I’ve not shared any Rita Ann Higgins before. I have her 2005 collection Throw in the Vowels, which contains selected poems from several collections since 1986, plus some new material. It’s a good retrospective.
She writes of being poor in Ireland. It’s a life I do not know, and while I appreciate what she is saying, I certainly don’t recognise much of it. (“Some people know what it’s like [...] to be short for the rent / to be short for the light / to be short for the school books [...] to be out of work / to be out of money / to be out of fashion / to be out of friends [...] to be second-hand / to be second-class / to be no class / to be looked down on / to be walked on [...] and other people don’t.”)
She tells fantastic stories, paints colourful characters (“He was a school teacher once. / He put streams of children into his wife, / but they fell out again uneducated and sour.”)
There’s a sequence of eleven short poems (“They Never Clapped”) in the 2001 collection “An Awful Racket” which tells of a series of girls in a dance group. Valerie is my favourite:
She was two the first time she came,
she cried and cried.
I told her mother
you’re wasting my time and your money,
she’s a crier not a dancer.
She dances at home the mother said.
Well let her stay at home I said,
I took no guff off them
at two or twenty.
The poem I’m actually sharing here though is from the 1988 collection, “Witch in the Bushes”. In all honesty the main reason I’m sharing it is that I’ve been thinking about parents and blame a lot for the Motherhood vs. Parenthood series I have brewing, and it just seemed to nicely fit.
It Wasn’t the Father’s Fault
with a baseball bat
and he was
never right since.
he was never right
behind the kitchen table
one Sunday before Mass
his mother said,
’If Birdie Geary
that cursed baseball bat
over from America
None of this would have happened.’
See the intro/roundup.