Marriage Advice, 1951
Glossy women made her tremble,
every word shiny and sure,
we’re going to give Jenny a make-over,
Jen, the decaying building,
the clueless relic.
They made her sweat, even more,
those women with Dior skirts
and nipped-in waists, who warned
the night before the wedding
about being prepared.
But it was 1951. Next day,
she tried not to faint at the altar
although the neighbours whispered,
later forced herself to stuff
some morsel of the wedding breakfast
through her lips, like bad language
or something a woman never did
masticate, masticate, chew, chew, swallow,
the fist of the still-hidden child
walloping her gorge as the best man rose,
twinkle-eyed, yellow card in hand,
a twist of jokes she’d be bound to appreciate.
Marriage Advice, 1951 is © Mary O’Donnell
It has grown, not darkly, like mould, that sunless green. Sitting
provides the habit of air. Children – trees, coats, limbs,
the bounce of long hair as they troop the school road –
means stillness, expansion, despite unspeakable radio news
on the murder of infants in temperate suburbs. Muffled, gloved,
I grow in a car at the end of an eight-year planting, half of me
mulling the latest distant shooting. I would like to book a flight,
transplant skills, solutions, get there fast. Instead, I wait, the smell
of cooked dinner impregnating denims, boots, my cap, which she
inhales as she steps inside the car. I hold myself together
beneath iced winter branches in grey couteur, feel an invisible
frieze of buds stirring slowly, steady in deep cold.
Waiting is © Mary O’Donnell
Mary O’Donnell is the author of eleven books, both poetry and fiction, and has also co-edited a book of translations from the Galician. Her titles include the best-selling literary novel “The Light-Makers”, “Virgin and the Boy”, and “The Elysium Testament”, as well as poetry such as “The Place of Miracles”, “Unlegendary Heroes”, and her most recent critically acclaimed sixth collection “The Ark Builders” (Arc Publications UK, 2009). She has been a teacher and has worked intermittently in journalism, especially theatre criticism. Her essays on contemporary literary issues are widely published. She also presented and scripted three series of poetry programmes for the national broadcaster RTE Radio, including a successful series on poetry in translation during 2005 and 2006 called ‘Crossing the Lines‘. Today, she teaches creative writing in a part time capacity at NUI Maynooth, and has worked on the faculty of Carlow University Pittsburgh’s MFA programme in creative writing, as well as on the faculty of the University of Iowa’s summer writing programme at Trinity College Dublin.