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now three months out of date,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.