Thursday 13 September 2012

Emer's Poem; Sit Here

Some 30 years ago, this month, I met my best friend. This is her poem; I would like to assure her it's not written solely to embarrass her, although I will get a laugh out of that I admit. It's written because it's been thirty years in the writing, in pubs and clubs, over coffee and in hospital rooms, and once upon a time, in a school room in a convent on the Crumlin Road.This is one of those poems, that had to be written and that were in a sense always written.
After thirty years our lives have coincided again; we have always been there but at times our experiences have been out of sync. One married while the other was single, one away or at home, happy or sad; now the stars align once more and we share a certain common ground, marriage and motherhood. I don't know what has been sweeter in 30 years, the times when we were apart but still holding on or now that we are older, wiser, calmer, and more on the same path. Both times have their joys.
This is for you Emer, from the heart. From all us oddballs.

Sit here

I heard on the news, those dreaded words of childhood
“Back to school,” the death knell of summer, the last nail
in the coffin for the halcyon freedoms of our youth;
I heard it and thought, it’s September – remember! remember
when that meant schoolbags and books and copies and pencils
and suddenly thought, how long have I known her?
 How many years? How many seasons, since that first Autumn,
how many days, since that first day of a new school year?

I walked in, my usual self; constrained by my lumpiness and
dumpiness. I walked in and paused. My usual tactic was to
see where there might be a seat – unobtrusive, unwanted, unlikely
to offend anyone else. Perhaps on the edge of a group, that way I could
occasionally, if the omens were good, turn and talk or share a joke –
as long I didn’t push my luck. I couldn’t see a seat.
I saw her. She smiled and pointed to the seat in front. She had already
found a niche, made a friend, settled in. She pointed to a seat and then to me.

I don’t remember sitting down. I don’t remember the first halting chat.
I remember laughing. If I had to sum up the next thirty years, my friend,
her spirit, I would say…I remember laughing. There’s no end to her laughter,
her good nature. She is kind. Everyone who meets her, says that. She is kind.
She has a knack with us oddballs, she is Mamma to us all. She has a way of
making you feel as if you belong. She has made me feel that for thirty years,
while I did my best to cast myself adrift, while I spun aimlessly out of orbit.
I never knew until I returned, she held a thread and refused to let it go.

I know as she reads this she will – blush, shake her head, laugh at me (gently)
I know she will be pleased, and she will be perplexed. I imagine her shrugging
off compliments, with a certain giggle and a wave of her hand – ah go on!
But we, we who know her value, we must drag her back up to her pedestal
and bribe her up there with yellow rice and wine. We need her, her calm hand upon
the helm; her eyebrow raised. She is our fixed compass, our northern star.
She is my memory and my youth. She is one of the moments on which my life turned.
She is still that girl, the one who points and says, “Sit here.”



Ann Murphy said...

This is beautiful. I lost my best friend - she was like yours. I would love to share this poem with the rest of our friends, would that be ok? They would love this.

Sara Curran said...

Wow. this is just lovely. It's full of heart without being overly sentimental. I love it thanks for sharing !

Anonymous said...

What a lovely tribute! Well done, Beirn.


Derek O'Leary said...

I rarely like nostalgia in poems but this is actually very cool. I love the description of how you first met and then the description of how your friend will take the poem. Very original. She sounds like a doll :)