Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica

By Mary Kay Rummel

Because my mother’s mother carried her Irish language
across a stormy Atlantic to St. Paul

Because my great grandfather who lived to be 100
sang in Irish as he bounced us on his bony leg

Because on the front porch of my grandmother’s house
the cousins, all named Mary,
learned 100 names for green from rebel songs

Because I lived sixty years before I learned my mother’s father
died drunk under the hooves of a horse he was driving

Because my cousin, Sheriff O’Connell, who took bribes
from Chicago gangsters, gave money to my widowed grandmother

Because when I read about him in St. Paul histories
I thought saint not sinner

Because my father’s tiny mother came from Galway
with a family too full of priests and nuns

Because she loved to talk in the way of Irish women
over tea and toast at small tables

Because I grew up in the quotidian music of women’s murmuring
close to the ground where the world begins

Because men were either silent or overbearing
I lived my girl’s life with Ann of Green Gables and Little Women

the bus plying the Old Fort Road to school
became my Bridge at San Luis Rey

Because art and music were in the church
I thought beauty belonged to God

Because roots of my young astonishment
cling to my inner life like the pine cone—growing
even after fire, living scales

Because in the convent we were told to be silent
I picked up a pen

Because of my heart’s homelessness

Because a poem waits for me to see it—
the way Monet’s last painting
his exact pink and red primroses
waited for his uncurtained vision

Because love will not let go

Because words un-write as they are written
un-speak as they are spoken

Because my granddaughters
listen to my tales of trolls and beanstalks—
their eyes pools where words sink and grow
the way I once listened to the old ones

I do not want to die without writing
my unwritten watery universe.

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