Gerard Hanberry is an award winning poet and writer who lives in Galway. His fourth collection of poetry is to be published by Salmon in 2013. This follows At Grattan Road (2009) also from Salmon. In 2011 The Collins Press published Hanberry’s biography of Oscar Wilde and the Wilde family, More Lives Than One-The Remarkable Wilde Family Through the Generations.
DID SHE EVER LAUGH?
Did she ever hear laughter,
sweet and spontaneous,
even in her clinched youth
when all the rooms were dark
and the chapel was dark
like the burdened sky,
the mists and the grey-varnished lake?
And the grass always grey
even on summer days
when the wild roses and bell-fuchsias
drooped lifeless and grey
along the hedgerows
up to the horizon.
Did she ever laugh
in the kitchen where the walls were dark
like the flagstone floor,
cold when they knelt to say the grey rosary,
stringing her faults together
all the way to her mother’s eye,
and later unspooling to her husband’s,
dissonance and drab duty,
the heavy tablecloth and dinner service,
hope absent or an impediment?
Now, after all those grey years,
only pursed silence,
the dark hall, the stairs,
the empty rooms,
the ticking of a great
Did she feel her substance crumbling
from the top of her head,
the roots of her hair,
through cheek bones and neck sinews,
shoulders, breasts, waist, womb,
hollow and shadowless,
fading the length of her thighs,
shinbones, the balls of her feet –
only a rummage of dust,
powdered like glass
beneath his hobnailed heel?
WHAT OUR SHOES SAY ABOUT US
According to the radio phone-in,
the world’s oldest shoe has been found
in an Armenian cave, well preserved,
buried in sheep dung for over five thousand years.
The excited curator at Toronto’s shoe museum
told the host that going by the style of the antique loafer
not a lot had changed in five millennia
She described a stylish moccasin,
cut from a single piece of cowhide,
laced along seems at the instep and heel,
tanned and tailor-made for the right foot,
the shoe of a rich man, so ancient yet so familiar.
Six policemen with Winchesters
shot a man in Utah last night,
fired a volley of bullets at a target
fixed to the prisoner’s chest
while he sat hooded and strapped to a chair
in a room with white cinderblock walls.
The reporter did not mention the convict’s footwear.
Perhaps he walked barefooted through the sandbags
to that high-backed throne on its little pedestal
facing the gunport slit, flexing his toes
to catch the last curve of the earth, observers in their places,
the firing squad trooping in,
regulation footwear spit and polished for the occasion.
Later they would have crunched across the gravel yard
to their cars, ignoring the chanters
with their megaphones and placards at the gate.
Another caller to the show
wondered what all the fuss was about.
I haven’t been back since, can’t face it,
came here straight from the hospital.
It’s alright but full of old crocks,
I’m one now myself, I suppose.
The surgeon did his best but the fingers
never came right after the lump-hammer.
I can handle a spoon but not a cup
and the knife and fork bests me.
I’ll manage, but when I think
of Maura’s lovely dishes,
the way she kept her plates so nice on the dresser,
the lot smashed to smithereens – No,
I could never darken that door again.
The Sergeant calls in if he’s passing,
brings me a little drop,
tells me the night-callers are still at it.
I found ‘Did she ever laugh?’ such a sad poem and was left haunted by the sound of that grandfather clock afterwards…