Geraldine Green: From 'Poems of a Molecatcher’s Daughter' (redux)
[Taken from G. Green, Poems of a Molecatcher’s Daughter, Palores Publications, Editor Les Morton, Cornwall, UK; reprinted in Poems ands Poetics (December 19, 2011) as an addendum to Outsider Poems: A Mini-Anthology in Progress.]
Sal Madge lived down Rosemary’s lonnin’
Sal Madge wuz a Gippo
Sal Madge wuz dirty
Sal Madge Sal Madge
wi’ ‘er pipe an’ her spittin’
Sal Madge wi’ her singin’ ditties
her bratful o’ coal she’d gathered from’t beach
down by t’docks at Whitehevven.
Sal Madge wuz a wanderer
Sal Madge wuz a man
Sal Madge an’ her pipe an’ her spittin’
Sal Ma-a-dge! kids ‘d shout after ‘er
but Sal Madge nivver minded thon kids yellin’
she loved ‘em cuffed ‘em collected bird shells
an’ eggs for ‘em, cos Sal Madge wuz brave
an’ went gatherin’ eggs from’t nests on’t cliffs o’ St Bees.
Sal Madge wuz born in a coracle in Irelan’
Sal Madge played a fiddle
Sal Madge wore odd shoes
Sal Madge lived in a hovel down Rosemary’s lonnin’
Sal Madge was skeert o’ no-one! Not even t’ghost
o’f ol’ Macalinden him who poisoned his wives
cut ‘em up into bits an’ hid ‘em in’t cellar
Sal Madge smoked a pipe wuz a gypsy wore men’s clothes
Sal Madge wuz a man. Sal Madge wuz lonely.
The Day Mam Saw t’Pig in’t Bath
Now I telt ye about me mam wokkin’t fingers t’bone
up at Mossop’s farm? Aye well, when la’al babby was born
she’d walk up there from Moor Row – 3 miles there. 3 miles
back – wi’ one la’al lass in front o’ her – me other sister – me
brudder at schoowel an’ one in’t pram. Well! One day such
a yellin’ an’ a cussin’ came from t’ direction o’t bathroom –
Aye they were well off folk, not like me mam an’ da’
they ‘ad a pump in’t yard an’ a stone sconce in’t back kitching –
well! Mind them Mossop’s never used it tae get weshed in, no!
they used it fer t’ salt pig in! an’ me la’al sister, she wandered in
an’ saw it liggin’ in’t bath,– liggin’ full stretch covered in salt
wi’ a lace caul splayed ovver its fyace like Miss Havisham –
her out o’Dickins.
How Mam would go on’t Coalboats to Douglas, Isle O’ Man
an’ dance in’t Palladium an’ Gaiety
at seaside towns on’t Isle o’ Man
just across the Irish sea
an’ she’d swing her legs
ovvert’side o’t boats an’ settle down
an’t men’d fuss an’ pet her –
she wuz on’y fifteen an’ a fine dancer
– like her ma’ afore her – dancers from Sligo
Gippos horse dealers Romas tinkers an’ me da’
a Black Irish frae Spain his hair black an’ curled
like an Astrakhan coat me mam loved to stroke
in Sarah Belle’s pawn shop on
molecatcher’s wives nivver could afford a astrakhan cwoat –
aye but I mind he once gev ‘er a coat made out o’ moleskins.
Well, she’d go on’t boats to Douglas, swing her legs high oh as high!
an’ kick an’ bend
an’ flip her pretty frilled dresses up up
way above her thighs
an’t men loved to see her
they thought it was a stage name
but it wuz me mam’s own –
an’ she’d come hwome, exhausted, exhausted
wi’ a la’al bit o’ money tucked in ‘er knickers
to gi’e to her ma an’ her da’
Of me Uncle, who wuz a Poet
Granda Fitz’s brudder, Joe, wuz a poet.
He’d mek up poems as he strode out
fine as fine along’t lanes to St Bees
ol’ top hat he’d found in a ‘edge
pushed back on ‘is head
an’ a whistle in his hand
an’ his eyes mad as a blackbird’s caught in’t rain.
‘is hands flutterin’ like birds
‘is hair listenin’ to’t wind
an’ his mouth would oppen an’ close like a babby bird’s
an’ his worms wuz words
‘is catterpillas wuz rhymes an’ starlins!
‘Is poems were ‘is way of lettin’ t’jackdaws in ‘is head out for a while
before they locked ‘im up again in’t workhouse.
wuz a mate o’ me dad’s an’ friend o’ no one.
He wuz a man who once lived in’t big house
up top o’ Sowerby Hill.
A man who’d knawn ‘good times’ mam said,
but me da’ said he was born wrong side o’t track
an’ I wondered which track?
The one by Nana’s house at Corkickle station
where lupins grow so high so high
right up to me oxters?
Or the track that Donkey Dave ga’s on
when he teks his donkey an’ cart along t’lane
to Nethertown, sellin’ eggs an’ spuds an’
owt else he can find liggin’ round in ‘t hedgerows?
Which track was Muttonchop born
wrong side o’?
With his battered top hat
an’ his rusty fob watch case
empty of tick tickin’ hands
an’ gold chain.
The preceding follows the dynamics of regional & dialectical poetry as carried over into contemporary experiment, a work that might be compared with Steve McCaffery’s classic translation of the Communist Manifesto into Yorkshire dialect, shown previously in these pages. Of her own experience with this, Green writes:
“A couple of years ago a poet friend suggested that I write a collection of poems in Cumbrian dialect. It later transpired that it was a deliberate attempt to set me off on an exploration of Richard Hugo’s assertion that music comes first - ie that in making a poem, rather than attempt to hammer music into truth, a poet’s more likely to succeed if he or she coaxes truth out of the music. By challenging me to revisit the unique voices and dialect of my family and culture he felt I’d stand a good chance of accessing and working with the music. He was right.
“He'd opened up the floodgates -- the floodgates of memory, remembering Mum's tales of 'when she was a lass, in Whitehevven' and in turn of her memories and stories she'd been told by her grandparents who'd 'come ovver frae Irelan' on the Night o't' Big Wind, or't Potato Famine.' Tales absorbed by my child's ears as I'd attentively listened. Her voice, her memories became part of my fabric, my identity/identities. Later, as an adult the voices of my parents and grandparents came back to me, their West Cumbrian lilt multi-syllabic to my South Cumbrian, more Lancashire-fed, ears and tongue. In West Cumbria toast became 'to-a-wust', loaf transformed into 'lo-u-waf'. The music did come first.”
Geraldine Green was recently awarded a PhD in Creative Writing Poetry from Lancaster University, UK, comprising a new collection of poems, “The Other Side of the Bridge,” & a Reflective Thesis, “An Exploration of Identity and Environment through Poetry.” Her latest book, “The Other Side of the Bridge,” was published in Spring 2012 by Indigo Dreams, editor Ronnie Goodyear, & she is now waiting on her fifth collection of poems, Salt Road.