
the complicated mess of families trying to negotiate,
the irreversible long drawn-out death of parents.
Today I opened the door of what will now be
the new family core and hoped that cake and coffee
and rhubarb tart and cream will go some way
to soothe away the never-ending, long bad dream
of twenty plus years of grieving. I have no fears
and know that now we will be gentle with each other.
We have space to heal, space to rest
space to find our feet on our own paths
yet being there if needed for each other,
which is what this messy, complicated,
boisterous, opinionated family
I want to give you something to say thank you,
but the gift is way beyond a bottle
of drugstore wine or a bunch of flowers.
There is nothing I can give that can recognize the hours
and hours you put in to help me cross this threshold.
I looked to find a thank you in the cards and malls
and halls of hand-crafted gifts and then I thought,
it was the gift of drinking tea
we missed the most when mam got sick.
The endless talk and cakes and food and schemes
to lose weight and make money,
what was funny about the latest gossip,
leaving in the evening with a bag of food,
or slips of plants or charity shop clothes
for grand-kids, hand picked with love.
I wanted to give you a gift,
then I realized we also love tea
and cakes and talk about how
to lose weight and make money
and funny stories and the latest gossip
at this, her table where you come
to while away the hours watching tiny birds
peck seeds in Peggy’s garden.
You have her strength,
and in your eyes, I saw her smile
when I gifted you a teapot.
The fixer in any family is usually the middle sister
and so it is in mine.
The upside to having a fixer is we get to dawdle
on the sidelines of any conflict,
say our bit and fuck the consequences.
The downside is the fixer is never fixed
and suffers from the never-ending
tug-of-war of family dramas and the constant
“He said/she said” and “I don’t want to know.”
Today I spent the afternoon with our family fixer
in the springtime sun.
We dressed the grave and parceled gifts for Mother’s Day,
drank tea and ate toast in this my new kitchen,
in my mother’s old house.
For once, there was nothing needed fixing.
© Anne McDonald