Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Volume One, December 2020.
A native of Galway, Ireland Geraldine Mills is a poet and fiction writer. She has published five collections of poetry, three of short stories and a children’s novel. She has won numerous awards for her fiction and poetry, including The Hennessy New Irish Writer Award, a Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship and has been awarded two Arts Council bursaries. Her fiction and poetry are taught on Contemporary Irish Literature courses in the USA. She is a member of Poetry Ireland Writers in Schools’ Scheme. Her most recent poetry collection, Bone Road (Arlen House) and some of her other titles are now available from:
For Susan Rich
Let me tell you of what I’ve been thinking,
the ghosts that I speak to when I wake in the dark,
the poems they have entered, the ones they have fled from,
along hazel grove road where they leave shadow marks.
This eve is All Hallows, that one time of year
when the door inches open between the two worlds,
their old selves sneak through, eat the soul cakes I’m baking,
display all the guising they’ve finally unfurled.
They gather within my first place of growing,
where my sisters and I sleep three to the bed.
They knock at the door in the bleak mid of winter
to say that our brother is dead.
My parents come towards me in their black Sunday best,
the trees look so sad and forlorn.
The owl’s spent feather at the edge of the lane
when they bury their second-born son.
So, let me tell you of what I’ve been thinking,
imagine your studio glinting with sun,
the mouth-scented sweet of old mango wood
from the seat where you ease off your shoes,
neat them away after walking the shore
while leaves cluster in heaps on your porch,
your cats raise a quizzical eye as you pass,
ask: ‘why did you leave us and where did you go?’
Take your tea to your desk, waxed with lyric and bee,
its provenance intact, fills the room with new light,
while Watson and Duende do what they do best,
you pick up your pen and you write.
They’re pulling down our house,
driving the dual carriageway right through our front door.
With diggers and bulldozers they will cover over,
wipe out all my early years.
Gone will be the table at which all life was fought,
the one and only socket for the PYE radio,
the bed where my father slept
before they took him to hospital for the last time.
They will plunder the grass that we cut with the clippers,
as they will the montbretia all along the wall,
and the wall itself where we sucked the small stones
clean of mortar and lived to tell the tale.
The neighbours’ homes will be gone too,
as will the local shop, where I sang my weekly song:
‘a loaf, two pounds of sugar, a packet of tea,
and mammy will pay you again,’
to the shopkeeper who broke
the Marietta biscuit in half,
to make sure its excessive weight
did not topple the quarter pound.
In the unblinking of an eye, cars and trucks
will whizz along the bypass,
no time to spare for the once-lived lives,
buried now between asphalt and tar.
© Geraldine Mills