Those flowers looping my great-grandfather’s headstone
were the tigerest of lilies, outrageous tongues
licking the hellfire fade of his name
from granite, harder than he was
when his mother begged him to drop his King James
in deathbed drama, and he wouldn’t.
Forgetting finally what it was he protested,
but not the color of it, on his own dying,
he asked his daughters to plant those lilies,
so everyone knew an orangeman laid there.
The last one alive
told me his story, pinching
faded flowers from the stems
while she spoke it, her words thin and crisp
as the skin stretched over her hands,
hands shaped like my mother’s
and as strong, a thing I learned
the moment I said, but the stems
are still green.
My ears still ring that memory.
Loved this touching poem 🙂
I’m stunned.>KB Excellent piece.
KB, thank you. That little haiku triggered a huge memory.
Wow. This is excellent. I like having the rest of the story. The haiku and this go together. Which orangeman was he?
Alice, he was an orangeman who left for Canada, so he wouldn’t have to fight family and former friends. So, I guess we can call him a proud (but wise) Irishman.
Have a good St Patrick’s Day.
You too. Trying to decide how I am doing dinner tomorrow 😉
Hoop Jam at the bandstand for ST P’s day with our friends.
Ah that was a a strong memory. Indeed the stems are green
Thank you, Bjorn. Those Orange Irish certainly do not like reminders of their roots (or stems, as it were).
Deathbed drama and not forgetting the color of it. Powerful, beautiful.
Shrinks, thank you. The man had an intensity to him, that’s for sure.
you echoed it well.
Aw, thank you. I can see that grave (and hear the ring in my ears from that well-deserved box) today!
This is nice, at once light, deep and intimate revealing a family and its bonds over lived and shared time and space.
Noel, thank you. A memory I’ll not be likely to misplace.
Whoa! Powerful, cutting the years to the core of the person now long gone. I really like how you use the tiger lily to contrast with green.
Victoria–thanks so much! I was one of those open mouth and speak the truth kind of kids. Earned me a few cuffs from time to time. I am still that way, but get slapped down for it now in other ways 😉
Stellar Susan, one of my favorites (new favorites). 🙂
Oh, honey, thank you!
More than welcome. Love it.
Powerful piece Susan. A loving and living tribute. Great metaphor well-used. I can hear the memory happening from that haiku…
JCC, thank you. I had to write the larger piece after the haiku, it insisted. Glad you like it!
I am impressed, Susan. I have been living in Ontario for some time now and have been introduced to the “Orangemen.” You capture something of those folks right here. This reads so very true to me -like something from a great historical document but also something so very personal and personally-known and understood.
Wow. Well done!
Jeremy–thank you! Yes–there is a passion and a hardness to the Orange Irish of Ontario that runs almost as deep (I think) as it does in Ireland. My grandparents settled here when my mother was four, but every Saint Patrick’s Day in school (through high school) she wore orange on Saint Patty’s Day–she was that passionate about it. I think you are the one of the few people (besides anyone with family there) that grasp the history behind the poem. The other Ontario poem I am working on (since our convo about accents earlier) involves my great aunt Helen, who had a book called “The Two Babylons” that I think every one of those Orange Irish can quote from, right there on her bookshelf.
I was surprised when I first moved up here to learn how deep this orange-green division runs. I don’t think the folks in my generation feel it, but I have seen it in a generation just before my own.
There is a long record -as you no doubt known- of deep anti-Catholic politics in Ontario and in the Maritimes. What is so interesting about it too is that Ontario has publicly funded Catholic schools -part of the Confederation compromise. I well remember back in 2007 when the provincial Conservative leader dropped a hint that those Catholic schools shouldn’t be funded. His party plummeted in the polls literally overnight and the “Tories” got smashed in the provincial election. Back then I didn’t know what was going on . . . but now I do.
Like I said, you really bring out this depth of feeling, history and spiritual conviction in your poem.I am just pleased to now know enough about this subject to be able to pick up on the deep wells that are scattered across your verses.
I am just so thrilled that you did. It really had an impact on my family, I can tell you that much–influencing everything from what certain parts of the chicken were called at Sunday dinner to the complete horror and chagrin of my grandparents when my uncle married a Catholic woman. They got over it quickly, though–thankfully. Eeks! Something tells me I might have just started exploring this topic in my writing.
I think that if you feel like going in that direction that you should.
I remember reading about the Catholic-Protestant conflicts in Ireland and in the UK and was surprised at how it still has resonancy here.
I’d love to read your thoughts about this not only because of the history, but because you know how to write about your deeply-felt observations and to do so with craft and skill. I am all for this cross-border exploration. 🙂
Ohhhh, now I have to do it! Thanks so much for your vote of confidence…means a lot.
Gladly given. 🙂
Following the comment thread, Susan i will say this poem is history beautifully encapsulated.
Celestine, thank you!
A beautiful one it is… love the things passed down in life, so precious.
Nelle, thank much!
Fine Irish supreme, both orange & green…
You know it! Thank you!