Live Encounters Poetry & Writing February 2024.
The Window, poems by Angela Patten.
I never met my grandfather,
a stoker on a steamship
who died at 57 of pneumonia.
But our mother loved him
and she made us feel as if
we had known him too.
Her gift was to put us there
with her in the tiny house
at the top of the cobbled street,
kicking her button boots
against the rungs of a chair,
a ribbon straggling by her ear
as she watched for his burly
shadow at the window,
the outline of his sailor’s cap
and the big canvas seabag
slung over his shoulder.
We could almost hear
his deep-voiced Dublin accent,
smell the salt and sweat of him,
the wet aroma of his woolen jumper
after weeks away at sea.
Her sadness when she talked about
my poor father, my poor mother.
Only now, among these freshwater
lakes and rivers, far from the sea,
I understand exactly what she meant.
Geese – A Love Poem
On the highway’s gravel shoulder
a goose with a gaggle of goslings
waddling beside her.
Urban birds so common
they have become forgotten
except for their indiscriminate
droppings on greenways
and golf courses, a menace
to the built environment.
But this noisy brood is perilously
out of place, close to the line
of buses, cars and trucks
that thunder past, a crush
of armorplated rhinos
kicking up the dust
en route to the watering hole.
You’ve been watching
all week on television
the frightened faces of refugees
fleeing an invading army,
babies clutched to their chests,
dusty indigo robes flapping,
everything they could salvage
strapped to their backs,
their ruined villages smoking
behind them in the dust.
Back on the highway
the goslings’ furry heads
move up and down
like bobbleheaded dolls
while the mother tries
to protect them with her body
as if she could withstand
a metal hurricane
with only her feathers
and her warning honks.
“It’s only words and words are all I have/to take your heart away”
The Bee Gees
My father, the hardest-working man I’ve ever known,
was made redundant after 25 years on the job.
Think of that word—redundant.
Sometimes forgotten words surface in my head
like bubbles rising in a stream—
plimsolls, jotter, hoover, father—
words I never questioned,
only took for the thing itself.
People keep inventing things, then inventing
names for them. When will it stop?
When the last known speaker of a language
dies, it is called “language death.”
Do the other languages lament,
each in its own tongue?
Cristina Calderón, last known native speaker
of the Yaghan language, died at 93.
I wonder what was the last thing she said?
And to whom?
© Angela Patten
Angela Patten’s publications include four poetry collections, The Oriole & the Ovenbird (Kelsay Books 2021), In Praise of Usefulness (Wind Ridge Books 2014), Reliquaries (Salmon Poetry, Ireland 2007) and Still Listening (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 1999), and a prose memoir, High Tea at a Low Table: Stories From An Irish Childhood (Wind Ridge Books 2013). Her work has appeared in many literary journals and in anthologies including The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing; The Breath of Parted Lips Volume II; Birchsong I and II: Poetry Centered in Vermont; and Roads Taken: Contemporary Vermont Poetry. Born and raised in Dublin, she maintains dual citizenship in Ireland and the United States, where she has lived since 1977. She is a Senior Lecturer Emerita in the English Department at the University of Vermont.