Poems by Frances Browner
Frances Browner is a creative writing and history tutor living in County Wicklow, Ireland. Her poetry has appeared in The Irish Examiner, Ogham Stone, Skylight 47, Poems on the Edge, Tales from the Forest, Ink Sweat & Tears, A New Ulster, Bray Arts Journal, Boyne Berries and on Limerick’s Poetry Trail. A Micro-Chap of fifteen poems was launched online by Ghost City Press, Syracuse, NY, as part of their summer series, 2019. She facilitates Poets Parlour open-mic in Greystones, Wicklow.
Hungry for Love
In Manhattan, I longed for
Ma’s brown bread, creamery butter
Tayto crisps, salt ‘n vinegar
Bisto gravy, black pudding
digestive biscuits for dunking.
In Manhattan, I hungered for home.
Back in Dublin, I dreamt of pizza slices
bagels ‘n cream cheese; Reese’s
peanut butter cups, Hershey’s kisses.
Sixty cent coffee from a Wall Street vendor
who knew I liked it dark, sweet, regular.
Home at last, I hungered for love.
In the Bronx, construction workers
stood in line outside the Irish butcher.
Dyin’ for bacon ‘n cabbage, fish ‘n chips
shepherd’s pie and spotted dick. Washed
down with pints of porter in Rory Dolan’s.
Hunger satisfied, still home-sick.
Dubliners now dine on take-out Mango Tree
Jasmine House curry, chop suey, chow mein.
Sip Prosecco instead of Barry’s tea
Merlot, sauvignon and champagne.
In Direct Provision shelters or out on the streets
to roam, others hunger for a house to call home.
Janus had two faces
One looking forward
One looking back
My face had two sides
One round, eye wide open
One tilted, eyelid drooping
By a brook, the banshee keens
Her features craggy
White hair in reams
Tears snail my crooked cheek
Nerves palsied, now decease
Do school friends notice?
They do, but don’t say it to my face
In between electric shock waves
A thirteen-year-old dreams of Camelot
While, Jackie O sunglasses hide
her weeping eye, slanted smile
Auntie Frances, what’s history?
Things that happened a long time ago
Yeah, Mae, like dinosaurs
All the girls in my class have a record player
fourteen-year-old me used to wail.
If everyone jumped in the Liffey
would you want to jump in as well?
Da cracked a shy smile when I gasped
at the shiny brand new turn table.
Cream lid, with a handle like a suitcase
Phillips, high fidelity, transportable.
I lugged it from Busáras down the country
so my cousins and I could learn to jive
quick step around the kitchen floorboards
‘Suddenly you love me’ our only forty-five.
Jaysus, but you’re a swinger! A lad all the
girls wanted to dance with was surprised.
Did ya take them lessons up in Dublin?
I taught myself, I timidly replied.
LPs too turned on that table – Abbey Road
Sergeant Pepper, Ziggy Stardust, Fleetwood
Mac – until I bought a new cassette deck
and Carly Simon’s ‘No Secrets’ tape cassette.
All tossed into a skip the day Da’s house
was emptied and I wasn’t there to supervise.
Now, the beech wood stand is used to store
Encyclopedias that did manage to survive.
And nephews pay a small fortune
for vinyl from seventy-five.
You saw the gift under the tree
Four girls in Victorian dress on the front
Old-fashioned, maroon hardcover
Yellow grain paper, no pictures
Happy Christmas from Mammy, inside.
Years later, you came upon a copy
In a school in the South Bronx where
Your students had never heard of it.
You tried to open their minds like pages
To the possibilities the world had to offer.
You taught them that bold was not bad
But, brave and rebellious
Being willing to stand out.
Stories don’t all have fairy-tale endings
That words, as well as sticks and stones
Could break their bones.
You learnt that Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg
Were mere ‘white girls’ to these girls
That privilege was a book
Closed in their underclass faces.
An American classic had made more
Sense to a nine-year-old Irish girl, after all.
© Frances Browner