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My grandmother’s mother

lived in a round house,

the smallest of towers

hugged by vines,

accessed by a bridge,

a moated place.

Her picture was once snapped

at the threshold of the wee house,

but then erased by a cousin who

reported how she who was sunny

had appeared vexed.

Vexed bests the murky shadow

that I now trace with two twilight

fingers, wondering, my preface to

rambling, determined Irish prayer.

I know so little about her, but

do nest away some lovely things.

She cherished books,

and so do I.

There is the story,

woven, unraveled and rewoven,

for we need only one.

She also loved walking everywhere,

long legged, dreamy paces,

mostly to the library,

two miles of journey

up the road, or down,

into town.

Beside her book friends,

she loved her village cronies.

I meet her on that

rough and weedy path.

She transports my name,

and I hers.

She loved her father, a master gardener of

Blackwater valley, a stone’s throw from Mallow,

county Cork. He rose to groundskeeper at

Longueville House, grand place

for a gardener. He nurtured the

seeds, the garden soil, the flowering

trees; the property’s streamlets, the trout;

he tilled, he harvested. He inspired

his daughter’s garden, and then

my grandmother’s garden,

my mother’s,

and mine,


shipwrecked alphabets,

floating fertile on furrowed seas.

I want to ask this Ellen--

who safeguards my name

and I hers-- to help me rescue

generations of erasures.

The wee house of grand Longueville

stands still, tall, thin, empty,

nearly choked

with muted vines,

while gardens and streams,

part mine, thrive.

Mary Ellen O’Callaghan

of county Cork,

I’ll meet you halfway;

Tell me one story

and I’ll reweave the rest,

crossing the moat,

the ten planks of the bridge,

to the open, shadowed door.


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