I’m from potholes in the bóithrín road limestone walls whitethorn bushes aged fields and mossy stones drip-drip hedges before a blue farm gate apples rotting under orchard trees old windows and doors beneath a thatch roof that leaked brown rain onto night homework. A muddy path pocked with cattle tracks old stables before more fields and a family dump full of rusted pea tins and other junk that we rescued to display along the longest rock for our long, long days of playing a game called “village shop.” Death of a Friendship That winter she flew transatlantic west and I flew U.S. south to a beachside motel and sunny cafes where, she said, our American waitstaff are too smiley-chatty and that I’m way too friendly back. That week I was not thinking of that day when we met at convent school where, 30 years ago, she led me across a room for strawberry sweets that made mouths and days and months bloom bright and red. That last night in the motel kitchenette we drank wine we ate shrimp and sauce that turned our mouths bright red until she set down her wine glass to say: Do you ever even hear yourself? Like, why emigrate here if you’re going to still talk so Paddy Mick? That moment when I whispered, Your words really hurt When I begged, Can you please stop? when I watched her rock back in that chair to laugh at what I’d said and, later, those sleepless hours in my motel bed when I mourned all things that I’ve let linger past their date for death. House of Make Believe As if there’s never been an immigrant ship a maid’s frilly cap American children, grandchildren transatlantic letters and flights back. Today, six decades after that ship set sail it’s as if Yankee Auntie had never been a girl chasing through these Irish fields or laughing in this thatch-roof house where, now, there is only her blue-tinted hair her Yankee words that draw me right there to listen at that door. “Gee! What a cute little kid!” says she Then, sitting there in their Sunday best My mother and grandmother turn, smile, agree as if they are not vexed at me as if, later, I won’t get punished for this and as if we don’t all live in a house of make believe.
Áine Greaney is an Irish native who now lives in the Boston area. In addition to her books, her short essays, stories and poems have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Salon, The Boston Globe Magazine, Another Chicago Magazine, The Wisdom Daily, Grey Sparrow, The Mindful Word, Tendon and other publications. After a long hiatus from poetry writing, she (gleefully) returned to lyric writing during the pandemic lockdown. Visit her website.
Image “Fork in the road, Crucknacolly, Co. Mayo” from Jeremy Durrance under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.