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
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.
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.