A Stor Mo Chroi

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…a darkness shining in brightness which brightness could not comprehend.”
James Joyce, Ulysses

The Irish countryside is a hundred shades of green. Stone walls snake over the hills and valleys, and on a lucky day, the mist will admit enough of sun to warm the atmosphere from within…so that it seems as if the light came from the earth itself. A yellow-green light…pale and palpable. I felt more comfortable there than in the place where I was born.

My spirit wanted to walk through those hills…imagined it already had.

There are places so old, that the trees groan in secret languages, known only to the birds. Every stone has been turned twice…and even the wind whistles laments.

My grandmother was gray and stern around the edges, but with a heart that was uncompromisingly loyal and unrelenting in its’ knife-like critique of other. She had a few words for everyone; not necessarily good ones. Her eye for pretense or puffery, was unerring and her canny way of displaying it was the stuff of legend.

She was fond of saying: “I never saw a smart person who wasn’t stupid.” So, you may believe that every mis-step, every major fuck-up, or boneheaded, idiotic thing I do, is accompanied by her beloved voice in my head.

It puts the lie to every puff of my chest,

A mere week before her death, I tried to get her and my father to reconcile. With much cajoling and convincing, I maneuvered him inside her house, thinking it would be an “I Remember Mama” moment. He bent down to shake her hand and they made cordial, stiff, and awkward small talk until my father felt he had completed enough seconds under her withering gaze, and turned to flee. His relief at getting out of the house was obvious, since he knew she hated him. And I didn’t think it necessary to tell him that the back of his head was slightly singed from her watching him walk away.

After he had gone, my mother’s sister said: “Mom, that was great how you shook Walter’s hand and all…we were afraid you would curse him.”

“Yes,” she said slowly and deliberately, “…but I gave him my left hand.”

Anyone who is familiar with the work of the German artist, Joseph Beuys, would understand my  confusion, while in front of some of things he’s made.

Felt, fat, and silly scenarios.

“How to explain pictures to a dead hare.”

“I like America and America likes me.”

In 1974, he flew to New York in order to spend eight hours cooped up in a gallery with a coyote. This tipped me. Here is a man, I thought, who is trying with all his might to say something. But what is it? What could possibly be so important that he would take so much trouble to say it…that way.

In the final analysis, an artist is defined by his belief in himself.

In the Dublin Museum, there is a work of his that necessitated a plaque explaining that it was, in fact a piece of art, and requesting that people don’t disturb it. It consisted solely of a janitor’s broom leaning against the wall.

In conversation with the Irish family I was staying with, I mentioned that I had seen “the broom”.

This initiated a loud clamor in the room as several individuals began to holler at once:

“Oh, didya now?”

“Oh, my Christ…not the feckin’ broom…”

“I saw that!…and I’ll be damned if that isn’t the most cockamamie thing I’d ever seen…”

“Jesus, I can’t believe they think that’s art.”

“Didja take it for a good sweep, then?”

“…and they’ve got it standin’ there with a little plaque and all.”

“Well, I’ve got a dustbin and a toilet brush I’d like to put right next to it.!”

“Do they pay good money for that?

Not since “The Troubles” has such noise been raised in a quiet Irish kitchen…and it went on for half an hour of non-stop hilarity…fueled by Irish whiskey.

No one could remember anything else they saw, in the entire museum.

“Oh grey and bleak, by shores and creek

the rugged rocks abound

But sweet and green the grass between

that grows on Irish ground

Saw friendship found, a life abound

and the love that lives always.”

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~ by theoxherd on December 7, 2012.

4 Responses to “A Stor Mo Chroi”

  1. Love this! Beautiful language. So many beautiful lines and descriptions: “the mist will admit enough of sun to warm the atmosphere from within…so that it seems as if the light came from the earth itself.” I love that the Janitor’s broom was featured as a work of art because, of course, it is one. Lovely, lovely piece.

  2. Thank you for letting us peek into a few treasures of your heart. Beautifully written!

  3. I appreciate your kind responses…they are very valuable to me…more than I can say.

  4. AnElephantCant say he’s a fan
    Of sanity and that sort of thing
    He does like your stuff
    He likes it enough
    To say you’re not crazy just a bit out of your head

    Brilliant!

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