Friday, December 31, 2010

Random Word matrixes

I fall for those end of year word matrixes, then wonder why I bothered. Top 10 obsessive words posted were writer, poet, poetry, novelist, gods, love, God, Irish, author, languages, 

My Year in Status is a bit more of a word salad, so I'll pick out the interesting ones.
Being a writer requires an intoxication with language.
Some people become so expert at reading between the lines, they don't read the lines.
I said neither of those lines.

The Little Shits

When I was barely a teenager, my life was held hostage by the wiles of two Shetland fillies who went where they pleased, when they pleased—dubbed the Little Shits by irate neighbors. No corral could hold them. I even tried hobbling them, but they could gallop, hobbled at both ends and with a cross tie. Shackled like prisoners, they still got out to terrorize the neighborhood. I dreaded full moons and the staccato of tiny hooves on pavement. One spring the bigger one disappeared only to return with a colt. So cute! My heart melted all over again but I realized I couldn't deal with a third hellion. Then I was joined by a 4th Shetland—who ran away from a distant neighbor. Then all manner of ungulates began to appear in our lower field. Once a miniature stud horse with his sidekick—a huge horse. I may have been horse crazy but I was overwhelmed trying to feed them all on babysitter's wages.

Other horse bits

Sunday, December 12, 2010


My grandmother’s hands
were torn and speckled with pigment
fair northern flesh burned by the fierce California sun.
A rebellious knotted vein rose up like a stone.
Souvenir from a strand of barbed wire
strung to keep the deer out of the garden.

Her freckles were an archiplelago of islands
adrift on a moon-milk sea.
They were Brendan voyagers in curraghs
headed for the New World
with a warrior phalanx of shields
raised up against a common enemy, the sun.
But they failed to protect her children,
when the melanoma set sail for that country
from which nothing ever returns.

I remember her wide spatulate fingers
that rubbed floursack sheets against the washboard
that mended jeans, made dresses for first day of school
and how I was ashamed they were not store-bought.
I remember the way she weeded the gardens,
dug up the praties, stacked wood for coming winter.

From her, I learned the survival of hands.
No caresses were needed because her love
was as fierce as the sun that burned her skin
as she labored in the garden or at the clothesline
she kept us safe, and provided when no one else would.
As she knelt to pray in the Sunday pew,
the sun shone on that knotted vein
and it was so beautiful—the scarring and freckles,
a skin painting of faith and tenderness.

From Ellery Akers' workshop, Petaluma, CA, 8/28/10 rev. 12/12/10

Praties is from the Gaelic for potatoes, "pràtai", a loan word via the Basque fishermen who introduced the tuber to western Ireland in the 16th century, via a Spanish word that is a compound of Carib-Taino batata (sweet potato) and Quechua papa (potato). Introduced to Europe by Spain in 1536, potato was first attested in 1565.

Praties is known as the famine song—first printed in 1897. There was nothing else left to eat In Ireland as all Irish food was owned by and shipped to England—and all that was left to eat were oats and potatoes. Then the blight rotted the potatoes—even the seed potatoes for next year. And the English stood by and watched as millions died.

Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras.
(iss mawt on tawn/lonn on tuck/russ )
Hunger is a good sauce

The Praties

Oh, the praties they grow small,
Over here, over here,
Oh the praties they grow small,
And we dig them in the Fall,
And we eat them coats and all,
Over here, over here

Oh I wish that we were geese,

Night and morn, night and morn,

Oh I wish that we were geese,

For they fly and take their ease,

And they live and die in peace,

Eatin' corn, eatin' corn.

But we're trampled in the dust,

Over here, over here,

We're trampled in the dust,

But the Lord in whom we trust

Will give us crumb for crust,

Over here, over here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mythopoetics, or why I write

The Pleasanton Poetry Poet Laureate asked me:
Why does Maureen Hurley write poetry? 

“I grapple with the unconscious dendritic history buried within the personal mythopoetics of my writing while keeping an ear bent to the myriad voices of landscape and memory.”

My poem & photos are up at Meusa's Kitchen blog: