My Rural Christmas Childhood: In Memory of my Father and Mother

Comments (0) Issue 4, Poetry, Writing

Julia Martyn

One side of the potato pit was white with frost-
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the pailing- post
The music that came out was magical!
The light between the reeks of hay and straw
Was a haven in heaven’s gable, an apple tree?
With its December-glinting fruit we saw-
O you Eve were the world that tempted me
You are the knowledge that grew in clay
Even if forbidden, and death the seed that grew within.
Now and then, I remember something of the gray
Garden that was my childhood’s
Tracks of cattle in a drinking place,
And many stones lying sideways in ditch
That was the beauty the world did not touch.
My father played the melodeon
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning‘s east
And they danced to his music,
Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
To the O Brien’s and the Hynes’s
I put on my dress in a hurry
To catch my father’s hand
Outside the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of the stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.
A water hen screeched in the bog,
Mass going folk, feet wet stuck in water- ice on the pot -holes,
The child wonder in me picked out the letters, St. Mary Immaculate
Of the grey stone,
Of the old church, the wonder of a Christian village
To the winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

An old man passing said,
“Can’t he make it talk”-The melodeon. I hid in the door way
And tightened the buckle on my shoe.
My father nicked his pipe with his old penknives’ big blade-
He had a little one for cutting tobacco
And I was all off ten Christmases of age.
As I looked, and there within the bushes –Rode across the horizon-
The Three Wise Kings
My father played the melodeon
My mother milked the cows.
And I said a prayer, read like white rose pinned
To the Virgin Mary’s house. Christmas on our farmhouse
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

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