from Optic Verve
surcease of contact
the surcease (of contact)
to mature in his imagination
to mature in his? imagination
—world of want and world of plenty — she was
consequently free to live, naturally —
un libro en rústica
haber sido engendrado
el y lo que es descarnado su realismo implacable
despojado del tiempo de su infancia
desterrado de su tierra natal
no me viene a la memoria
es un sinverguenza
el mucho hablar
llegaría con tiempo sobrado
saboreando el paseo
la tersura apenas demarcados por setos bajos
To find oneself constantly in kitchens. Bathrooms too. It does seem to predicate a sort of liking. Affinity is too strong a description, acceptance too passive, fondness too sentimental. Familiarity states the case without evoking anything of the complicated responses provoked.
Perhaps one hundred or so years ago I would have simply put my naggin of whiskey on the shelf, my pipe in my pocket and sat outside the door in the Indian Summer sunshine, scrubbing the potatoes or mending the trousers, watching the very late last blue damselflies and wasps whirr round to die. A dance macabre, hung on the solidity of an air wrapped in minute particles of dust and mould, with the wet sharp green of nettle beds and the musky odour of half-rotten tree bark in my nose.
Or perhaps I would have gone to town in the pony and trap, selling eggs or butter, buying flour, meat or sugar. The pony and trap could have brought me to teach at a school or in a private house, or visiting relations or friends at a time of extra work or need.
My maternal granny was thirteen in nineteen thirteen, the year she started boarding school, the year her father died and she finished boarding school, returning home to a governess/companion, the year of the Great Lockout in Dublin. She remembered it all vividly well into her eighties.
My own father now just turned eighty is equally at home in a landscape of a bygone era, in Dublin as a student pharmacist; pictures of him in tan khaki Bermudas and a many-pocketed flying jacket (in the seventies to us kids a ‘bomber’ jacket − but a real one). Small round wire-framed spectacles, hair brushed, it seems, straight up and back, already receding slightly, if spectacularly. A bicycle and a gaggle of friends lying on the grass in the background. He looks happy. Or outside a small farmhouse in Mayo, my granny seated on a súgan chair, dressed (it is the nineteen forties) in a floor-length dark skirt, a high-necked blouse, a shawl. Her stern aquiline beauty shy of his camera.
Photography had fast become a big hobby of his, once he had his first job, pre-Dublin. He took photographs, developed them and negotiated a deal with local shops so he could print batches for sale to tourists. Lighting, grain, tone, angled composition. A small Box Brownie bought second-hand at first, I think.
‘Everything is the same and everything is different’, N decided during the Summer. Nearing eight seems to promote such pronouncements. In Spring we had ‘there is really no such thing as a perfectly straight line.’ Talking, questioning round these aphorisms, much like his elder brother at a similar age. I remember that feeling, excitement, discovery, speculation. The realisation that the world I knew was not a fixed unit in stasis, or the same as anyone else’s. Freedom.
Tentatively, infrequently, an emergence.
Whose gift was it? To say what is my name is not tantamount to saying I don’t know who I am.
Whose name was it? The gift, of course, objectively, is from a particular name to another one. Whose gift, whose name, would tell us what, significance.
The signifier applied to the signified in question, or doubt, would formulaically lead, in turn, to a speculative or possible conclusion of the matter. Which in itself, of no matter, merely waves. Respondent at the nerve ends, establishing the verification of the connective tissue would take some time.
And right by me, verging, casting shadow and too much rustle and breath is coming a, man, hands on hips; “TV3 News says they’ve started knocking down Fatima Mansions today.” “Have they? At last, or at least. And all those people gone, or dead, or maimed in the heart of things.” “They were built in 1951.” “Yeah, Tom said they started when he was still studying. Before that he was cycling past fields, vegetables, cows.”
How odd, perhaps, not to have it all there, just as usual, forever. Like death. Will everybody get the flat or house or maisonette they need? What will they build next? Will the quality of planning and design reflect the people’s needs? Will the quality and durability of construction last even as long as the old lot? Undoubtedly it will bring its own set of hiccups. What about Oliver Bond St. and Theresa’s Gardens, why don’t they have such a public makeover? What will they call it? How can it not be Fatima? Right there, by Maryland? If there were no Luas line nearing completion (or bankruptcy) would anyone with access to power have given such a damn?
Whose place was it? To say what is its name is not tantamount to saying I don’t know what it is. Naming is not a speculative art and not necessary, in the way many seem to presume, to actual comprehension. Understanding. Naming makes communicative interaction a lot less tedious and time consuming. A coded shorthand of the specific. A necessary component of the everyday dialectic of our lives.
Whose place was it? To say what its name is is saying I don’t know whose it is. There’s a girl somewhere, In London or Birmingham, Madrid or Barcelona, who says what its name is every time she tells her story. She says its name in her head, to hear the vowel sounds echo right; aloud they must be adapted for the pertaining local influence, to be understood. Superficially.
There’s a boy in Cork or Clondalkin, Amsterdam or Australia, with a history of hard times, hard work and an attitude that tells what sucks. Straight off. He says the name, the block and the flat number in the same unpunctuated blurt, to get it over with, that he learned when he started school.
Winter. About a year ago, the junk-addicted son of a widowed flat-holder in Fatima died twisted up, wrapped in an overcoat, huddled on the doorstep of his recently deceased mother’s home. Dublin City Corporation (that same one that so publicly bestows titles and accolades on the strategically needed deserving) did not recognise him as a tenant so he was locked out. Alliances. He had been living there all his life. Home.
barefoot lay on the
in the step
rain scent rhythm and tone you fed
sandals in flat bread
(my) pocket spatters of sycamore biscuits
boys back of a t-shirt
shorts mossed cleaned his eyes
indiscriminate tangled wavy hurry!
put your shoes on!
bleached by squinting wash your hands!
sun tousled in the scullery
time curly dark with the new spring water
sprinting running hard
picking in home scabs briar
over the yards scrapes (she goes to the
stones step and calls
hungry clear su pper
voices a calm high
the purring carrying voice
dog we said for the slow air
stop the sound
break it down
stop this road is going
no where can the
signpost be here see
by on balcony
standing spot light hall
it is tuesday for speech
lads these saturdays a nightmare for art
brilliance shaping conformities
around a rectangular block
slow retain necessary deposits
Catherine Walsh was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1964, and currently lives in Limerick with her partner and two children. She co-edits hardPressed Poetry and the Journal with Billy Mills. Her books include Pitch (Pig Press, 1994), Idir Eatortha & Making Tents (Invisible Books, London, 1996) and, most recently, City West, (Shearsman 2006). See http://gofree.indigo.ie/~hpp/