Nancy: My relationship with Ireland was tenuous – an aunt, a nun, who tried to keep in touch. I wrote this poem during “the troubles,” when Americans were being asked to provide money and guns to prolong the conflict.
John FitzPatrick Took A Ship To America
had his TB inside him
when he came.
Handsome, even so, he
married my grandmother,
gave Mama red hair,
That makes me American.
Apple pie midwest melting pot American.
Jigless grudgeless churchless American,
John FitzPatrick dying young.
Except for a gene somewhere for the body
rocking back and forth with certain songs,
for no-word singing of certain songs,
especially drum songs...
Except for a chromosome somewhere for quickening
at a storm breaking in the west and sun
flaring on trees against a dark sky east,
wild beautiful Irish light...
bequeathed almost nothing,
Nothing that would explain bombs.
Nothing to make a blue-eyed American take sides.
Alan: For a few years in the 80’s, I danced the morris in a group inspired by Roger Cartwright, who seemed to tap directly into the dance’s primal roots. I think Ryokan would have liked this, had he seen it.
Rites Of Spring
for Roger Cartwright
Commotion in the street:
from nowhere, sudden
as a passing shower,
the gray town gleams
to trill of a pipe,
rapped “tam tam” of a tabor.
Behind their leader, the morris men file,
leaping and capering, streamers flying,
bells a-jangle. Clowning,
the bagman clears a space, a crowd
forms, the set begins, the pairing, the weaving,
tipplers spill from the pub, Ryokan
among them, pint in hand, jigging
in time to the music, the clack
of sticks. He grins
to feel the centuries
peel back, the field gods
stir, the pavement
crack, the barley
sprout beneath his feet.
Bagman: The member of the morris “side” or team who traditionally keeps the funds and equipment; often charged with passing the bag (or hat) for donations.