In Memory, Joanne Breen

January 2007 WLT 
January 2007 WLT

I am fingering a length of yarn
from the mill at Stornoway.
It is green as a summer meadow
though when I untwine it widdershins
I see, spun into the yarn, fibres of blue
& yellow & purple, occasionally orange.
I am undoing the magic of the spindle,
Unravelling.

                       She believed that
joined together we were powerful as hawser
that could moor the craft of the spirit
in safe anchorage, or tether
for the wild horse of the imagination
or binder of each to each into a force of nature.

This was her work. This was her path.
This was the fate she was born to bear.

The day we buried her the gorse was a golden flame.

We buried the summer with her, we buried
the high clouds of May, the swallows we buried—
those stitchers of land to sea, those grafters of sky
to the dark earth which opened to her beauty.

We buried the song of her body and all it promised
of betrothal & children & work: the way
she would weave dolphin & salmon & swan
in a tapestry out of the land itself,
its very warp & woof, its stuff, its dye, its fixings,
the land she trod so lightly on.

I am fingering a length of yarn
from the mill at Stornoway. Deep winter now
and the wind crying in the chimney.
The candle gutters in a draught;
the shadow sways on the wall
and breath—breath snags on memory.

Once upon a springtime she is a girl
in the branches of an old beech in the back field.
She holds fast to the rope and out she jumps—

the dog, the clouds, the hedgerows,
the rooftop, the haybarn, the cows,
the stream, the starlings, the byre,
the bees, the hill, the village,
all spun together—dizzy and giddy she laughs
swinging out into the arms of our love.

                                                      16 January 2006


Paula Meehan was born and reared in the north inner city of Dublin. She was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and received an MFA degree from Eastern Washington University. She has published five collections of poetry and numerous stage and radio plays. She has been the recipient of many awards, among them the Butler Award for Poetry from the Irish American Cultural Institute, the Marten Toonder Award for Literature, and the Denis Devlin Memorial Award for her most recent collection of poems, Dharmakaya (Wake Forest University Press). She is a member of Aosdána, the Irish Academy for the Arts, and teaches in a project for stabilized drug users and in other community contexts. A fine-art edition of new work (with Theo Dorgan and Tony Curtis) is forthcoming from Brooding Heron Press (located on Waldron Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State).

Editorial note: First publication of “Hannah, Grandmother,” “Peter, Uncle,” and “In Memory, Joanne Breen.” 
“Cora, Auntie” reprinted from The Stinging Fly 2:3 (Spring 2006), ed. Declan Meade, by permission.


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