Download PDF Here
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing January 2023
Sailmaker, poems by Anne Fitzgerald.
By the time we round
the Cape of Good Hope
I lose count of my stitches
threaded through noses
of shrouds, let slip from stern
as if candles beneath the skin
of waves under moonlight.
No talk, from crow’s nest
to bay or berth save for rain
wind strains from timbre.
Out of 12 Merrion Square, Dublin
Only after the bartender
skewers a sliveskin onion through
a sword cocktail stick, do
I tell you of a delicate Dalkey-born
Warrior; sipping my Gibson
and speak of no shrinking violet.
Little did butler Arthur Harper
know, closing Lord Chancellor of Ireland’s
Merrion Square front door after
Honourable Violet Albina Gibson,
she would become the only woman in Italy
not longing to have tea with Benito Mussolini.
She is of Anglo-Irish stock, plagued
by poor health, privilege and religion.
Violet’s passion for belief drives
through the Church of Ireland,
theosophy and Catholicism, suffers
a breakdown in Kennington after
her brother Victor dies, 1922. And so
begins her series of sojourns at, Buckfast
Abbey, Holloway Sanatorium, Surrey,
and Our Lady of Lourdes convent Rome,
resulting from a set of events, some
known, others best known only to herself.
In broad daylight under a 1926 Roman
sun amongst push and shove
of Blackshirts Violet Albina Gibson takes
a pot-shot at Il Duce. Her revolver’s refusals
to release a second bullet allows
Fascists set upon her in Palazzo dei Conservatori.
From insanity pleas to negated truths,
prisoner Violet Albina Gibson 14967, will
toggle between Mantellate prison
and San Onofrio asylum after
her flower pressing hammer proves handy,
when taunted by a fellow inmate.
To save family face clemency is shown
at an in camera Italian trial. Violet is not
invited but commended into the care
of Constance, her sister. Duped upon
arrival on British soil, certified insane
and incarcerated at St. Andrew’s Asylum,
Northampton. For twenty nine solitary
years of epistolary, she seeks
medical attention, movement to a Catholic
nursing home, even appeals to Churchill
after Il Duce fell. Violet’s letters staff chose
not to post could have papered cell walls.
Often behind St. Andrew’s high garden
walls Violet was found stood cruciform, not
unlike St. Francis, communing with birds,
lost in thought amongst rhododendrons
and lupines. Recalls Queen Victoria’s Court
as a debutant and daughter of the Lord
Chancellor of Ireland, who left Merrion
Square to fight for peace
and physicians to believe she was sane.
At seventy-nine Violet Albina Gibson gave
up the ghost. Psychiatrics declared her myth:
she had shot Benito Mussolini, delusional.
By 1956 nobody, whose care
Violet Albina Gibson had been under
is alive to confirm the truth.
© Anne Fitzgerald
Anne Fitzgerald ’s poetry collections are, Vacant Possession (Salmon Poetry, 2017), Beyond the Sea, (Salmon Poetry, 2012), The Map of Everything, (Dublin, Forty Foot Press, 2006) and Swimming Lessons, (Wales, Stonebridge, 2001). She founded two school publishing houses in addition to Forty Foot Press. Anne is a recipient of the Ireland Fund of Monaco Literary bursary at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco and lives in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. For further information see http://www.fortyfootpress.com/