Angela Patten

Sweet Aftons

How I loved to watch my father savor
all his small indulgences—a packet
of ten Sweet Aftons and The Meath Chronicle,
the ink still wet on its whispery pages.

He would sit in his armchair by the fire,
a fragrant cigarette between his fingers,
the newspaper open on his lap,
reading the news of friends and relations,
who had won the All-Ireland Hurling Match,
who had married, who had died.

The half-closed packet lay on the table,
its gold calligraphy curling over the side:
Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I
ll sing thee a song in thy praise.

It was a message from another continent,
like Robert Louis Stevenson’s drooping mustache,
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s high starched collar
or Louisa May Alcott’s elaborate ringlets
on the pack of Authors playing-cards
Mammy’s cousin sent over from America.

Or the forlorn lovers separated by a cruel father
who gazed at each other from the blue-and-white
world of her willow-pattern plates—
a promise of poetry, of mystery, of everything
I dreamed about but couldn’t name.

At Christmas we saved the empty packets
to dress in wrapping paper, tie up with ribbons,
dangle enticingly from the tree. Beautiful,
we thought them, who knew nothing of art.

Out In Left Field at Dodgertown, Florida

A smattering of fans in the bleachers.
Behind them dark palm trees poised
against a leaden sky like a water-balloon
about to burst.

Groups of tanned enthusiasts
sporting neon-colored tee shirts
shorts and visored hats arrive
and settle into their seats.

When the skies suddenly open
we run to pack ourselves neat
as a crate of Indian River oranges
into a shelter overlooking homeplate
on the washed-out baseball diamond.

Aromas of onions, mustard, pickles
mingle with lush smells of the tropics—
a Dodger-blue bowl of citrus fruit
gone soft in the heat.

It might be Ellis Island and I
a displaced immigrant hiding behind
my notebook’s paper wall for all
that I can fathom this melodrama

in which everyone seems to know
what to wear, what to eat, what to say on cue
like the songs in a musical I’ve never seen
but all of the others know by heart.

Angela Patten is author of three poetry collections, In Praise of Usefulness (Wind Ridge Books), Reliquaries, and Still Listening (both from Salmon Poetry, Ireland) and a prose memoir, High Tea at a Low Table: Stories from an Irish Childhood (Wind Ridge Books). Her work has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. Winner of the 2016 National Poetry Prize from the Cape Cod Cultural Center, she has also received creation grants from the Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Arts Council. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, she now lives in Burlington, Vermont, and is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Vermont.



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