Monday 30 January 2023

Three Poems by Margaret Duda

 




American Tragedy

 

What if, instead of immigrating

from Hungary in the early 1920s,

my parents immigrated from Mexico

around 2005 and settled

in a Texas town called Uvalde

where I was born in 2011?

They left their lives behind

to give me chances they never had.

What if, as hoped, I excelled in school,

dreamed of becoming a teacher,

and made the honour roll every year?

What if the dreams of my parents,

along with mine, were coming true?

 

And then one day, a mentally unstable

eighteen year old with two assault rifles,

entered the school and my classroom?

He killed two teachers, nineteen students,

and wounded numerous others.

What if I was one of the students

whose life and dreams he snubbed out

as nineteen policemen waited in the hall?

 

Papa, who looked most like Bogart,

but admired the tactics of Cagney,

would not have waited for two hours.

He would have found a long two-by-four

rushed inside past the waiting policemen

and broken through the classroom door,

with inhuman strength as he was shot.

The policeman, forced into action,

finally entered and shot the killer dead.

Papa would have called my name,

scanning all the bodies of the children,

then howled in pain as he pulled my body

into his arms while our thick blood flowed,

and tears poured down his ruddy cheeks.

The EMTS would try to get him on a gurney,

but he would not release my lifeless body,

as he tried to figure out how to tell

Mama, still praying her rosary outside,

that the dream we all had was shattered.



                

              Dad in 1927                                                   Mom in 1927 



Harmony on the Hudson  1927

 

A passenger on the first bus from Sacred Heart

Hungarian Church, my father is already on board,

balancing in the prow.  His eyes, almost as dark

as his black hair, see the women hurrying toward

the Skyline at Sunset cruise from the second bus.

 

A slim woman with dark wavy hair in a flapper dress

with a drop waist, pleated skirt, and t-strap heels

sees him staring at her and smiles back.  He moves

to help her from the pier and leads her to a seat,

taking the one beside her. 

 

“I’m Andras,” he offers in Hungarian.  “Margit,

from Battonya in Bekes county.”  she replies. 

He looks puzzled.  “Its on the Great Plains.  You?”

“Turterebes on the river Tur.  It was given

to Romania after the war.  Now it’s Turulung.”

 

Filled with passengers, the ship jolts into reverse

and pitches into the East River.  Margit gulps, grabs

her seat, admits she can’t swim.  “I grew up swimming.

I can save you,” Andras offers, smiling.  A band

plays “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” as they approach

the Brooklyn Bridge and hear over the intercom:

 

When Roebling, the engineer, became bedridden,

his wife Emily took his place and finished the job.

 

“Only in America could a woman do that.  My daughters

will have so many opportunities.”  Andras smiles again. 

She was going to be a great mother.  As the ship passes

New York Harbor, Margit beams at the electric lights

erupting in every highrise.  “They would never believe

this in my village.  It’s amazing.  Wish I owned a camera.”

 

“I like your dress,” he ventures, not easily distracted.

“I’m a governess.  My mistress gives me her clothes

she no longer wants and lets me go to English classes.”

Beautiful and smart, he thinks.  “Want to dance?”

Following him inside, she slips into his arms as the band

plays “My Blue Heaveen” and she follows him easily.

“Oh, we’re under the Manhattan Bridge,” she exclaims,

glancing through a window.  “I take a subway across that

every day to a factory where I work as an auto body man,”

he tells her, proud he has a trade.  She looks impressed.

 

The band starts to play a csardas, a courting dance.

“Do you know it?”  She smiles and nods as he

grasps her waist and her hands encircle his neck.

Others gather to watch them work through the slow lissu

into the exhilarating frizz as he swings her to the finish

amid claps and cheers.  Panting, he leads her to a table

by a window as a waiter brings two glasses of wine

and a plate of hot hor d’oeuvres.  They approach

the Hudson River and glimpse the Statue of Liberty

shining green in the spotlights as the intercom instructs:

 

Notice Lady Liberty and her torch with a flame of gold.

Bertholdi used his mother’s features to shape her face.

 

“I cried when I saw her from the deck of the ship

three years ago,” Margit tells him.  “My mother sent

for me but she died before I arrived.”

 

A man taps Andras on the shoulder.  “Time.”

“I’ll be back,” he promises, patting her hand.

He climbs to the stage.  As the band breaks into

Hungarian tunes, he sings the lyrics and Margit

gasps in surprise.  When the set is finished, he

rejoins her.  “My foster father sang in our summer

Playhouse, but you sing, you dance, and even swim.”

 

Andras suddenly finds the courage to tell her a secret

few others know.  “I was married before.  She

was to join me in America, but she died in childbirth.

I have a son back home being raised by her parents.”

His words gush out  Tears stream down Margit’s cheek.

“I learned what it means not to know a mother.  I am sorry.”

 

That night, back in his room, Andras writes to his mother

to tell her he feels he has found someone to help him love again.



 

First Communion                                          Foster sisters forty-five years later

Margit (mom) on L., 

Mariska on R                



Home After Forty-Five Years

 

“It’s my first time back in forty-five years,”

Margit announces, wishing she could use

the loudspeaker to tell the whole airport.

“Have a wonderful trip to Hungary, my dear,”

the ticket taker says, patting the wrinkled hand

of the white-haired lady beaming with joy.

 

The ship had taken eight days in 1924,

the plane takes eight hours to Budapest in 69,

then the four hour train trip to Battonya

where Mariska and her good friends wait

at the station with open arms and bouquets

of huge sunflowers.  Will it feel the same?

 

The three smother her in hugs and kisses

and versions of welcome back in Hungarian

as the conductor lowers two heavy suitcases

and smiles at their reunion.  “Your hair is white,”

Mariska, her foster sister, says.  “So is yours,”

Margit counters, “but I’d know you anywhere.” 

 

Margit marvels at Gerda and Agi, so unchanged

except for grey hair, but Mari has grown heavy.

“Let’s go to my house,” Mari says.  “I have lunch

waiting.” Margit hires a taxi for them and Mari

gives the driver their old address on Garmezy street.

“I live there now.  I helped Roza neni as she aged.”

 

On either side of her, Agi and Gerda hug Margit

and marvel at how good she looks.  They wear

cotton dresses longer than Margit’s and smile

at her as if she is an apparition from their past. 

The white stucco house with a straw roof looks

the same.  It is as if Margit never left at seventeen.

 

They take places at the table set with hand-painted plates

on an embroidered tablecloth.  Mari brings a cucumber

salad, then heats something on the stove. “You didn’t!” 

“Of course I remembered your favourite and made lecso

just like Roza neni did, but added sausage to the onions,

hot peppers, and tomatoes.  Have some bread and butter.”

 

Margit finds out that all got married and had children,

Mari the most with three boys and a girl.  “I have one

daughter, but she has three boys and a girl under four,”

Margit says, showing photos.  “To our reunion,” Margit

says, raising her glass of plum brandy.  When Mari brings

crepes filled with fruit, Margit passes out her presents.

 

After lunch, Mari finds someone to photograph them under

the acacia tree.  “I used to resent Margit,’ Mari admits.

“I was special, the only girl, until she arrived, and then she

was always smarter and prettier.”  Margit gasps in surprise.

“She even had a mother in America who was going

to send for her, but when she left, I missed her so much.”

 

When the others leave, Margit hugs Marisa and tells her:

“I never stopped loving you.”  “I was stupid to be jealous.”

“I want to see their grave,” Margit says.  “Tomorrow,” Mari

promises.  “But you won’t be happy.  They are buried with

six other caskets.  They said we are running out of room.”

“I’ll fix that,” Margit says, “but I’ll have nightmares tonight.”

 

Mari insisted she stay with her as she was also widowed.

In bed, they spoon as they did as children.  “Zoltan

and Bela?”  Margit asks.  “Both dead.  One heart attack,

one cancer.  Good brothers.” “Eva?  Donka?”  “Jewish

and Roma.  Gone in the camps with their whole families.”

Margit asked no more as tears poured down her cheeks.

 

In the morning, Mari walks Margit to the small cemetery

and they find flowers at the grave.  “I try to bring them

flowers from the garden every week.”  Margit hugs her,

then joins Mari in the prayers for the dead.  After paying

the caretaker, arrangements are made to construct a walled-in

gravesite Roza and Laszlo will never be forced to share. 

 

The rest of the two weeks are spent visiting with friends

and Mari’s children, who worked as local tradesmen. They

ask Margit where she would like to go and she asks to visit

the nearby museum for Janos Arany, the Hungarian poet.

She wishes her daughter, also a writer, had been able to come,

but Margit knows she is there with her, tucked into her heart.

 

The following day, Mari passes her a gift to open on the train

back to Budapest.  They hug farewell for what they both know

will be the last time and Margit tells her, “I never really left,

you know.”  “I know.”  In the package, Margit finds a copy of

of Arany’s poems and Margit finds the quote she memorized

in school:  “In dreams and in love, there are no impossibilities.”






The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, Margaret Duda has published numerous poems, short stories, non-fiction books and articles.  She is working on the final draft of a novel set in the Mon Valley south of Pittsburgh and will have a book of poetry entitled "I Come From Immigrants" published in May by Kelsay.  She was listed in an anthology of "Who's Who in Emerging Writers in 2021 and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2022 by Lothlorien Poetry Journal.  She recently began another miraculous journey around the sun and spent the afternoon of her birthday with her daughter Laura and Darcy, the new rescue puppy and had a Zoom birthday dinner with members of the rest of her large family.

 

                               



Saturday 14 January 2023

Five Poems by Ken Goodman





empty glass on picnic table

 

Look at that empty

                     glass

                     100% full of air; &

         100% full of light

                   also in there.

That’s two

           hundred percents at once

                         simultaneously

occupying the same space in perfect harmony.

Look at that empty

                    glass in which

                                 space of totality

seems so central to the glass

                           but basks borderlessly.


 

envy

 

Bird

atop a flagpole    soared—

Mind

skewered on spinal cord.


 

when I stood in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom…

 

You who

        breathe in my Address

eyeing my white writing dress—

beat-beat of your heart is Loud

but I may make your skin a Shroud

for stepping sole in my bedroom &

gazing out my Glass—

I could harden your heart to Tomb,

& can do it fast.

Lots of folks fall in love with me

now that I’m safely dead—

what makes you think I would have let

you backslide in my bed?

Writing poetry was my

                                Luminous Innerwear—

no suitor in some bodysuit

                             could possibly compare.

Leave

it to me

to feel…doubt…

moments after you:

                       Walk Out!


 

apologies to DT

 

GodGlow naked bulb stays still

through moving mind lampshade…

rage at the dying of the light

but deLight doesn’t

          fade…

waiting for it is the only thing that is

delayed.


 

their names

 

I’d like to introduce you to—

egoless deities.

Their names describe them far more than their physicalities.

Most are friendly (some are scary) scary only so:

they scare away ego; & so open the way : to GodSun

from soul-ray; or brainwave(s) to GodSea;

however you conceive…they always say

It’s better to connect than to believe.

Graciously they let

               yours truly transcribe poetry : per

their utterances (ordinarily word-free) resulting in

(what some of ‘em call) worded clarity

(some condescendingly) but most agree the poems point to

                      what’s best known wordlessly.

I’m pleased to say this poetry would not have come to be—

without friends like these

                                who snuck me in

                                                        AH Assembly:

 

Universal Gaze Aglow Per [Your] Centrality;

Beholder At [This] Moment Unframed By Mentality;

Instantaneous Creation On Ongoingly;

Secret Mantra Access Inner-Hearing Silently;

CRUSHER OF OBLIVIOUSNESS Healing Clarity;

Joy Full Self-Aware deLight Undyed By Imagery;

Comfort Alert Through All Suffering Humanity;

Everyone’s Direct Witness Unseen/Beholdingly;

Recognition Instant Self-Sustained Eternally;

Oneness Shining Undivided Through Diversity;

Tranquil Sky Immune To All Perishability;

Timeless Comprehension Undegraded By Ennui;

Never Elsewhere/All-Pervasive deLight Harmony;

I Don’t Wait To Die To KnowGlow Through Mortality;

Intimate Observer In All Unimpededly;

Anticipated Heaven Dissolved Authenticity;

Don’t Dare Name Me (It Encourages Idolatry);

Oneness Unencumbered By Senseshell Variety;

How Do I Withstand Such Bliss (AH Yes) Naturally;

Rested/Active Self-Aware Sabbath Serenity;

I AM Here According To Each One’s Capacity:

                  To Comprehend Thought-Free;

Close As Can Be Borderless Bliss Isle Of GodSea;

Free From Thinking This Is It! Glow Actuality;

Mental Lampshade Naked Bulb : Bulb On Borderlessly;

Delusion Pulverizer FEARFACE Ally Secretly;

All [These] Empty Atoms Mating GodSpace Unity;

I AM Never Thou Get Rid Of That Idolatry;

Basking In Eternal KnowGlow Just This Instantly;

Authentic I AM ‘Cross The Muck Of Dusty Destiny;

Mindshell Obstacles DEMOLISHED Compassionately;

wordless self-awareness pointed to by poetry..?

I’m The One Who Kicks yours truly

                           Out Of Assembly—

 

 

Oh my god my notes are scribbled near illegibly!

 

Edgeless/insight kisses

once upon a timelessly.




Ken Goodman mates ecstatic meditation & poetry creation in Cleveland, Ohio.

kenpgoodman@yahoo.com

  

Three Poems by Amanda Erin Miller





The Past Is Here

 

The past is here in lands and oceans that have witnessed innumerable cycles of birth and death since the dawn of time.

 

The past is here since the sun has risen every morning and the moon every evening, inviting all beings to bask in their glow.

 

The past is here in ancient mythology we still read to ascertain meaning, in elemental rituals we still use to mark time.

 

The past is here in borders birthed by bygone wars.

 

The past is here in the structures we inhabit, the sweat of long dead workers fossilized inside brick, concrete and stone.  

 

The past is here in our DNA; reincarnation with every new generation.      

 

The past is here because not a day goes by when I don’t see my father’s face fully alive in my mind; if only he’d had the courage to live.

 

The past is here because I found my courage to live the day we put his body in the ground.

 

The past is here when I rest my hand against my chest and feel the rhythm of the same heart that beat inside my mother long before I could breathe with my own lungs.

 

The past is here when I run my fingertips along the knotted muscles between my ribs re-telling myself the story of how I am still alive.

 

 

Rockabye


The nature goddesses have transmogrified into a 

halo of fairies, their gold-flecked wings flitting about 

my crown, crooning lilting lullabies to elicit

a listen from my listless tympanum, delivering this restless 

reckless message: I want you/I need you

before it’s too late; time is running out. 

You: an unfettered unburdened unborn 

non thing, no thing, not even a spark;

a tiny ripple in the pool of my imagination.

If the goddesses successfully sing you into

the cradle of my womb,   

rock-a-bye you until the bough breaks, 

hurdle you onto a scorched earth that 

doesn’t want you/doesn’t need you, 

(with horrors that will break you), 

despite my most heroic efforts, nothing I say or do

will prevent you from one day falling into the inferno

on your knees, face in the embers 

pleading with the goddesses for an answer to the 

litany of whys that gnaw at your heart.

 

 

The Amethyst Forest

 

In the amethyst forest

A crystal haven, 

Milk thistle palace.

Humans have sought refuge for

Thousands of years.

On the outskirts, there's a sapling 

With a montage of extinct animals

etched into its trunk.

 

Mighty mycelium

On a most noble mission to

Weed, detoxify,

Clear space for

Roots to link arms with roots,

To nurture and maintain foundation,

Seek psychic connection’s water

And spiritual expansion’s light.

 

Check your schedule—

Let's find a mutually agreeable time to

meet in the amethyst region of forest

Lay our flesh down upon the cool earth,

Reach our hands in and through.




Amanda Erin Miller is a Brooklyn-based writer and performer who earned her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. Amanda’s nonfiction, fiction, and poetry have appeared in The Rumpus, Freerange Nonfiction, PEN America’s Temperature Check: Covid-19 Behind BarsSylvia MagazineJewishFiction.net, Hare's Paw Literary Journal, Fearsome CrittersQuaranzine: Art in IsolationChortle, Cratelit, So Long: Short Memoirs of Loss and Remembrance, Underwired Magazine and other publications. She is the co-editor of Words After Dark: A Lyrics, Lit & Liquor Anthology (2020) and author of One Breath, Then Another: A Memoir (2012). Since 2012, she has produced Lyrics, Lit & Liquor, an NYC literary and performance series. Amanda serves on the Nonfiction committee for PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest and has toured her solo shows to festivals in the U.S., Canada and Scotland.  www.lucidriverpress.com 

 

 

The Brood - Short Story by Gordon Ferris.

 



The Brood

                                                                              Short Story by

Gordon Ferris

  

It was a dull drizzling Sunday afternoon in May. Upstairs on the 34A bus, Gary and Doug sat quietly waiting for the bus to reach its destination. Doug was glancing over the shoulder of the woman in front, reading her newspaper. 

The headline spoke of the end of the war in Southeast Asia, with a smaller column in the corner of the page of another war raging in the middle with Egypt, Syria and Israel involved. Doug read the headlines the same way he read the football results on the back page, with all these countries against each other as if it was a game. He jokingly commented on how selfish the woman was for not having the sports page open when he wanted to read it. 

The bus pulled up at the traffic lights at Doyle's Corner between Murphy Pub and The Bohemian. The two lads, both in their late teens leaned into the driver saying, 

“Let's out here pal will ya.” 

The driver opened the door saying. “I could be getting the sack over this, ye know” 

“Thanks, see ya.” The two lads said in harmony ignoring the driver while jumping off. They headed around the corner onto the North Circular Road. 

They crossed the road opposite the State cinema, telling the baldy cinema usher in the purple uniform with a gold stripe down the leg to, “fuck off and mind your own business” when he admonished them for not using the zebra crossing. 

Both of the lads wore wrangler jeans, and denim shirts and had shoulder-length hair. Gary was five foot eight, of heavy build and a distracted nature. Doug, on the other hand, was five foot two, scrawny and confident, almost arrogant. 

They both walked fast with a hard-mans swagger, trying to hide their fear while in a strange area. Doug's shoulders are hunched moving fast in the lead with Gary struggling to keep up the pace. 

They turned into Berkeley road on their way to visit Doug's Mother in the Mater hospital where she had just had her gallstones removed. 

Doug pointed in the direction of a biggish corner shop with a fruit and veg stall outside, saying. 

“Look, there's a shop with gear outside, you go in and get something small, distract her while I rob stuff from the fruit stand outside. I'll meet you over the road when yur done, right” 

“Right, see ya in a few minutes,” Gary said heading nervously towards the shop. As he entered the shop he was astounded by the biggest display of flowers he had ever seen, set in bundles covering every occasion, with all the colour and exotic scent invading his senses that he could never imagine. 

A voice from nowhere said, 

“What can I get for you young man” 

Gary looked around to see who was talking to him, but he saw no one. 

“Over here,( pause) No down here.” 

A woman waved, saying from a kneeling position behind the counter. She was adjusting a radio trying to get a decent reception. 

“Oh, I'm just looking for a packet of fig rolls for me pals ma, she's across the road,” Gary said assuming the woman knew he meant the hospital. 

The woman pointed to a shelf behind Gary's head without bothering to get up. 

“Behind you (pause, with a sigh) over your head,” She said. 

“How much is that,” Gary said, turning around and grabbing the red packet of biscuits. He put the money on the counter as the women had instructed him to do and made his exit, impulsively stealing a box of Milk Tray as he departed. 

Meeting up across the road Gary and Doug compared their bounty on their way to the granite steps at the entrance to the Mater hospital. Doug had stolen a big bunch of grapes and several oranges which were stuffed inside his shirt. 

Walking in through the two big heavy wooden doors, they were asked by the Porter where they thought they were going and to keep the noise down a bit. 

“Sorry sir, we didn't mean to be so noisy, just on the way to see me Ma. “ Gary said in his butter wouldn't melt in his mouth tone. 

“Go on then, just behave yourself, show a bit of respect, there are sick people in here.” The porter said with an air of authority. 

“Well this is the place for sick people, ya dope ya,” Doug said under his breath. 

“What did you say, you little scut,” The porter said angrily. 

“Never opened my mouth, honest to god pal, never said a word” Doug replied, walking on, grinning with his back to the man. 

  

Waiting for the lift on the third floor, a frail little old man stood with one crutch looking up above the lift door, listening to the racket coming from inside the lift shaft. The sound of laughter, cursing, singing and general mayhem got louder as the lift approached. The doors finally opened and out came Gary and Doug with big grins on their faces, Doug held the door for the elderly man, who entered looking annoyed, but say-in nothing. Gary apologized for the delay, saying they got lost on the lift, both laughing, the old man cursing them angrily with his eyes. 

Entering the ward, the two lads were blinded by the sun coming in the window from above Mountjoy's roof across the road. There were five beds in the ward which left Doug wondering why there was an uneven number of beds there. Perhaps it's just the shape of the ward or a shortage of beds, or maybe a bed had been taken away to be repaired, the way buses are taken off the road when they break down, this was typical of Doug's idly thoughts. 

Doug’s mother was sitting on the bed with his elder sister Tina. Both talked in hushed but still very loud voices that everyone could hear, but they thought no one else could. When she saw the two lads arrive she brushed her dyed black hair with her painted fingers and roared greetings to them in a throaty strong Dublin accent. 

“Ah, howaya son, and Gary, thanks for calling, sure ya didn’t have-ta,” 

“Sure me Ma would kill me if I didn’t Missus Kinsella”  handing her the biscuits and chocolates, red-faced as he spoke, making it noticeable how he was uncomfortable with the attention being on him. 

Doug placed the loose oranges and grapes on the bedside locker. 

“Had they no bags in the shop?” The Mother asked them with a knowing grin, staring Doug straight in the eyes. 

  

"Any sign of your Da today, he was to be here yesterday with clean clothes and to give me the money he owes, don't suppose he was in the house today by any chance" 

"Ma, how does he owe you money? You're not still giving him money are you, Jasus you're a soft eejit you are. You know he's only going to drink it. Should have washed your hands of him completely when you kicked him out." 

"Ah I wouldn't leave anyone short of money for food or fags, and that's what he said almost with tears in his eyes, but your right, I should know better, ill have to tell him I can't afford it anymore and get him to start paying towards the house." 

“If he didn't pay when he lived at home, he's hardly going to start now, is he?” Tina snapped.  

As this discussion was going on Gary, feeling awkward, wandered down to the far end of the ward, nodding to each of the four other patients as he passed, muttering, 

What's the story, 

you all right there, or some such utterance. 

Reaching the window he enthusiastically says. 

“Will ya look at the size of the seagulls, there like flying chickens” 

Nodding at the red-haired sleepy-eyed woman in the end bed, he added. 

“You'll be having them for dinner, tomorrow missus, just you wait and see. Be pulling feathers out of yur teeth all day ya will” 

” The holy sister in charge reckons they're a pest, she does, tells us not to feed them, tried giving them some of me dinner yesterday, even they won't eat it” The red-haired woman replied. 

Gary continued his strolling, back to where Doug and his family were situated, watching the occupants of each bed as he walked. In particular, the woman opposite Mrs Kinsella got his attention. She was sitting upright in her bed with a huge smile of happiness and joy on her face, there was no stimulus for this joy to be seen, it must have been coming from within, not that there could be much joy laying in a hospital bed. 

“Must be great crack living inside yur one's head?”  

He said when he reached the end of the ward, to where Gary and his family members were seated. 

“What do you mean, Doug's mother said as Gary sat on the end of the bed taking the half-eaten grapes from Doug. 

“Your wan over there, will ya take a look at her, she's away with the fairies,” Gary said in a mocking tone. 

Mr Kinsella turned to Gary angrily and in a hushed voice laced with venom said. 

“I’m surprised at you Gary. I thought you were better than that.  You've no business slagging off that poor woman, you know nothing about her. She is on her own here all week, from the country she is. A very nice gentle woman she is, chatting with her a few times since she had her surgery. Eleven kids, she's had, that's eleven deliveries, some more difficult than others, two of them she had to be sectioned. The old bollox of a husband is only worried about who is going to get his dinner and tea for him. The doctor had a word with him about it being very dangerous for her to have any more kids and guess what he said, the old fucker, he said all that sort of thing had nothing to do with him, that's what he said, nothing to do with him.” 

“I was only messing, didn't mean anything by it.” Gary sheepishly said. 

There was an awkward silence for a few moments before Doug broke the silence offering the opened Milk Tray around, or what was left of them after he had helped himself. 

  

Doug lay back on the bed with his head on the pillow, mother and daughter sat on the edge nearest the door with Gary sitting into the ward. They sat silently, all chewing, and then Tina and the Mother spoke simultaneously, saying. 

“Where did you get those sweets and chocolates” Mother. 

“Ye, I can't see you forking out for anyone else but yourself” Tina. 

“Did ya rob them, the truth, remember the last time, the bother you got yourself into” Mother. 

“Yeh, ye robbing bastard” Tina. 

Now Doug’s impulsive response to Tina burst out 

“What are you on about, sure you taught me how to shoplift, ye bleeding gee-bag.” Now Doug realized he had got carried away and was embarrassed by what he had blurted out. Calling his sister a gee-bag was too extreme even for him. 

Now the mother cut in, annoyed with their use of bad language and name calling, towards each other. 

“Now for fuck sake, do ya have to be using that kinda language in front of all these sick people? I d expect that from your waster awl-fella, but I thought I reared yous better.” 

“Sure we; 're only messing, tell her to keep her trap shut and stop winding me up,” Doug said in defiance, his embarrassment disappearing. 

“Listen to him, ye think butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. I could tell ye things he's done you'd never imagine.” Tina cut in with a smirk on her face. 

“You shut the fuck up you spiteful bitch, ye forget all of a sudden our weekly trips to Superquinn for the weekly shop, don't ya.” Doug angrily replied. 

  

The bell ending visiting time rang out, accompanied by the nurse doing the ringing calling time like a pub landlord at closing time. At this exact minute, Tommy the father and Ex husband appeared at the door, a broad grin on his face, looking around at all the patients in the ward greeting them. 

“God bless all here, and now a little recitation for you all to brighten your day. 

  

The boy stood on the burning deck 

Picking his nose like mad. 

He rolled it up in little balls 

And threw them 

At his Dad.” 

  

At this, Mother mortified told him to 

“Shut the fuck up ya dose. Where the fuck were you till now, ya dozy bollox. I asked you to bring in some clean clothes. Just as well I know what you like and wasn’t depending on you. Sister here did it for me” 

“Ah don't be getting on to me after the morning I've had. It was your brother that delayed me, inviting me in for a pint. And when we get inside he has no money. Who the fuck does that, invites ya in and gets you to pay.” he answers with hunched shoulders and what he thinks are irresistible sad eyes. 

“Sure ya didn’t have to go in, did ya. Can you not say no. you say it enough to me and your kids.” She angrily snapped. 

“You should know better than to listen to that eejit, your a bigger eejit for fallen for his crap.” 

“Sure how was I to know he was playing me? I'm not a mind reader,” he replied in defence. 

“any excuse to have for a drink, isn't it, think I don't know your games by now, you must think I’m really stupid” 

She turned away to face Tina, ignoring what he had to say, leaving him talking to the back of her head. 

The father's face turned red now with frustration. 

“no matter what I do it's never good enough 

“But the problem is you don't do anything unless you get something out of it” 

“See, no matter what I say, you turn it around and upside down, it was Your Brother who took a hand at me don't forget” 

“Bleedin con man he is” Leaving he finished with these five words under his breath, turning on his heels and storming out. 

“Ah ye, off ye go again, any excuse for the pub.” She said after him. 

“Told you before to get rid of that wanker, he's no good, and I know he has lifted his hand to you many's the time, you try to hide it and make excuses for him but I’m not bleedin stupid,” Sis said when he was gone in soothing tones. 

“Ah sure I know how to handle him, heel be back in tonight with flowers, and in tears begging for forgiveness. Wait and you’ll see.” 

As this exchange played out the two lads and Tina kept out of it, making lips not moving communications, trying not to be drawn into battle. Brother and Sister had seen their father in action before. They knew what he was like under the influence of drink, both had been at the receiving end of their father's drunken madness. It was after one too many of these episodes that the mother, enraged by violence being done to her children, lost the plot and had him thrown out. 

Her abuse she tolerated 

somehow thinking it was all she deserved in life, 

blaming herself, 

if only I made home life more appealing for him 

if only I could satisfy him in bed 

instead of finding him revolting 

instead of feeling nothing 

it's not my place to enjoy lovemaking 

its to keep my man happy 

these were the thoughts that always raced through her head, 

but this was the last straw, seeing the hate in his eyes, hurting their kids, to hurt her as much as he could. 

“It’s now rest time for the patients,” the nurse said to them as she sauntered through the ward, 

“Time to go now ladies and gents, you can visit again between seven and nine this evening, OK” 

“All right Ma we’re going now, I'll be back in later. Don't you be getting upset over that prick, ya here, if he comes back in tell him to fuck off.” Tina said in concerned tones. 

“You will have to be moving now,” the nurse said, with Doug answering back, 

“All right, we’re on our way, calm down will ya” 

“Don't be so cheeky Doug, the nurse is doing a great job looking after me here, you should be thanking her instead of giving her abuse.” 

The three of them headed out down the granite steps to Eccles Street. Proceeding on to Berkeley Road on their way to Glasnevin, where the bus home to Finglas stops. Passing the Hut public house Doug suggested going in for a quick pint before going home to eat. Gary didn't answer, looking at Tina, obviously not wishing to get caught in the middle of their sibling's verbal high wire act. 

“Don’t look at me, I don’t give a shite what yus do, I’m going home anyway to clean up whatever mess you left behind you today?” Tina said dejected, glancing in the direction of Doug as she spoke. 

“I don’t mind Doug, are you sure you don’t want to come in for one Tina, I have a few bob on me if your skint” Gary said, blushing as he spoke to Tina. 

“Hope you're not having any funny ideas about my sister, you can just fuck off with any funny business like that you can” 

“Here, I don’t need you to speak for me. Where do ye think ye are, in the last century, me granny may have had to take that crap, but not me, you can just fuck off with yourself you can, you and our ol lad” 

The more annoyed she got the harder she pounded her feet on the pavement as made her way down Phibsboro Road towards the bus stop at Harts Corner to get the bus home to Finglas.



Gordon Ferris was born in Dublin. In the early eighties, he moved to Donegal where he has lived ever since. He started writing in 2014 and has had many short stories and poems in many publications. He has also won prizes in the summer 2020 HITA Creative Writing Competition for his poem ‘Mother’, and won the winter competition for his poem ‘The Silence’. Poetry Ireland awarded Gordon a Poetry Town Bursary in 2021.


 

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