By Eamonn Wall
—the best teacher lives outside, the best teacher lives inside you, beating blood, breathing air, the best teacher is alive. Joanne Kyger.
Buttered toast flavored with raspberry
preserve grandmother prepares for me.
Annie Murphy pours two cups of tea,
seats herself across the table, the kitchen
of the old house on Barrack St. warm,
its exterior walls thick as tractor tires
where, settling, she hears each loosened
episode of a boy’s day at school, her
gaze a poultice to draw a wound
or to reveal passage to a brighter room,
her dark blue dress marked by a starched
white linen collar, her faint gazes and soft
gestures abate the wind that makes
all children crazy, as mother likes to say,
her eyes call to mind season’s sunny days,
summer time and ease, old and kinder ways.
When grandmother came to live with us,
mother told me once, she brought
but one small suitcase, all her adult life
having inhabited one guest room at the hotel
she had opened, that granny liked to add
how confined space allowed for certain
freedoms to emerge, not to own or be
submerged in many accessories, shoes,
and clothes. I recall still her elegance
of dress, how always her face and hands
sparkled with cleanliness. Her husband,
a most contrary man, fitted his possessions
into twin containers: a worn brown valise
and shiny shaving bag to join our rowdy band:
visitors all traversing then a green and fertile land.
Today, rain beats the thick plate glass
of the high-rise where from my desk
I sweep cups-to-go and bagels by forced air
desiccated into a metal bin, growing
more aware, root or rhizome, of hobnailed
men who think all female wisdom willful,
cut to holy wafer thin. She favored all shades
of blue, her dark shoes polished into light,
her hair like a girl’s caught by a bright barrette.
We savored an hour together at the kitchen
table sharing tea, school dusting off, Annie
Murphy—I called her Granny Annie—and me.
(Published in Nathalie Anderson ed. Open-Eyed Full Throated: An Anthology of American/Irish Poets. Dublin; Arlen House 2019)