Anne, An Irish Princess
Updated: Feb 12
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.