Bonnie Naradzay studied with Eamon Grennan at a workshop in Dingle in 2006 and has returned to Ireland many times since.
Recent poems are in: American Journal of Poetry, New Letters, RHINO, EPOCH, The Ekphrastic Review (http://www.ekphrastic.net/), and others. Poems are forthcoming in the Kenyon Review, Xavier Review, AGNI…
In 2010, she won the University of New Orleans MFA Poetry Prize: a month at the Italian castle of Ezra Pound’s daughter, Mary. While there, she had tea with Mary, heard cuckoos call out, and hiked the Dolomites. In 2017 she earned a master’s degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis.
I’m out behind Fran Ryan’s, near the hedgerow
furious with fuchsia and blackberry vines,
searching for clothespins and hanging laundry
on the line. Marvelous, the way shirts flap
and wave their arms this windy morning
at a rainbow fading from a backdrop of gray.
The astounding sky is clearing in the west.
Here above the bay I can see Skellig Michael
jut up from the Atlantic, eight miles from land,
that otherworldly slab of rocks where monks,
like the Desert Fathers, sought holy solitude,
six centuries after Christ. Attacked by Vikings,
the windblown monks stayed on, saved rain,
ate fish, and plundered eggs from puffin nests.
Amid winter gales, they chiseled endless flights
of stairs and built oratories on the highest ledge.
Oh, let me always live in these ecstatic winds,
about to fall in, where windhovers climb
the sky and the blown wash flies off the line.
(appeared in fall 2012 Atlanta Review)
They are nubs of green
under four-petaled flowers,
pink like wild roses
with stippled gold stamens.
Or enlarged, red, dark purple,
on the same drooping bunch.
The berries most easily reached
are wizened, brown or sucked dry
by thin bees and green-headed flies.
You walk down a narrow road
rife with overgrown hedgerows:
Queen Anne’s lace, leggy wildflowers,
morning glories, blooming thistles,
nettles, dock and sprawling blackberry stalks
with their tough fluted leaves and thorns
that bloody your hand now straining
to grab the topmost fruit.
Your hands smart from nettles
as stickers hidden in thickets
rake your arms. Into the pail go
dock leaves to rub out the rash.
Taking the same way back, you discover
ripe berries you missed going out,
the other half of life.
On this side of the hedges,
higher than your head, you sense
a horse in the next pasture
moving along at your pace;
his hushed breath makes you shiver.
These berries will not last; they’ll bleed,
grow fuzz and rot. So you stew them
in a pot with chopped green apples
and burn your tongue devouring
the end of summer, pouring it into you.
(appeared in the fall 2012 Atlanta Review)
Summing Up: the Famine
Potatoes send a single life-sustaining
root among the broken stones, but what
we planted then was blighted with disease,
and what we stored soon rotted in the pits.
Spurred to act by convoluted Poor Laws,
absent landlords sent brigades with crowbars
to force us tenants from the mud-built huts
we’d roofed with boughs and clumps of turf.
Famished multitudes arose from fires
of smoldering peat like specters from the heath.
Despite the mass evictions, workhouse gates
were bolted shut against us starving hordes
so stick-thin Irish roamed the ruined land.
Priests gave last rites amid the howling winds.
Men, begging for relief, built roads to nowhere
and died before they saw the first week’s pay.
The harbors closed to ships with foreign corn.
Whole families died within the holds of coffin ships.
The English sponsored lectures on growing wheat –
in English, though we farmers spoke only Gaelic –
and gave out pamphlets quoting Adam Smith.
In Mayo, stiff, abandoned corpses were pulled
through streets on carts, where they stared out at us.
Above the churchyard, curlews wheeled and cried.
Blasket Island Blues
We stumbled over ancient graves for the unbaptized dead
Yes, tripped on broken headstones for the unbaptized dead
Their small bones were buried near the Celtic gods instead
It took till nearly midnight to get the stove to work
Flipped knobs, unwrapped tin foil, nothing would work
Finally baked some mackerel and got the wine uncorked
We huddled near sheep on the Blaskets in the rain
The stone-walled roofless huts let in sheets of rain
Meadow grass was flattened where the sheep had lain
Harvested blackberries by the road, the last day of our trip
Our mouths bled purple stains that last part of our trip
We packed, dropped off the rental car, and that was it.
E detto l’ho perche doler ti debbia – Inferno, xxiv, 151
In the Summer of Love, the brown paper bag
near our kitchen sink was filled with a week’s
midden heaps. Sodden garbage rotted on the floor,
and maggots, impersonating rice, writhed free.
Pulverized garlic, which we wore in our socks,
stalked through our nightmares while we slept.
By daylight, strange fumes leapt from our tongues.
Our Siamese cat, in heat, streaked out the door.
Lowell told our King James Bible class he was off
to Brazil, but he only got as far as McLean Hospital,
in Belmont, for a cure. I was the night attendant
who dozed in the hallway, propped against the wall.
Alba, the promising dropout, lit hash on our stove
and sucked up the smoke through a rolled-up fifty.
He stole my Chaucer, Keats and Bede and sold
them to the used book emporium in Central Square.
Weekends, up in Vermont, we gathered sheaves
of marijuana from the VFW’s front yard and dried
the lot in a Laundromat. We sold it all in tie-dyed bags
at steep discounts. Leaves curled like little fists inside.
By summer’s end, there was nothing we believed in.
Yams sprouted vines that crawled away
from us, and bancha tea could not keep us awake.
And I have told you this to make you grieve.
(published in EPOCH, 2019)