M.J. Iuppa


                Sligo, Ireland 2019

The “shelly” river, once named Sligeach, now called Garavogue, winds its way
through the center of Sligo town, transporting its currency in high and low tides,
revealing its riddles to those who see with the sight of a great blue heron angling
in its shallows.


Standing on Hyde Bridge, facing the river at low tide, we do not look at what’s
below; only focus on what’s in hand. We are giddy over a pear tart, gorgeous
meringues, and baby cones that we just purchased at the bakery and gelato shop.
We inhale with precision, not losing one crumb or drop of Jersey cream. Some-
one mentions sugar and over-indulgence, and I listen dimly as I swallow the last
nib of my cone.


To find one’s roots, one must retrace steps that are elliptical. The surname, in
its original spelling: Tonry; the first name of every first born, the same: James;
the records found in the Sligo library during the time of Black 47. More than
30,000 left Sligo, boarding ships that crossed the Atlantic to America, to the
Port of New York, to their life that would, no doubt, be doubly hard, but they
were alive to tell it to their children. It’s the snippet of stories we knew that
brought us back here to find them.


By mid-afternoon, the sun shines and Sligo sidewalks bustle with children
just let out of school, hurrying over the footbridge, with the weight of knapsacks
and instruments and quick conversations. Older uniformed girls hike up their
plaid skirts, three inches above the knees, looking positively assured that no one
will tell them to lower their hems. A busker on Rockwood Parade sings Adele,
snagging passersby to stop and listen, and drop coins into his red velvet case.


We duck into a quiet corner tavern called Fiddlers Creek, ready for a pint, or
half, and a slower pace to read a menu and pick a lunch that would be memorable
and satisfying in both fish and chips and conversation. We are agreeable, sitting
at a window table, watching the busker sing his second set; enjoying each other’s
reflection on this day, that is unlike any other.


Once again, we stop to peer over the railing to see how low the Garavogue has settled.
There are three great blue herons fishing in respectable distances from each other. Their
heads tilt in an acute angle, eyeing the shallows for small fish stranded among the exposed
rocks and reeds. Their slow strides are matched with quick strikes — beaks full of fish
devoured in one gulp. Then, they resume as if nothing were caught or eaten, another step
taken until they’ve had their fill, like us, finding our way back to the start.


“Sometimes one day changes everything; sometimes years change nothing.”
                                                                                           ~ Irish Adage

Yesterday, I walked down a secluded lane, among fiddle ferns and lichens and ivy-leaved toadflax growing in the dark crevices of Irish stonewalls, and I noticed all eyes were watching me as I watched them in their on-going scenes. Crows called three times overhead, alerting the hare turned porcelain in a small vegetable garden and the donkey dozing beneath the flowering hawthorn’s shade. There— I paused briefly in a familiar confidence, looking at these surroundings as if they were my own.


I do not see as mankind sees. Boundaries— built with flat rocks placed in the puzzle of size and shape— the underpinning of walls that stack and breathe and shift their weight through the cracks, through terrible weather, and last, and last, and last. Of course, these walls do not impress the cows or sheep. They know where they can and cannot go. They do as they please, which is eating, and sleeping, and staring off into the distance.


Around the bend, I came upon a creek full of quick-moving water and sunlight. Its lilting song was two parts intrigue, one part comfort, beckoning me to lean over the bridge’s iron rail and look deeply into its mercurial waters, where my face vanished beneath the shadows of newly-leafed trees. In that instant, I remembered home and its slow approach to Spring, and wading fishermen whipping their lines in high loose arcs—watching their lures sink to drift towards Sandy Creek’s rocky ledge, where golden trout dream of dragonflies.


If I had a dream, it would be this.

M.J. Iuppa's fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017).For the past 30 years she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.
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