Thursday, August 23, 2007

Poetry Thursday: The Penultimate Week

Yes, I have been an absent blogger lately. I am rather busy working in the day, and procrastinating in the evening. I haven't written much poetry lately, but when I read that Poetry Thursday was winding up at the end of August, I didn't want to miss the last two weeks.

So, here is one of the few poems I have written in the last couple of months. My uncle recounted how he saw my greatgrandmother reading a Gaelic newspaper sent from Scotland, when he was a boy. He assumed that she was a native Gaelic speaker. I worked out later that couldn't have been true. She didn't come from a Gaelic-speaking part of Scotland.None of the relatives remaining in Scotland were recorded as Gaelic speakers on the 1891 census (the first year that question was asked). She must have learned it, but why? Her obituary suggests she was well-educated, but well-educated young ladies at that time were taught French, art and needlework, not Gaelic which was thought to be a barbaric language. Just one of those questions I will never really know the answer to (unless there is really an afterlife, where we will all meet up).

Please keep in mind that this is very much a first draft.

Jessie Reading a Gaelic Newspaper, circa 1920

After a day of hard work, she sits
and loses herself in imagination.
The words sound in her head, consonants a tangle
of tree roots on her tongue, soft aspirates
like the hills melting away into the mist.
Her Scottish cousins humour her, post her the news
in this language of the uncouth Highlands
which they do not understand. While she scrubs floors
and carried loads of heavy laundry
they serve tea in fine china and send their daughters
to learn French and fine needlework.
Not because it is the language of her forebears, then
and not because it is the mark of education
though she was a scholar once,
certainly not for the news it bears,
now three months out of date,
she reads because of the mystery
of another language, of the remoteness
of its speakers, and the power of believing
that in words there hides the possibility
of becoming someone else.

17 comments:

Crafty Green Poet said...

This is a wonderful poem, I love the ideas in it about language and what it means.

gautami tripathy said...

You answered you own question. The novelty of knowing another language...

Tammy said...

That is a wonderful mystery Catherine! I like she was a non conformist. :)

split ends said...

I love this. It really reminds me of my own grandmother and great-grandmother (whose name also happened to be Jessie). I come from a line of very inspirational, march-to-the-beat-of-their-own-drum women, and it sounds like you do too. This poem pays great homage to your great-grandmother, I think.

tumblewords said...

A strong woman. Your description of her is vivid and of a sharing nature.

AnnieElf said...

Relate strongly to this. The unraveling of words is my daily companion. You express it so well.

joezul said...

It seems your grandmother was a woman ahead of her times. I guess maybe she just like to broaden her horizon. And to be able to learn a strange language on her own, then she must be very talented and special indeed.
You've managed to capture the essence of the mystery in the poem. I like it . :)

This Girl Remembers said...

Oh, this is beautiful! You have such a wonderful way of bringing these long-gone people to life. What a gift for your family to have these meditations on your ancestors.

...deb said...

Yes, fleshing out flesh in such a lovely way. A gift for your family.

Fledgling Poet said...

This is just lovely...your grandmother sounds like she was a very special and unique person. I like that she was so drawn to this language, and so intent on mastering it, simply for herself.

shoeaddict said...

Here from Michele's to tell you that I really enjoyed that! Very interesting because I'm reading a book about Scottish clans.

PI said...

I wonder if she was desperately homesick for the'hills melting in the mist'- I know i would be - am - now we can't travel far. Maybe learning the Gaelic was her way of embracing her roots? Here from Michele's. Is your trip soon?

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Beautiful poem, Catherine...You write so very wonderfully...! There is something quite touching about your view of her....! Bravo, my dear.

About your comment: I suppose it is weird to have Award Shows up for Awards...but, that is the idea of all this...Honoring television shows that entertain, etc. And these shows are just that..."SHOWS" that entertain and are designed for television, specifically....I think it is right that they are in a "special class" category though....And it will be interesting to see if any of them win and if more than one of them wins, which is very possible.

gautami said...

Glad Michele sent me here to read it one more time. It is a poem one can read again and again.

yellojkt said...

A very elegant poem. What a nice tribute.

michele sent me.

BreadBox said...

It may be a first draft, but it seems very polished indeed. I like it. I especially like the title!
N.
Michele sent me.

Marie said...

I LOVE the strength and integrity of your grandmother. What an inspiration she must have been to you...