By Libby Falk Jones
Visiting Lecturer, English/Berea College, Kentucky USA
After Nazim Hikmet, Turkish poet exiled from his beloved homeland
I didn’t know I loved rain, yes, rain misting my face,
droplets catching in my eyelashes and the thick hard rain
seen from my window, my rainpants and boots worth their weight
when it’s time for class. I didn’t know I loved moss, tenacious
green on stones, spongy under my feet, and grass—today
a bumblebee drowsed, ignoring the tiny white ground daisies,
which I also love, and lichens, earth-brown and green
on rowan trunks, and gorse, brilliant yellow dotting hillsides.
I didn’t know I loved “Mind yourself” and “God bless,” “Give it
a lash,” “Take a listen,” “For the craic,” “She’s chesty,” “Grand
on this end.” Caramel muffins, Irish chicken, roosters mashed
and curled into a ball by a wrist flick, Chef Maria’s luscious salads
in An Bhialann. Summer fruits jam from the Saturday market,
poitin and its heritage. Tea, tea, tea and the Cloud Café for
cheerful hot water refills.
I didn’t know I loved remote places, Inis Mor’s Black Fort,
mussel lines strung across Connemara lakes, limestone barrens
of The Burren. How could I know I loved ruined castles,
abandoned friaries whose roofs open to the sky, stone walls
stacked with spaces for the wind (“if you build ‘em tight,
they go over”), everywhere stones, Famine walls snaking up
hillsides. Burning evening skies over the quad, frisky horses
in fields I walk past daily, the neighbor’s Irish cat, those cocky
magpies. Lone pair of swans, way up the Corrib. One bright
morning, a glowing red fox in our yard.
I didn’t know I how much I loved Irish voices, Synge’s Aran Islands,
Heaney and Yeats and Boland, RTE’s Sunday Miscellany’s poets
and essayists, the throng of NUIG writers. I didn’t know I loved
the shrieks of gulls, no water in sight, rhythms of oars in racing shells
on the river. Didn’t know I loved the smell of fresh-cut March grass,
raked into rows, scent of sheets dried on a line. How warm sun can be,
and the sharp cut of the wind, reminding me of the claims of earth.
I didn’t know I’d love my students, and all they have brought
to our work, their poems and stories of mums and grans, of men
who work with their hands, The Troubles and madness, dirty words
and pubs and grief, churches and laughter, crows and sloths, sounds
of the sea and family—always family. Their joy in finding a space
where words and images can breathe, a page ready to receive their gifts
as they’ve learned to listen, to attend. I’ve loved their different voices
intertwining, writers working together, trying out new tongues.
Their patience, teaching me to sing the special music of their names.