Pregnancy after Forty
More than half an average lifetime
I have waited for you, bleeding uselessly every month,
a womanhood denied. And now I cradle you,
my miracle chance, within me where, for a while,
you are safe. Learning to float and dance through worlds
that, without the lure of visual images, inspire
your growth, you seem far more advanced than I.
And keep me in the hope where I keep you.
Desperate for the seven remaining months to pass
without a hitch, I refrain from carrying heavy weights,
cool the water in my bath and, instead of eating,
nourish you with vitamins and minerals untasted before.
I wish on you your father’s temperament, his hair
which straightens to silk in the rain; not to be born,
like me, over-aware, with hair that bumps in depressions.
But to take things in your stride – as I hope
to take you, reciprocal in virtue. There are books
I could read to tell, in detail, of your development,
tests I could have to rule out handicap
and prove you curled up cosily, not dangling
from a precipice, ready to drop because your fingertips
have had no chance to form. Yet, in a way, I’d rather
not know. And trust in the Nature we are both pushing
to extremes as it pushes us: mother and daughter
or mother and son, linked for as long as wishes dare
the substantial. Do you realise you make me
tired and queasy on seas that give you no qualms –
whitening to break on my surprise Holy Land?
That you must be careful of me lest I lose you
to outer years before they peel off their age inside?
For it is in my youth that you grow, in my youth
that I call myself, however temporarily, ‘woman’.
From The Virago Book of Birth Poetry
Never without her
He never had to do without her.
Her smile lived in his eyes,
her presence clothed him.
Odd times when apart,
she breathed in his rhymes
scrawled on shreds of paper
that padded out his pockets.
He shaped her in his shout:
hand cupped to his mouth –
Kath, Kath. Mavourneen.
Through streets, esplanades,
night lights, her tall figure
echoed to his need, fell in
with his step. Then back.
He never had to do without her.
We had to do without him
histories ago. When the car
knocked him down, his lips
stiffened into the call of her name,
the pleasure-boat he had planned
to captain for trips with her
around his body and heart
drawn up forever alongside her
in his broken arms’ harbour –
flags all drooped at half-mast.
We have had to do without her.
And make-do now with her face
reflected still in his monocle,
with his love for her in old songs
crooning in his West Cork blood:
Believe me if all those endearing
young charms, Now the day is over…
His fiddle trembles in its case
as we chime in with him:
…soon I’ll be sailing far across
the sea. O please remember me!
Published in The Irish Times
Patricia McCarthy, winner of The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2013, is the editor of the national/international poetry journal, Agenda. She is half Irish and half English. After Trinity College, Dublin, she lived in Washington D.C., Paris, Bangladesh, Nepal and Mexico. She has been settled for a long time in Mayfield, East Sussex. She was Head of English at St Leonards Mayfield School. A small collection, Survival, was published in the US and A Second Skin came out from Peterloo Poets in 1985. A translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours was published in 2007, translated by both Patricia McCarthy and Christine McNeill. A substantial collection, Rodin’s Shadow (Clutag Press/Agenda Editions) came out in October 2012. Around the Mulberry Bush: New & Selected Poems is due from Waterloo Press 2014. Her work has appeared in many journals and she has been widely anthologised. In 2012 she was elected a Fellow of the English Association.