A gentle wind blows from the water….Sheltering-in-place #2


Thistle, Dodder River, Dublin – c.craig


The Great Birds, Kenneth Patchen ( American poet, 1911-1972)

A gentle wind blows from the water.
Along the bank great birds are majestically striding.
It is morning!

Far out there are boats. Far, far out on the crumbling blue shelf
… toy swans slowly, slowly moving their honey-clotted wings.  It
is morning.  Morning … and as every morning is, it is unstained
now … it is exactly like the very first morning ever to come to this

O the sparkling land, the sea, the heavens!
O hushed and clean in the wonder of it!
As slowly, slowly now the great birds appear … wheeling up,
up, up! And at last they are above the village, above the golden-
pink blur of houses and bridges — with our two hearts caught
in the lift of their great wings.

And now the boats … nearer, nearer they come! At last we can
see the glitter of fish on their decks.  And yes, one of
the fisherman has glimpsed us — he waves, calls a greeting, above
him wheel the birds in giant spirals.  Ah! suddenly one dives, then
another and another — their wings brush across the water like
fingers of a caressing hand.

A strand of your hair touches my cheek.
How much better for the world had
nothing else ever happened in it.


Kenneth Patchen was an American poet and novelist, part of the San Francisco Renaissance who influenced many of the Beat poets.  A pacifist, he said “I speak for a generation born in one war and doomed to die in another.”

As I continue to shelter, cocoon, be locked in place, I will continue to post poems.  I have always seen Patchen as a moral touchstone, and would have posted “The Character of love as seen as a search for the lost” but it is more raw than I can take right now.  It is not the disaster as natural occurrence (and yes linked to climate crisis) but the human-made aspect of it, the venal response of so many who hold power.

Yesterday I turned 75.  For the first time ever, I feel old.  Maybe that’s okay.  On stage, my mother used to say “It took me a long time to get here and I want credit for every year.”

I am going home….

water and chair

                                               dunmanway, county cork (c) carole craig

En route to San Francisco

I am going home — one of the last places on earth I want to be.  Time, like a bounty hunter, has caught up with me.  My mother is 97 and counting.  Eating, dressing, the ordinary choices of life confuse her, but she choses not to leave her home, the life she has made.   And who can blame her for that — she is so firmly rooted, so well watered by love and fidelity.

She was a singer and is beloved, in the way that performers are, by hundreds,  perhaps thousands.   And she has friends, real friends.

Her politics have always been brave.  In the 1950s when segregation was still the law our home insurance was cancelled because both black and white people came to visit; my mother was not cowed by the clicks on the phone that told us of the wire taps or visits from the FBI;  in 1965 when a white woman on Martin Luther King’s Selma to Montgomery march was murdered I thought for several hours it was her because she was also there.

There are people, I’ve met them, who feel it is an honour to spend time with her.

I am not among them.  It’s not that we don’t love each other. We do, we’ve been through so much together  But to explain how I face my task I must say that  I never felt the  recipient of bountiful mother-love –– there are reasons for that, although this is not the place.  I have my scars and wounds. This is not the place.

I have come home because her heart’s desire to die where she has lived may no longer possible.  My mother can barely climb the stairs to the top floor and her single bed so she can watch the sun set over the Pacific as she falls asleep. She can barely climb the stairs to the middle floor to reach a toilet and refuses to try the commode.  Sometimes she sits in a chair on the landing and cannot remember if she was going up or down.

I have to find her a place of safety — this  a chronicle of that search.

I have had to leave my home in Dublin, my photographic projects, my cats, my darkroom, my books, my offer of an MFA and the planned cycle of short stories, my wonderful neighbors, the guiding wisdom of my writing group, the magical Irish light —  ‘ little dyings’.

Perhaps the most difficult,  I have to come to terms with America again  — the brutality, immorality, the beauty.  Re-enter dark water.  Sink or swim.  Today,  Kenneth Patchen, American of course, breaks the surface with me:

“All things are one thing to the earth

rayless as a blind leper Blake lies with everyman

and the fat lord lies next to his bastard at last

and it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean what we think it does

for we two shall never lie there 

we shall not be there when death reaches out his sparkling hands

there are so many little dyings that it doesn’t matter

which of them of death