“Looking for Mother” by Dorothy Molloy


I ransack her room. Loot and pillage.
I root in her trunk. Crack open
the tightly sprung boxes of satin
and plush. Pierce my breast with her butterfly

brooch. I pose in her hats,
French berets, mantillas of lace,
the veil that falls over her face,
the boa she wraps round her neck.

I try on her shoes. her slippers
are mules. I can’t walk in her callipered
boots. I break into her wardrobe.
Hands grope in the dark. Faded bats,

like umbrellas, are humming inside.
Stoles of fox-fur and mink : tiny claws,
precise nails. Lips clamped in the rictus
of death. I’m hot on the scent

of oestrus, umbilicus, afterbirth,
eau-de-cologne, I fling myself
down on the bed that she made
of dirt from the Catacombs, blood

of the saints. Under the counterpane,
nettles, goose-feathers, a tore.

from : The New Irish Poets, edited by Selina Guinness Bloodaxe 2004.


I remember well those fox-furs, my own mother was bequeathed a pair and I too delved into the huge old wardrobe, bringing out the fur stoles complete with little curled feet and a golden chain effect that operated as a clasp. The wardrobe revelation is part of most girl’s growing, though only that it were a peaceful thing. 

In the meantime, there is a small piece on the trousseau, inheritance and the Island Women on the blog . I quite remember being unable to zip the zipper of my mother’s wedding dress confection onto me at twelve- nor indeed being able to squeeze my toes into the minute satin winkle-pickers that she wore for her wedding day !

EDIT : 25/11/2010 , this is a Reblog of a piece written to mark the 16 day Campaign to eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls.

Mary Lavin’s Island Women
International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls 2010