Judith Remy Leder is a retired Irish-American academic whose work has appeared in “Becoming a Marmoset” (2011) and “Tiger Woman,” a book of poetry, (2013). She was the Moontide Press Poet of the Month October (2012), and has published in “Fre&d” (2013) and (forthcoming) in “Ealain,” “Sediments,” and “Fre&d.”
Before phones, planes, cars, Delia lived in the County of Mayo.
Her grandmother, famine-starved, saw the family home crushed
to rubble in a bog field. I drove to the field when I was thirty.
I have a photo.
On this Irish-cold morning, that picture binds me to the woman
who died alone, grand hair shorn, in a Hoboken charity ward,
before I was born.
In my second-hand memory Grandma Delia is a wonder: in 1885,
she sat in a Cloonfad church and heard the local curate call her
friend off the altar for a bastard child. Young and unschooled,
she stood like some Mayo Druid and faced the Christian priest:
“And what of the father of the child, had he no role?” she asked.
Then she walked out.
The story of that thirteen-year old inspired my mother to tilt
at windmills her whole life long; it taught me to root for underdogs
and to strive for justice. This legacy has not served me well.
I have neither my mother’s certainties nor my grandma’s courage.
I have a photo.
for Mary Barrett my GG Grandmother
White sky, mottled gray clouds
Sun rays stretch down to the tree tops,
squeaks of red and blasts of golden
broom in the near distance–
things are mostly green:
not the vibrant green of Galway,
not the aqua of Killarney’s lakes,
not the black green of Aran,
not the glory of field and deer
and fishy streams.
This plain is hunger green.
No Martello towers here, nothing
to protect, nothing to celebrate.
Only wet dirt and the dirt poor.
Here, the bloody bog slurps up
everything but the potato, then
devours even that,
the poor man’s food.
First stone fences, bog, muck, cow pies,
then a pile of stones dark with moss
there in the middle of the field.
Destroyed houses are all like this:
crushed, squashed, mashed in Guatemala,
Palestine, Mayo–every place man has put
his mark and come to covet the small
things that others treasure. It’s nothing new.
But this little pile of rubble is my
nothing-left-to-remember home place.
She is long dead, the woman who lived
in the house the Peelers reduced to rubble.
She’d have bled the cows in the nearby
field to feed her babies all those years ago.
I owe her much, she who lived,
through eating grass
through sleeping in fields,
through poverty I cannot fathom.
She survived, and so I live.
My debt is deep as grief.
Now is the time of yellow rain.
Small flowers drop from a profligate
pepper–not the flowing vine
of the Malabar coast that puts black
spice into our pepper shakers–
but a 40-foot tall false pepper,
a sentry in my yard for longer
than I’ve lived here. From
the Andean desert it came:
messy, dirty, vigorous as a weed.
I love it. In early autumn, pale
blossoms–the color of flax
or un-dyed leather–nebulous
as last night’s dream and delicate
beyond telling, fall everywhere,
unceasingly. Like motes in still air,
or softest hale, or gentle comet-bits
they fall, leaving a pool of pale cream
under the tree, shrouding every
surface–roof, table, umbrella, my
muddy gardening boots, the grass
itself. Yellow rain falls like the ash
of Pompeii, like confetti at a ticker tape
parade, like the past tucking its
blanket of oblivion over everything.