Widows Together, poems by Geraldine Mills
Geraldine Mills is a poet and fiction writer. She has had four collections of poetry and three of short stories. Her short story collections have been taught at the University of Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut State University and Emerson College, Mass, USA summer programme. She has won numerous awards for her fiction and poetry, including The Hennessy New Irish Writer Award and a Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship. She has been awarded two Arts Council bursaries. Her first children’s novel, Gold, was published by Little Island in 2016. She is a mentor with NUI Galway and is an online tutor in the short story with Creative Writing Ink. She is a member of Poetry Ireland Writers in Schools’ Scheme. She has just finished her next novel and is currently working on her fifth poetry collection.
Only three years between them,
each man with hair dark as midnight, a bad back.
Our mother tries to lift our father up in the bed
when he cries out that he is slipping.
Jackie Kennedy holds her husband’s head
while blood spills from him.
Stars and Stripes draped over the coffin,
the white horses carried his body to Arlington.
My father’s funeral so small, I count
on the fingers of one hand the cars behind his hearse.
Two simple black dresses, mantillas.
The First Lady and our mam widows together.
The Biggest News
We visit our father in his starched hospital bed,
twenty-third of November, my ninth birthday.
He stares at the blocks that make up the cold aseptic room,
knows their heft, for he helped put each one in place.
We stand to the left and right of him,
tell him the biggest news in the whole world:
that JFK had been shot in Dallas the day before.
‘Sing me a song,’ he says, and we sing him ‘Charming Salthill.’
Our father is dying. He tells our mother so
when he steps off the train at Galway Station.
With specks of London concrete still in his hair,
he carries his cardboard suitcase home
with his bible, his dictionary, his references
that say he excelled in excavation work, dynamite.
He walks along the platform in his donkey jacket,
his broad shoulders mere shadow beneath the fabric
and all dreams of what might be become undone.
Galway still in high spirits from the visit of John F. Kennedy.
Stars and Stripes continue to flutter from windows.
Still the whirr of helicopter blades landing in the Sports Ground.
Still the memory of music and dancing in Eyre Square,
the open-topped Cadillac moving down Shop Street,
Mainguard Street, Dominic Street,
and the whole of the town out to wave and cheer.
© Geraldine Mills