Angels by Mike Gallagher

I am not a silent poet

Mattresses airing at open windows –
this lingering vision has scarred his sixty years;
his abiding childhood recollection:
if it rains today, we’ll all sleep wet again tonight,
his mother had traipsed this same long hall,
was told: Sit there, sign that. Give him up!
Barely two weeks earlier, she had transgressed,
screamed in labour; frog-marched to an outhouse;
legs apart, she gave birth standing over
a steel commode, torn, left unstitched;
and the cold-eyed nun moved slow from bead to bead,
asked if it now was worth the few minutes
of passing pleasure.
..
Kept behind locked doors and iron gates,
a hundred pounds would have bought her freedom –
its lack condemned her to a lifetime of scrubbing
floors or clothes, cutting grass on hands and knees,
mending potholes; no letters, no talk, no bras,
name changed, hair cut, experiments – other parallels;
this the penance for her…

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