I had the pleasure of reading at Culture Days last weekend, alongside a talented group of poets and storytellers. The theme of the weekend was “Where We Come From” and I started thinking about what that meant to me. Turns out, it means many things. But a little bit of my Irish identity bled to the surface, and this is what came out. So I read it then, and decided to post it here too.
I’ll know it when I go
She laughed at the way I said Ireland.
A big-mouthed, belly deep laugh.
Showed all her teeth and the pink at the back of her throat.
Warm though. Kind, when she put her hand on my arm and said,
It’s Oir-land. Not so much hard I and ire.
She lived in Dublin. Dreamed of Spain.
I named my second daughter after her.
We were fast friends for only two weeks
yet she’s as much Oir-land to me as my surname.
Stories embellished by my grandpa.
Tales of those fierce cattle rustlers west of Cork.
A castle still owned by some link in our lineage.
Two decades later, and I want to tell her
I’ll know it when I go, the tongue of a mother country.
I’ll know it when my cheeks shriek against the cold ocean mist.
When my boots stick and slurp along the muddy shore.
I’ll get it down in my blood,
that twenty per cent pure Celt I cling to.
I’ll understand why I dream past the
primary coloured landscape
yellow field, red barn, blue, blue sky.
I’ll feel why I look beyond
four generations of prairie patriots,
to something greener. More romantic.
A fairy tale start to who I am.
I’ll know why I favour that silver claddagh ring
bought from a booth at the mall,
more than the petite ruby in gold,
passed straight from my Austrian grandmother’s hand.
Where we come from is not always the place we are
or even the place we started.
It’s sometimes a place made of
flicked fiddle bows
cheerful demeanours that smile right through the stereotype.
I know where my body’s grown.
The cities I’ve welcomed as home. For awhile.
But a seed of self roots
in a place my voice hasn’t met yet.