about annie


    stone and water

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Annie the Bard, Ann Bardens-McClellan

The Lost Stones of O'Neill

Lines for a pioneer woman


Maud, you were such a pretty baby,
the one with your grampa's Irish
red hair, translucent skin.

The night I lost you
your skin was blue
and underneath your tiny fingernails
purple bloomed like lilac buds.


Thomas, you were the quiet one
quiet even in my womb
never kicking me
never declaring your presence.
How quiet your birth.
Visitors said, "You'd
never know there's a baby in the house."

When you stopped breathing
my sigh filled the house
with all the noise you never made.


Charles, I never could keep up with you.
You were in such a hurry to be born
I had to stop turning the wringer and lie down
I had to leave lumps in the gravy and lie down
I had to forget the dust on Aunt Emma's lamp and lie down.
My labor with you lasted so many months
I could have had ten babies...and
you started squalling before you left the birth canal.

We laughed, though, how we laughed.
You were the devil himself,
sneaking up, untying my apron strings
when my hands were floured and plunged into the dough.
Yes, the devil himself,
running through the house chased by Daisy
trying to whip you with her snipped pigtail.

When you came home from swimming
in the forbidden pond and
I sent you to bed without your supper,
my heart burned like the fever that finally
consumed you.

Even now my hands burn
when I remember
nights of laying cold clothes on your forehead
while the unquenchable spirit in you
dried up and died of thirst.


I never knew you, Walter,
crying in your cradle,
a shadow in the light of Charles.
Your cold lips refused my breast,
and when the fever took you too
it was as if you had never lived at all.


Grampa Frank,
you tough old coot,
you waited...and waited...
lying like a gravestone in your deathbed for six years
until they had all gone ahead of you.
What were you waiting for, old mule--
a parade of lost angels to beat the drum
for you into a heaven your Irish whiskey
and Texas tarts destroyed years and years ago?

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©2017 Ann Bardens-McClellan