Words and Music: Death of an Irishwoman

April 30,2012

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Irish Poet Michael Hartnett
(Photo: Four Courts Press Ltd)
As part of an occasional series on A Celtic Sojourn called Words and Music, Brian reads a poem by the late Irish poet Michael Hartnett about his love for his grandmother, who he felt came from a different world. The poem is "Death of an Irishwoman", and he connects it with a Susan McKeown version of a children’s lullaby, "Seo Thin, Seo Tho".

Here is the poem, via Poetry International Web:

Death of an Irishwoman

Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
at night were neither dogs nor cats
but púcas and darkfaced men,
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.
She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a card game where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.


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