my best memory of Ireland,
was the woman outside
Joyce’s Castle, who had just stepped from
the Irish Sea–it was early December-
and whose entire body – rumple
of belly, thigh, brest bobbed
over a gleaming interlace of morn and underwear
like the chill-blossomed cheeks
about her smile– a bright blow
of a woman, her hair a curl of raven against
a fleeting sun–

I kept thinking of the fresh thick milk Stephen Dedalus and his mocked friends pour into their strong tea at the beginning of
Ulysses, and how
I wanted some, me who was not robust
that trip and so cold and so
lonely that I did not take off my wool turtleneck even
to bathe but rather shivered in a shallow tin tub, submerging only
my nether regions.

So many years ago, still, I fear going back–
some memories you do not wish
to replace,
but weave them again and again like an older
Penelope, happy for the feel of familiar warps–
you know the way yarns wave
with re-use.


Draft poem for Brendan’s post on Real Toads stemming from some kind of Irish blarney, or not, on St. Patrick’s Day.  Martello is the little castle James Joyce lived in while beginning his novel, Ulysses, and also where his character Stephen Dedalus lives during the novel.  Pastel is mine – the woman was not quite so shoulder heavy!  


(Apologies – an earlier version of the post misspelled Stephen Dedalus.)

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8 Comments on “Martello”

  1. Love the thought of having memories too precious to waste.. and how great to bring in James Joyce into the memory

  2. Rosemary Nissen-Wade Says:

    Brilliantly evoked memories. Yes, I know how sometimes one fears to go back and alter them all by what has come after. (I will never go back to Bali. The Bali I encountered in the seventies is long gone, I know, and far too precious to taint)

  3. Brendan Says:

    Absence, it seems, has made your verse stronger and fonder — this is so marvelously writ, a conversation with history and the word and the ways the wave writes it. Leave the Tower to the boys, they missed the sea staring into their cups! Somewhere behind this drafty bit of wonder I can hear Molly Bloom in her tub, sighing yessssss. Not blarney; rejuvenative waters from the cauldron of the Dagda. Thanks, Karin —

  4. Kerry Says:

    I love the way you have woven the reminiscence from one image to the next, the bathing woman, the cold water, Stephen Dedalus (I know him from The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) all adding up to a spirit of place.

  5. Jim Says:

    Another fun read, K. Mostly fiction though I sense the truth hidden here also. I am not a Ulysses fan, I’ve only read the snips we had in a literature course. Did read Beowulf, but then didn’t everyone?

  6. Oh, I know what you mean. There are some memories I don’t want to visit too often. I don’t want to spoil their wonder or some or so dark I just as soon I’d never know.

  7. gillena Says:

    A lovely weave

    Linked in late

    much love…

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