Deirdre Kearney‘s first collection Spiddal Pier was published by Lapwing Press and her work appears in poetry magazines ( Skylight47, Crannóg, Cúirt, Ropes, The Stinging Fly and The SHop and in anthologies, Dogs Singing, The Clifden Anthology35. Deirdre, a featured reader in the Over the Edge series, recently read at the John Hewitt 26th International Poetry Festival.
How do you explain ‘turf” to an Arab
with TEFL English and your Al Jazeera scraps of Arabic,
when he asks how many weeks it takes to make
this knobbly brown stuff he’s seen in fertilizer bags
in shops and garage forecourts,
how to paint a picture, with a sylvan soundtrack
of the plants and trees and animals
compressed over centuries, secreting
leathered bodies, hoards of Iron Age treasures
and stores of rancid forgotten butter,
how to make relevant the days spent saving the turf,
the toddler tied on to his grandmother
a woman reared on tales of bog-hole drownings,
hot days of sun ricocheting on sticky dark earth
where generations have wrought before you,
how to explain to a man from a land of nodding derricks
that many a man, and woman too
have cursed their lot on a blanket bog
while others can see god in a drift of bog-cotton?
Salaam aleikum, aleikum salaam
This is a strange country.
First, weeks of near constant rain, then a heatwave,
everyone’s scundered with the wild warm weather,
it’s even hotter than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
People stare at us, me in shorts and t-shirt
my wife, in hijab and floor length abaya.
She is lonely and frightened of so many things here,
then a parcel arrives with spices, tamar and coffee beans.
We’ve found a Halal store with comforting familiar things.
I recognise the man too, from Friday prayers. He is from Pakistan.
We speak in English of how Ramadan is hard here,
So few hours of darkness. From sunrise to sunset we fast.
No food, no drink, no air conditioning.
Though she Skypes every day, Maram is sad.
Every day, one hour talking to her mother,
every day one hour crying.
We have learned a new word –
Salaam aleikum, aleikum salaam.