Frances Browner; Leaving Limerick 1950

LEAVING LIMERICK 1950

My flying odyssey began

In a place called Rineanna

Forty hours later,

It ended in Idlewild.

Today, one flies from Shannon

To Kennedy in around six hours

I prefer the old names.

 

It was raining, pouring out of

Low-lying grey-black clouds

That blended seamlessly with

The Shannon estuary.

The tarmac was empty, but surely

My escape would soon appear

Ghostlike out of the overcast?

 

My entourage and I waited

And waited and waited and

Then, an announcement.

Our flight was delayed and

Delayed. After twenty-four hours

We were taken to a nearby hotel.

 

It was still raining the next day

My plane on the ground looming

Monstrous grey in the grey dusk

A flying whale I thought it was.

I made a quick call to Kirby’s,

The local grocery store, and

Someone ran to get my mother.

 

Write soon, son.  I will.

Don’t forget to say the Rosary. I won’t.

Goodbye son. Goodbye mother.

I never heard her voice again.

There’s a maudlin song –I left Ireland

And Mother because we were poor

A cowardly fellow, I should’ve stayed.

 

I trudged towards the plane in my

New suit, new shirt, new tie, new

Overcoat, new blue and white scarf.

New shoes, new haircut, but with the

Same old volcanic acne eruptions

And I flew off to the New World

At twenty years of age.

 

I snuggled into the belly of the

Whale and unlike Jonah had a

Gorgeous stewardess

Smile gorgeously at me.

Then, Ireland disappeared

Under the clouds and I would

Not see her again for ten years.

 

I was air sick, homesick, soul sick.

The steak dinner was not to my

Liking and a German doctor

Suggested I put my head

Between my knees and breathe.

Don’t go there, I craned my neck

Back towards the Treaty Stone.

 

In Gander, sparkling, drifting

Snowflakes replaced the rain.

The lounge was crowded with

Navy blue uniforms, gold wings

Pinned to lapels, braided caps

Rakishly set, manly white smiles

And manly long-legged strides.

 

Stewardesses wore tailored skirts in

A sky blue I had not seen in months

Matching jackets, snowy blouses,

Pertly set work caps. Legs made to

Order in high-heels that were calf

Defining. Red and white smiles

Goddesses to serve the Gods. 

 

The final lap of my journey is not

A blur, it’s a blank except for one

Mesmerizing experience. Back in

The day before metal detectors,

Waving wands, shoeless searches and

Locked cockpit doors, passengers were

Invited to visit that holy of holies.

 

I stood behind the pilot and co-pilot

Staring at a vast array of dimly lit

Instruments. Gazing out into the

Cosmos at a billion pinpoints of light

Some in friendly clusters winking

Others alone, aloof

In their solitary beauty.

 

I diminished, dwindled,

Became a speck, an atom

Vanished. From Ireland, Limerick,

Thomondgate, the Parish, 

From everyone and everything

I had ever known. Without

An anchor in a dangerous ocean.

 

Early next morning, we were safely down.

The whale disgorged me and I was grateful.

Descending into the biting New York cold,

I longed to kiss American soil. But,

On the dirty, slick, oil-stained tarmac,

There was no soil, no gold and no kiss.

*

Biography

Frances Browner was born in Cork; grew up in Dublin; spent twenty years in America, and now resides in Wicklow. Her short fiction & memoir pieces have appeared in magazines and short story anthologies, been short-listed for competitions and broadcast on radio. Poems have been published in the Examiner, the Ogham Stone, Poems on the Edge, the Limerick Poetry Trail and Skylight 47.

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