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  • Writer's picturePatricia Reilly

Anne, An Irish Princess

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

My mother was an Irish princess

Not that her people had money, but anyhow

They gave her kid slippers and a high school diploma

And a pony-skin coat.

At twenty-seven, the dances ended

For the prettiest little thing you ever saw

When she married my grey-eyed father

With his “two left feet and a tin ear.”

The black Irish butcher boy led her away

From comfort and song

to their new, raw road of need and fear.

She endured, and said she’d not take

“The next-best man, if he were lined with gold.”

Too high, too low, too heavy, too late.

It was all too much for her.

She turned to her child for relief, and I

Obeyed my mother with a stingy heart.

And so it went, along the years,

Me, hating her weakness,

And her, winding down, down, into an ever narrower

Coil of need.

Except for the time during the war, when the men were all away

And I’d come home from dancing school

And mother and her sisters would all line up in the kitchen

And we’d do shuffle, ball, change to “Swanee River.”

Then, the burden, shared with her sisters,

Lifted up and she taught me “The Charleston”

And the alto parts to “My Gal Sal” and

“Let the Rest of the World Go By."

I was scared she’d die before I forgave her,

And myself, for grudgingly giving so little,

When always clear and present was

Her constant forgiveness of me.

At the end, my heart went out to her, and I heard again,

Pulsing in my heart

The music of my mother and her sisters

In that old kitchen, by the stove.

“Do you remember, Mother, when you taught me this?”

I sang them all, softly, to her,

Words flowing freely

From forty years away.

I think she heard me.

Well, I sang, anyhow,

Because I had to

Until my dry eyes gave up.

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