Mary Ellen Fean is a Shannon-based poet whose work has appeared in The SHOp, The Clare Champion, Revival magazine and elsewhere, and she has read her work widely. Long-listed for the Desmond O’Grady Poetry Prize in 2012, she is the organiser of the poetry event at the Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare annual music festival.
Childhood was spent
waiting, for the world to find us
in this place of stern-faced women
where good advice was abundant,
but never enough love.
And always the talk of hay and the weather
the price of everything,
and what if we never left this place,
had to wear sensible shoes and
be those girls who read at Sunday mass –
In summer the land dried and we sat
in the orchard writing love-letters, with
all the foolish things we’d never say:
‘Love you always,’ and ‘Love forever’ –
They would never be read. All the time
staying close to the dark house.
The Jewish girls keep their heads down,
studiously, all the time their eyes on
the prize. Shielded from the whispers,
they have earned the promised land.
the white girls practise their delicate
blushes, like carefully nurtured blooms,
they are assured of all the prizes.
The black girls work and pray.
they live in stealth, with nothing to barter,
nothing to exchange for their lives.
‘Look away’ say the white women in the
light of day. They are everywhere, in their
stiff, cotton bonnets, black girls hanging
from the cedar trees.
*Between the years 1886 and 1957, two thousand people were lynched by in the United States of America; 150 of those were women, four of them were pregnant. In 1905, Jenni Steers from Louisiana was accused of offering a glass of poisoned lemonade to a white girl. She was killed by a local lynch-mob.