Mary Madec – Two Poems

poet 3Mary Madec has a B.A. and M.A from NUI, Galway and a PhD from The University of Pennsylvania.
She has published poems here and abroad and in 2008 she won The Hennessy Prize for Emerging Poetry.
In 2010 her first collection, In Other Words was published by Salmon Poetry. She  launched her second book, Demeter Does Not Remember with Salmon Poetry, in May 2014.



I take the train from Ogilvie to Palatine,
imagine her now at eighty three from childhood
in nineteen seventy four, as I go in and out of stations
like decades on a rosary and half-remembered licks of ice-cream,
the day she was a queen with her king, her retinue
Jo and I, princesses weaving through the mountains.

We thought the sun set like a red lollipop in the mountains
Connemara glowed for us, imprinting this memory for Palatine
in two thousand and thirteen and she tells me of her golden retinue
her girls and boys, what they’ve grown into from childhood
and how she remembers the taste of Chambers’ ice-cream
in Newport en route to Achill for the Stations

She takes out the Irish china, adjusts the radio stations
until she finds Irish music and melodies from the mountains
like home and serves up her apple pie with a dollop of ice-cream
tells me who’s schizophrenic, gay, divorced in Palatine
and how she became a nurse, the dream of childhood
after the kids got through High School she showed the gifted retinue

where their brains came from. Did I mention the beauty too of her retinue?
their high cheekbones and auburn hair in photos above the play station
detailing rights of passage and moments of glory from childhood
paraded every few years, money permitting, in the Achill mountains
a far and distant cry from Illinois, Palatine
where they romped their way through childhood

We made sure they had a chance to see their mother’s childhood
the goats and sheep, their father teased, were then my retinue.
Hard, I thought to imagine around the red brick condos of Palatine.
We made them do the climb on Croagh Patrick up to the first station
harder than the steps in the Wrigley Building, a mountain of mountains
for little feet, all made up for, she said,at the bottom by whipped ice-cream.

Ireland a blissful world, everywhere there were lollipops and ice-cream
melting between wafers, like the two continents of their childhood
and when life was hard they knew how to make a path in the mountains
and nostalgic, tried out orienteering at home later in Palatine
grew up fast and now, in their turn, command a lively retinue
of little ones who bring them back to the Nurse’s station

She says, Look to the Mountains
Revere childhood
Eat Ice-cream




Penny lives here with the kids
and Ods is in London
fighting all kinds of battles
on the Stock Exchange

She takes it in her stride,
the way her mother before her did
when her father emigrated
to tatiehoke in Scotland

No use looking out wistfully from the
Atlantic Drive or Achill head,
her Dad was bent over a dark ridge
somewhere north of Aberdeen.

She didn’t even know. He was gone
And she got on with it,
got used to saying he was away,
the only way to dream of him on long winter nights

when her mother sat by the fire
and knitted aran sweaters for the factory.
Each wondered but would never ask
if he’d ever get back
It wasn’t as if no-one cared.

Now she knows the wisdom
of not saying it as it is
even with Skype and instagram
she knows how it feels

absence like the empty side of the bed
and the silence of the late evening
when the children are asleep,
the way the dog looks at the front door

and she sees her mother darning reason
into feelings she couldn’t mend
even if it was love that made the stitches
she’d still throw it from her in the end

say, There it is now, that’ll do

My dear Hades

Something about you reminds me
of mussels on the rocks,
black-blue clumps of darkness
rising and falling with the tide
in this newly discovered harbour.

What is the smell,
its provenance uncertain?
Slightly off but inhaled as something healthy now
detoxifying . Limbic triggers
hypnotic narcissi and their pollen pollution.

The wind is calm enough
for me to appreciate that my breath
is taken. It is you I am breathing
in and out.
Your blue flesh beneath my hands

in fronds of wrack
small fertile vesicles
bursting against your skin
and softening the contours
of what mine holds,

tired muscles, old bones.
Mostly, we float around in it
though sometimes you scuba dive
to see what you can remember
from below.

When it’s sunny we give our bodies
to the water
only our fingers touching
listening to how molluscs gurgle
under water, enchanted, satisfied.

© Dr. Mary O’Malley-Madec
Villanova University Centre,
Deans’ Corridor,
NUI, Galway

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