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Angela Patten – A Call to Prayer

Profile Angela Patten LE P&W Dec V One 2018

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A Call to Prayer, poems by Angela Patten

Angela Patten is author of three poetry collections, In Praise of Usefulness (Wind Ridge Books), Reliquaries and Still Listening (both from Salmon Poetry, Ireland) and a prose memoir, High Tea at a Low Table: Stories from an Irish Childhood (Wind Ridge Books). Her work has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies including  Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont; Cudovista Usta (Marvellous Mouth), Drustvo Apokalipsa  (Slovenia); The Breath of Parted Lips Volume II; Salmon: A Journey in Poetry, 1981-2007, Salmon Poetry; and The White Page/An Bhileog Bhan: Twentieth-Century Irish Women Poets, Salmon Poetry. Patten has received grants for poetry from the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Community Foundation. She has been Visiting Writer at Stonecoast in Ireland, Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland; Stranmillis University College-Queens, Belfast, Northern Ireland; and The Frost Place, Franconia, NH. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, she now lives in Burlington, VT and is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Vermont. More information is available at her website www.carraigbinn.com


A Call To Prayer

My students, gathered around a long wooden table
are staring at their small rectangular phones
occasional smiles playing over their lovely faces
as they communicate with the invisible ones
those absent friends they seem to prefer
to their flesh and blood sisters who sit quietly
inscrutable as nuns in a silent order.
I think of The Poor Clares who chose lives
of austerity and holiness, only permitted
to glimpse the world through small rectangular
grilles and never speak except inwardly
to God and his intermediaries.
These young women, lost in adoration
fondle their phones like sacred objects
the way my mother used to clasp her Sunday missal
lips dutifully following the Latin tongue.
She sat, stood, genuflected to heavenly cues
far beyond my earthly earshot.
On silent retreats at the convent school
I too spoke to invisible friends in high places
begging them for favors, making deals
offering false promises to be good.
I messaged them incessantly but
unlike the friends of these student acolytes
they never returned my texts.

After The Hurricane: A Fairytale

The American alligator is a rare success story of an endangered animal
not only saved from extinction but now thriving. National Geographic Magazine

Not Goldilocks but a ten-foot alligator
lurking in the living room when the family
sloshed through the wreckage Hurricane Harvey
had made of their Houston home.
Chairs and tables already smashed,
windows blown, a river running down
the hall. No wonder the creature
could not tell inside from out.
An envoy from the distant past,
it turned its armored body to display
the undulating curve of its terrible
tooth-fringed jaw, its crocodile smile.
The three bears in the fairytale
were furious at Goldilocks’ intrusion.
Spoiled brat who thought she owned the place.
But you don’t chase a gator when
you find yourself reduced
to living in a swamp. You don’t think:
alligator shoes, a purse, a handbag!
You just get the hell out of there.
This week in Puerto Rico a big bad wolf
dressed up as Hurricane Maria
blew the houses down like matchsticks.
There’s an ogre in the White House.
And at home, my friend is vanquishing trolls,
valiantly searching for Price Charming
on eHarmony, Tinder and Match.com.


The Source of All Regret

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía
was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover Ice.”
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Many years later when you’re flopping
from side to side like a trout on a leash,
sifting through the incalculable consequences
of returning to your marriage
or running after some flimsy vision
of True Romance, it all comes back to you,
the game of Blind Man’s Buff—
you standing in the cul-de-sac square,
a dirty rag covering your eyes,
hands tied behind your back,
the children’s shrill voices yelling
Me, me! It’s my turn! Choose me!
And this is supposed to be a game
but you’re dithering like a prisoner
over the menu for his last repast
because you’ve convinced yourself
you’ll surely be shot at dawn
by a firing squad of your peers
for making the wrong decision.


© Angela Patten