Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ireland: What The Virgin At Knock Would Say If She Could Speak

Here in Ireland we have had an extraordinary few weeks. Our government recently voted to allow abortion in limited circumstances. The debate is now being thrashed out in the Seanad, our upper house, which has seen rancorous exchanges. Meanwhile, many unpleasant untruths about our attitude to women, both in the present and past, have resurfaced. First we had ‘Lapgate‘, then ‘Fannygate‘, then some inflammatory speeches in the Seanad. Finally, the religious orders who ran the Magdalene laundries have refused to contribute to survivors’ compensation. Galway-based poet Kevin Higgins reacts below…

via Wikimedia Commons
via Wikimedia Commons

What The Virgin At Knock Would Say If She Could Speak

for Breda O’Brien and all at the Iona Institute

We need to get back
to when confirmed bachelors
found their own kind through holes in cubicles
during untelevised All Ireland Finals.
To when there were no government funded
lesbians on display in public parks,
or self-confessed sodomites in the Senate.
To when there was no obscene use for
Vaseline, or sexual intercourse in Headford.

To when no one put Coke bottles
where they weren’t supposed to go.
And there were no automatic
washing machines for women to sit on
when Rock Hudson was unavailable.
To when the Irish people stood
at the end of lanes waiting
for nothing to happen,
which it mostly did.

To when young ones who forgot to cross
their legs at the crucial moment could be put
steam ironing curtains for the golf club, sheets
and pillowcases for your mother’s B&B;
still be safely there eight o’clock
in the evening having hot flushes
the hottest day of that century
to which we must get back.

Kevin Higgins facilitates poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre; teaches creative writing at Galway Technical Institute and on the Brothers of Charity Away With Words creative writing programme for people with disabilities. He is also Writer-in-Residence at Merlin Park Hospital and the poetry critic of the Galway Advertiser. He was a founding co-editor of The Burning Bush literary magazine. His first collection of poems The Boy With No Face was published by Salmon in February 2005 and was short-listed for the 2006 Strong Award. His second collection, Time Gentlemen, Please, was published in March 2008 by Salmon. One of the poems from Time Gentlemen, Please, ‘My Militant Tendency’, featured in the Forward Book of Poetry 2009.  

His work also features in the anthology Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Ed Roddy Lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010). Frightening New Furniture is his third collection of poems and was published in 2010 by Salmon Poetry. Kevin has read his work at most of the major literary festivals in Ireland and at Arts Council and Culture Ireland supported poetry events in Kansas City, USA (2006), Los Angeles, USA (2007), London, UK (2007), New York, USA (2008), Athens, Greece (2008); St. Louis, USA (2008), Chicago, USA (2009), Denver, USA (2010), Washington D.C (2011), Huntington, West Virginia, USA (2011), Geelong, Australia (2011), Canberra, Australia (2011), St. Louis, USA (2013) & Boston, USA (2013). Kevin’s fourth collection of poetry, The Ghost In The Lobby, will be published by Salmon Poetry in early 2014. Kevin is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events. Mentioning The War, a collection of his essays and reviews was published in 2013 by Salmon.

1 comment:

Sean said...

You get used to words and expressions. All words and expressions have a context. I was thinking after reading this poem. The undemocratic, male dominated, anti women capitalist Catholic church hierarchy refuses to take any of its massive wealth to compensate in any way the women it held basically as slaves and from whose labor they accumulated more wealth. Then I was looking at the image, the statue of the women the so called virgin Mary i presume. With hands folded. And this is where the words came into my mind. "Meek and Mild." Yes the Catholic hierarchy if they were to get away with their exploitation of these women had to keep them "meek and mild." They would get their reward in heaven stay meek and mild in the laundries. If I can take another couple of words and in a context not usual - Jesus H. Christ. How can anybody believe this stuff? How can anybody not be enraged by this stuff. Sean Throne.