This Month's Poem

My Castle Was a Prison
in memory of my grandfather, Thomas H. Ryan

Doesn't everyone want to stay in a castle at least
once and walk between the improbable palms,
past the grazing sheep who crop the golf-short lawn? 
Our room was not luxurious, the twin beds chaste.
Truly, we stayed in a cell – the castle was a prison. 
Dishonoring great grandpa's memory I'd returned,
a deluded tourist of wealth and manors, to the site
of his brief incarceration: his crime, a salmon poached
from the Lord of Blackwater's weir upon the stream.
What's worse, I ask, to steal a fish or seize a river?

Our wardress wore her keys and expected punctuality.
We were as late for breakfast as Daniel Ryan for the coffin-
ship he almost missed, but he broke gaol and made it to Cobh
where Winifred Power boarded with him, and they fasted on 
weevil-burrowed biscuits. After the brig arrived, they were wed
in Chicopee, Massachusetts, before taking steamers on Great Lakes
Erie and Michigan. Then stage coach and feet to Buchanan, Wisconsin. 

Our wardress banished us to a table for two, while pots of tea, black 
pudding and white, passed by us at the communal table of the punctual.
"That's what you get for being late," a Canadian said, and we laughed,
but I was later than he knew. Later than a century for America, the Idea,
and Éire, my mother's Eden, where dark meant only Guinness on tap. 

If Daniel and Winifred lacked their passage money and stayed,
what side would their children have chosen when the Irish fought
each other? When practical folks settled for the southern counties
and outraged patriots fought on? I'm guessing they'd have taken half
a loaf, like a cousin who paid another Paddy to fight at Antietam.
Descended from wily survivors, I inherit the guilt of salvation.

— Pat Barone

Editor’s Note:
Poet Pat Barone said she enjoys reading at Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee premier poetry bookstore . "Milwaukee is, culturally, quite a place," she indicated, praising the Irish studies department at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). She graduated from Divine Savior High school and Marquette University. both in Milwaukee, studying art.

Barone is author of The Scent of Water (Blue Light Press) and The Wind, and Handmade Paper (New Rivers Press). She is currently working on several other manuscripts, two of them fiction. For more information, contact Pat Barone, More Barone poems can be found under The Post’s poetry section elsewhere in this issue.

The Irish American Post is pleased to review poetry submissions for potential publication. Please email your work to Martin Russell, poetry editor, Or mail poems to: 
Russell c/o The Post, 1815 W. Brown Deer Rd., Milwaukee, Wis. 53217.




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