i would give her ireland

aislinn writes, her mother was borne
between rosary and choir,
not orphaned, but left by choice
to the nuns, left to the skip of beads,
hum of prayer. aislinn's mother was left
to the care of voices soaring to the saints,
blessÚds, prophets, up to God distant and obscure.

aislinn writes, the trail she turns to look to,
and the places she turns to find herself
are missing; missing is a place where she
can fall to doorstep, ancestors she can lift
to her brow like holy water, missing
the lists of names and places, the well of blood
belonging to her, making her, forming her

in heritage. this, perhaps, only something
recognized when missing. the rest of us,
perhaps, thinking heritage a tag word
in a museum or gallery and not something
to have been born from. our own mothers,
for the most part, not borne of rosary or choir,
but rather of semen and lust, of a long list

of names running out behind like ragged
shoe-laces; able to name off men and women
trailing behind like bookends and gravemarks,
and blood from birth and death and virginity,
lost only to be reclaimed with each girl child,
who comes running out after, breathless and pink.
the circular motion of our blessings and abusings

so clearly and starkly marked in the bone.
cree, scottish and irish running
like fresh horses in our veins and able to say,
this is what we've come from, better or worse,
a marriage which cannot be undone.
aislinn writes, a cultural identity might fill her hands,
perhaps, give her something to hold.

i would give her my drunken irish grandmother
with her wild red hair, thick as a horses mane,
and i would give to her ireland, the way land belongs
to all of us who have the soil in our veins.
a wondrous gift of blood and earth.
i want aislinn to stand inside a small moment,
let's say on a train with a bottle of good brandy,

and a quarter loaf of bread. the train pulls into dublin,
she is dark-haired, slim-wristed, brilliantly
and starkly beautiful, and drunk. it's winter
and raining, aislinn hasn't lived in dublin
for several years; she will hear the sound of gaelic
flowing from her mouth, something remembered inside her,
and she will look down to her hands, which cupped
are filled with irish blood and its dark, rich soil.

Bathed in and out of Dreams

I'll write him now, while he's still unclear to me
sepia-toned, as though he belongs to the past.
I remember moments stretched like something
pulled, a strange inner muscle, I remember
the two of us joined and never separated.

I was nineteen when we went to Africa,
celebrated my birthday on a deserted, dirt road.
Almost a full week later he fell ill like a child
falls and rolls after a rubber, red-soled ball
called malaria. I slept with him on the plains

of Burkina Faso, dreamt in French
because I knew too much in English,
and cared for him the way a mother cares
for a child lying ill, falling in and out
of fever and slumber, living in the sweat and chills

of illness, not knowing how to be anything more.
He was the one I could have tucked inside
me like the child we were to have borne
together, the one I leaned over in the dry dust
and heat of Africa, called by name, bathed

in and out of dreams. I think I caught malaria
just enough to go undetected, slow fever,
mild chills, his face above mine in the night
with Africa through the flaps of the tent
and my future still curved, rubber like a ball.