Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poet from Ireland - Geraldine Mills - Read This!




The third collection, An Urgency of Stars, by Geraldine Mills has landed on my doorstep. It's a lovely collection that I sat down to read right away. I want to spend some time with it before I review it here. I've reviewed books for the Eugene Weekly and for Library Journal and need to read them several times before I have anything especially interesting to share. In the meantime, here is one of my favorite poems from Geraldine Mills' second collection, Toil the Dark Harvest. I love this poem for its heightened language, its praise of the flawed body, its chronicle of a life lived via finger nail..

Pearl

The grit that found
its way in under your nail
turned the finger septic,

you a young girl sent over
on the boat with your brothers
to toil the dark harvest,

pickers bent over like question marks,
knuckles skinned,
trawling the ridges for tubers

only fit for sleep
after bowls of what
you'd picked, boiled,

sleeping on straw in the woman's bothy
to dream of gloves
with jewel buttons, necklaces.

What happened after that
is gone with you
except that the nail abscessed,

the bed of it infected;
no oyster way to mantle it layer over layer
of nacre, reverse its taint to lustre, pearl

instead lanced and lanced again
it lost its memory
to grow straight

but ridged and beaked like abolone
grew a further eighty years
among the perfect others of your right hand

and funny how laying you out,
the undertaker painted it
mother-of-pearl, lustrous, absorbing light.
        
                          --- Geraldine Mills

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