Monthly Archives: February 2020

Whitby Scenes – Fokkina McDonnell

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

It’s the first time he has captured me walking on water

and I’m in the centre of this black-and-white photograph.

In this picture I’m nearest to you, whoever you are,

or want to be and whatever will become of you,

but you are looking beyond me at other people

on the beach, the dead relatives in their graves.

You and I can hear children on the beach laughing,

the distant sound of the waves, the yellow tug

chugging to take others on their whale-watching trip.

You cannot see my offspring, they’ve separated

from me, they are their own gull now, as they land

on the head of the statue, or swoop through

the whalebone arch, staring you out for fish.

We’ll still be here when the visitors leave,

our insistent way of being, our shrieks on the wing

reminding you of the sea when you’re safely back home.


Fokkina McDonnell’s…

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Celebrating …

Dublin photo

North Earl Street, Dublin, 1904

I am celebrating! Just two working days after I applied, the Home Office emailed me confirmation of my “settled status” in the UK. Hence a post with a food poem …

This stew combines two foods known since the earliest Irish literature. Bacon (tinne or senshaille) is mentioned many times in the medieval Vision of MacConglinne, as are sausages, particularly called Maróc, and another called Indrechtán. Leeks and oatmeal were no doubt used in the earliest form of Coddle, but since the eighteenth century, potatoes and onion have supplanted them.

The recipe for Dublin Coddle is in my copy of A Taste of Ireland in Food and in Pictures by Theodora Fitzgibbon. The magnificent black-and-white pictures (some of them well over a hundred years old) had been found “heaven knows where – by Miss Fitzgibbon’s husband, George Morrison, creator of the Gael-Linn films on 1916 and the civil war”. The book was published in 1968 and, having married a Dublin man, and believing that saying about the “way to a man’s heart” I bought it shortly after we married in 1973.

The poem was included in Sweet Tongues: Crocus book of food poems, published by Commonword in 2013.

 
Dublin Coddle

Saturday supper is a savoury stew.
Sausages, and slices of bacon.
Potatoes and onion supplanted
the oatmeal and leek. Enough stock

to barely cover, season to taste,
simmer slowly, let the liquid reduce.
Tears run down the steamy window.
Chopping parsley holds the pain.

One of us poured a steady Guinness;
the other already lost in the black
and salty taste of waiting.
Between us the open cookery book:

a small black and white picture,
North Earl Street, Dublin, 1904.
Blurred images of men in coats
and caps, horse-drawn cart, a sunny day.

A couple crosses the tramlines.
He carries bags in both hands.
She, to the right of him,
looks down to safely place her feet.

 

The Outsider

 

unnamed

Albert Camus

 

It seemed fitting to spend 31 January (Brexit Day) with a good old friend. She has the modern smart phone needed to scan my Dutch passport. It was good to have moral support: I had a crying fit during the identity check part of the application. Luckily, I only started crying after she’d taken my photo which the Home Office staff/system will check against the photo in the passport!  And the automatic check on my National Insurance (NI) number confirmed that I was eligible to apply for “settled” status.

I’ve been resident in the UK since 1973 and I have close friends here and my writing, but it has felt less and less like home after the 2016 referendum.

At secondary school (Gymnasium) we learned English, German and French and we crawled at a snail’s pace through l’Étranger, the 1942 novel by Albert Camus which is a classic in world literature.  Camus developed the philosophical concept of Absurdism and the way he died in a car accident, aged 46, could be considered absurd.

The poem is from my debut collection Another life, published by Oversteps Books Ltd in 2016.

On reaching his 102nd Birthday

He always liked his drink,
so it’s no surprise that Albert went North,
that unused train ticket in his pocket.

He is said to have died in a car crash,
but police do know people who
walk away and without a scratch.

After walking for weeks, he reached Norway
where the days are short
and the nights are made for alcohol.

Camus lived in a modest house
with a butcher’s block in the kitchen
where he cut reindeer and smoked.

A flock of swans flew through his dreams,
so he married the next woman to walk past,
taught her two sons to play football.

She taught him to sleep soundly at last.
A pied-noir at rest under the Herring Lights,
on the cold edge of man’s world.

Yellowish green and faint red glowing,
these arcs and rays and curtains of gas,
the fight against dawn and the sun.