Ordinary Time: Pushcart Nominated

Published in Redactions::
When a relative dies we burn a candle in the window and draw the blinds halfway down so the house looks like it’s napping.
“The Bird is dead.” That’s what the Old Man says when he reads he obituaries in the back of the paper today. Mam nods and the kitchen is silent for a long time. The clamor of a trapped mouse changes that and the Old Man raises the rolled-up Irish Press over the creature, all furred and tense in the trap. The mouse makes frantic and the Old Man brings the paper down on the trap with a thump. A trail of yellowish red trickles from its body, and Mam shakes her head and goes to get the brush and pan to clean the floor.
“Who’s the Bird?” I ask.
Mam ignores me, pouring Dettol antiseptic on the sticky mess, wiping the guts up with a J-cloth. The Old Man has gone for his captain’s hat, the one he found on a coastguard ship last year, the bells for Mass having already rung out, and it looks like he won’t linger this morning. There’s no school because it’s a Holy Day, the Presentation of Our Lord, and the Old Man is home from the oil rig for the month of February. At school the Master says it’s the fourth week of ordinary time, but it doesn’t feel ordinary at all.
“Go with your father,” Mam says, pushing me towards the front door where the Old Man is already blessing himself from the Holy Water font. It takes a minute to untangle my school scarf and pull on my anorak, and then I run down the road after him. Mam has gone back to the kitchen to clean the dishes and prepare lunch.
“Who’s the Bird, Da?” I ask again.
“Ach, some old boyfriend of your mother’s. He was planning on marrying her, until I showed up and beguiled her.”
We walk the rest of the way to church in silence, until the Old Man adds, “Oh, the Bird was hopping mad when she began to court me, by God.” There’s a funny look on his face and it seems as if he’s smiling. “I took your mother out to Inch Strand and gave her a rub of the relic and that was the end of it.” He claps his hands together and winks at me.
Later, I ask Mam what a rub of the relic means and she smacks me on the ear.

Powell’s Books Small Press Featured Titles

Delighted, delighted, delighted to read Sam Snoek-Brown’s Facebook entry alerting me to my book hitting the shelves at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. I remember the summer Mo and I lived in the city and the many days we spent at Powell’s. Never thought in a million years I’d have a book on their shelf. With a Pushcart nomination, two incredibly generous reviews, and a loving family gathered for Thanksgiving, this is one fine week. Add to that the fact that I’m back teaching high school English, and it’s even better than the real thing, as the song goes.

powells shelves

falltoyourkneesandhowlattheskysday’s childe

There are days when the turning, twisting world creates a darkness, when the sunless side of a rotting tree limb blocks out the last of the light from above. Notes, receipts, insurance forms, hectoring, sudsy sinks, windscreen cracks that keep stretching across the glass, the imprint of a gallows. The line. The nimbus. Gray water. A locked door. Indescribable. Surprise your loved ones with a gift. Red velvet. Mass-produced eyeglasses. Save a dying child in the Sudan. My sixth rib creaks from the blow of the hammer. Red roofs instead of green. Memory turns around and around and never connects with the empty socket. The tea is strong. Milk. No sugar. There is no sugar because no sugar is deserved. Horses gather momentum on the inner rail, the furlong marker a blur. Hike the trail. There are no wounded heroes left. Misericordia. None to be found. My father. Dead these thirteen years. Today, a soft rain fell on his grave.