Sunday, 6 December 2009


My neighbour from my homeplace in Mill Lane died yesterday. She saw my parents grow up, she saw all of us grow up, and she was like an aunt/granny to me.

I was the kind of kid who hung around adults and I loved this woman's stories and songs, so I spent a lot of time in her house. I also loved all the goodies she used to give me and my sisters and friends: chocolate, Fox's mints, biscuits and lemonade.

She lived in a long, typically Irish 3-room cottage, with no running water and no flush loo, even in the 21st Century. She loved B&W TV, B&W photos, sugared jellies and wildflowers; she rarely left our hometown - all she wanted was within a one mile radius of her house.

I wrote this poem, which appeared in Crannóg Autumn 2009 about her house after she left it to go to hospital long term. She won the virgin statue at a fairground stall many years ago. Her name was May.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh sí. Rest in peace.

The Virgin Statue

And she will still be there, tall as a toddler,
static in her wooden cave, table-bound,
queening it over the piano where mice tinker,

over an empty, many-coverleted bed,
the clock, hollowed out of chimes,

over a sea of mats, the black-and-white TV
– conduit to this century – blank-screened, silent.

Her eyes mad with sorrow, she misses, maybe,
the mingle of fried spuds and Coty, the ghosts of dogs,
the May-long worship at her shrine.


Una said...

I love your poem Nu. I don't remember having read it before. I giggled at the mice plinking in the piano, I remember that & that cover laden bed.
It is the end of an era for old Mill Lane. RIP May.


Thanks Úna. It is the end of an era. Very sad indeed.

Liz said...

Sad, her passing...she sounds like a real character and her likes will hardly be seen again...the poem captures loads...sorry for your loss, Nuala...I had a likewise elderly lady that we as kids used to hang out with, she let us wallpaper her rooms and she took us on gallavants across the townland visiting people...she was different, she sounds like your lady...

Tania Hershman said...

I love your poem too, a wonderful tribute. May sounds like she was a wonderful inspiration to you all!

Kar said...

its very sad to hear about May. I remember her lipstick and you going to the local chemist to pick up her favourite shade for her, so cute. She was lovely.
Love the poem too.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Sad news , Nuala,and a lovely poem. She must have been a great age.All this reminds me of my much loved and much missed Uncle Jackie.

Niamh B said...

It's a beautiful poem, really touching and haunting, thanks for sharing it, a lovely tribute to your neighbour.

Rachel Fenton said...

That really choked me.


Thanks to you all.

Liz - I love that wallpapering story! How lovely old people and kids used to get along. I don't think it's the same anymore in many places.

Kar - the lipstick! Well remembered.

TFE - she was in her 80's. Exact age a secret!! Coincidentally, her brother was called Jackie.

Elisabeth said...

'Tall as a toddler', these words resonate for me alongside the statue and my imagined image of May. This is a beautiful poem. Thank you.

BarbaraS said...

Ah yes, I remember this one from the peer group. I liked it then, and like it even more now. It's in your Portrait of the Artist... too :) spot on.


Elisabeth & B - thank you both.