Rumble

June 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

a street opera

by Larkin Vonalt


We’ve just turned off the television, the Lakers winning Game Six of the playoffs, when we hear the voices, shrill and angry.

“Don’t you touch me, nigger, I’m done with you! You get this bitch off of me!  Get —  off me!”

A male voice rumbles in answer. We can’t make out what he’s saying, but he’s angry too. I look at my husband.

“They’re at it, again,” he says.

We are assuming that the ruckus is from the brick house on the corner. A young couple lives there and their arguments are frequent and loud, interspersed with booming parties and out-of-season fireworks.

The damn fireworks had been going on all afternoon and into the evening, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat. It makes the dogs crazy.  Earlier that very afternoon a guy the next block over had one go off in his hand.  We heard him screaming until the ambulance enveloped his cry with its own.  It’s a long time to scream, and it was gut wrenching to hear him. Even if it was his own fault.

Looking out the dining room window, I can see fireflies flittering in the treetops.  At dusk, they’d risen from the grass like sparks. The house on the corner is silent.

“No, it’s not the people in the brick house.”  There are more voices now.

“Don’t you come around here, anymore, bitch. You’ve got no business, here!”

“Get the hell away from me, you ho. You better be watching your own man, you just stay away from-.”

“He ain’t yo’ man, you stupid—” There’s a loud slap, followed by screaming.

The women are on the lawn of the house across the street.  “It’s Garrett’s,” I tell my husband.

You can only see through our front door in a place about four feet off the floor where there is a flaw in the frosted glass.

“Don’t look through there, they’ll see you,” my husband says.

He’s right, you can’t look through that door without being backlit, hunched over to peer out the dime-sized area of clear glass.

Garrett Wilkerson had been the first person to welcome us to the neighborhood. He’d done some handyman type work for the house’s former owner and when he came over to introduce himself, he explained that he’d been asked to “keep an eye on the house.”  In fact, he only had one eye. The other was clouded, the result of an industrial accident years ago. A one-eyed man asked to keep an eye on the house. For the longest time, I couldn’t get my head around that. Now, when I thought of Garrett I didn’t think of his eye at all.

He’d grown up in the rambling white frame house across the street and lived there still with his brother Junior.  When we first came to the neighborhood, his mother Miss Pearl still lived there, but she has since gone on to Assisted Living. She wouldn’t be pleased with the rumble now spilling out across her front porch and on to the lawn.

“It’s that woman, again isn’t it? That woman Junior was involved with,” my husband says.  A car door slams and I peek out to see a little white car pull away from the curb and roar away.

“Yes, I think so.”

The police had been drawn to the Wilkerson’s house several times because of Junior’s lady friend.  Late one winter night, she’d gotten a ride to Junior with a guy she’d met in a Cincinnati nightclub. Turns out the car they rode up in was stolen. When they’d stopped in front of the house, a passing cop had run the tags. In a kind of “kick ass and take names later” operation, everyone in the house had been forced outside in their nightclothes, and handcuffed up against the squad car.

Garrett explained all of this the next day when he came over to return the snow shovel he’d borrowed.

“I told Junior that she wasn’t gonna be nothin’ but trouble, but he doesn’t listen to me.”  Garrett spent some time locked up when he was younger, he doesn’t like trouble.  A few weeks later he reported that Junior “was done with all that.”  Until tonight, presumably.

Our front bedroom looks out across the wide avenue between us and the Wilkerson’s. I go upstairs, turning off the hall light so that I will not be seen in the open window. It isn’t nosiness that sends me there (okay, well maybe a little) so much as concern.  They are still shouting across the street, and too often on this side of town, arguments end in a hail of bullets.

The scene before me could not have been set any better by August Wilson.  A middle-aged man leans against a porch pillar, his arms crossed. Another man sits on the front steps. In the yard, half a dozen women are in a loose circle. Many stand with their hands on their hips.  In the dark, I can’t quite make out their faces. We know Garrett so well now that I would recognize him even in the dark. He is not upon this stage.

One of the women slaps the other and she is shoved, hard, across the lawn. A man standing in the shadows steps forward to catch her, wrapping her up in his arms and holding her there.  The slapped woman is screaming at the pair.

“Bitch, I’ll fuckin’ kill you—“

That’s enough for me.  I take the cell phone out of my pocket and turning my back to the window to shield the lit screen from view, I dial 911. Later I will learn that my husband is calling the cops too.

I explain the situation carefully to the 911 operator.  She is asking me questions about us, and our telephone number and did we want the officers to come by our house too?

“No, no, no. These people are our neighbors. We like them. We just don’t want anything awful to happen, and things are definitely heating up over there.”

“Okay, I’ll make a note of that. We’ve got cars on the way.”

The first car to arrive isn’t the cops though. It’s the little white car that had peeled out ten minutes before. Oh shit. When people leave an argument and come back again it often means they’re coming back with a gun. Shit, shit, shit.

Within seconds though, the police arrive, running lights only, no sirens. Blue red blue red blue red blue red blue red blue.  When I see the officers get out of the car, I laugh a little. They’re white.  White men wading in to a hornet’s nest of angry black women.

But they move slowly, hands off their weapons, palms forward, fingers spread.  “Now, let’s just settle down,” one says, but he says it gently, like he’s talking to a group of small children. Blue red blue red blue red, the lights flash.

On the street, another officer stands next to the driver of the white car, a woman, as it turns out. She’s holding a sleepy toddler in her arms.

Junior’s former lady friend, sobbing now, walks with a cop back to the car, their faces colored alternately blue and red in the flashing lights.

“Kiss the rings, bitches!” she turns and yells at the women watching her go.  The officer pats her shoulder and she shrugs it off angrily. “Don’t you touch me!”

Another woman yells something back from the steps, but the catcall goes unanswered. Junior’s old girlfriend allows herself to be helped into the passenger seat of the little white car, while the other woman tucks the baby into a car seat. They leave in a more measured pace, given the gaggle of police cruisers still lining the avenue.

The other officers retreat down the steps, gently, gently. The blue and red lights stop. Sitting on the edge of the porch, the aggrieved woman, the one who’d been slapped,  begins to scream and howl. A cop trains his car spotlight on her, sitting there, rage pouring out into the summer night.

One of the officers approaches the shrieking woman.

“Now, come on. It’s late,” he tells her. “People are trying to sleep.” She nods at the cop, stands up and stomps off into the house, Junior on her heels.  Who would have figured that Junior, an ordinary-looking fifty-something black man would have these kind of problems?

The cops are getting back in their cars, doors slamming. One cruiser drives away at high speed, lights flashing, sirens blaring. There’s some kind of trouble somewhere else, but the others don’t follow.

On the porch, the man still lingers against the pillar watching the women on the lawn.

“Did you hear what that bitch called me? I shoulda yanked her in a knot.”

“That ho. Who does she think she is anyway. That brother is lucky to be rid of her, crazy bitch.”

“Did you see when she slapped—I couldn’t believe it”

They are playful now, shadow boxing each other. One pretends to push; the others spin away, all grace.  A big girl in a pale yellow sundress sings a line, all gospel and soul.

“Damn, she’s gonna sing now. Girl, don’t sing.”

“I can sing if I want to.”

“Oh Lordy, let’s go inside, it’s la-a-a-te girlfriend.”  The women begin to filter across the lawn, and up the porch steps.

The girl in the yellow sundress turns and faces the street. Can she see me in the window? Perhaps Tony next door is sitting out on his porch.

“Jeeeesus loves me, this I know,” she sings. It isn’t the jaunty Sunday school hymn I learned. It is something far more beautiful than that.

“For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong.”  Her face is tipped to the sky, her arms flung wide.

“Yes! Jesus loves me! Yes! Jesus loves me!,” she belts out, “Yes! Jesus loves me . . . . . “

And then, with a sweet hush, she finishes “For the Biiiiible. Tells. Me. So.”  The last note hangs for a moment in the summer night. She turns and walks up the steps into the house.

Shrouded in the window across the street, I want so much to applaud.

Sixteen

March 21, 2009 § 2 Comments

 

a love note

There was an email from one of our closest friends this morning, wishing us a very happy anniversary.

“Hmm,” I thought. “She must have the date wrong.” Glancing up at the calendar, there it is written in my own clear hand “Anniversary,” in today’s little square. When my husband comes in from working in the raised bed where we’re planting this year’s herb garden, I grin at him and say “Happy Anniversary, honey.”

“What? Are you sure?”  We married on the first day of Spring, sixteen years ago. You’d think we’d be able to keep track.  By the end of the day, we have marked this occasion poking around in a junk shop, stopping at a restaurant for a couple of excellent hamburgers, then on to the hardware store for a new sprayer for the faucet on the kitchen sink.

Like our marriage, it is a companionable and comfortable outing. We share a few private jokes, and nudge each other occasionally over our “date.”  Hell, we look like a Cialis commercial, who needs Hallmark and a trinket in a velvet box? I’d rather have peony bushes to line the front walk anyway.

This is the first anniversary we’ve spent away from the place where we met, wed and spent most of our married life up ‘till now.  Funny how that distance gives you an extra dollop of nostalgia, and over the course of the day I’ve found myself thinking quite a bit about that blustery March day in Montana sixteen years ago.

East coast wasp-y girl writer marries Los Angeles native Chinese railroad man father of two small girls. Their mother departed the scene long before I arrived; he and I met in the public library where I worked at the circulation desk. I had no idea he was as old as dirt as he seemed (and seems) very cute and boyish. We had a guest list as long as our arms, having decided to invite everyone we ever knew. What was remarkable is how many showed up . . . including Sir Brian Corrin and his lovely wife, Sheila, who popped across the pond for the occasion. 

The best man, Webb Hardenbrook Green, had been my landlord in Boston. The maid of honor was also a man; Colin Burns, artist and lead singer of a death metal band. (Don’t be silly, he wore a tuxedo.) The other bridesmaids, in tea length periwinkle velvet, included my dear friend Noelle Sullivan (who sent greetings this morning) and sang Handel at the wedding and is herself a girl-writer, and Sheryl Dahl, a fifth generation Montanan, baker and bon-vivant. Elmer’s beautiful daughters in English lawn dresses led the procession; now they are both beautiful grown up women, married as well.

In the days before the wedding, we filled the church with tulips and pussy willows; branches cut early and brought inside to leaf. (March in Montana is very, very unpredictable.) The church had been used as a set in Robert Redford’s movie A River Runs Through It the year before. It needed little beyond spring flowers and a few exuberant swags of tulle to look festive. Grannie, my father’s mother, arrived at the airport looking every inch the Hollywood dowager, complete with big hat and small entourage. 

Members of the wedding, guests, family poured in from across the country, arriving in flurries of excited greetings, warm embraces, laughter. Late on Thursday evening we’d gone in search of food and drink. Parents and stepparents, grandmothers and minor rock stars, English peerage and Montana railroaders, we eventually landed at the Timber Bar, in Big Timber, about 40 miles east of Livingston. It was a pretty quiet night at the Timber, a Montana workingman’s bar, linoleum floors and schoolhouse lights. When the front door opened, we looked up to see who it was, and to our surprise ten more wedding guests walked in. 

Rehearsal dinner had been in Sam Peckinpah’s old apartment in the Murray Hotel, not just for members of the wedding, but for all of the out of town guests and some of the in town ones too.  As we left the hotel, mist was swirling in the streets.

It was a four o’clock wedding, which leaves too little time to do much and too much time to do nothing. There were flowers to be fetched, a sweet pea bouquet like that my Grannie carried 57 years before. Last minute hair issues and a missing bridesmais. (She turned up.) My mother and my Nana and my groom sat at the kitchen table assembling the last of the programs, each decorated with a Chinese paper cut, each bound with a sewn binding of gold thread. I tried to eat breakfast, French toast, my favorite, but I swear it tasted like cardboard with maple syrup on it. Joan Hartwig, an expert in Shakespeare and a friend of my parents since graduate school, buttoned up all 35 buttons on the back of my velvet dress.

The ride to the church was in a horse-drawn carriage (two matched black Arabians) and at the last minute my stepfather asked me if I’d like him to ride along and you know, I was really glad for the company. I had two fathers at this event, and given my concern for bruised feelings, I chose to walk down the aisle unsupported by any man’s arm. You know, I’d been an actress and a performance artist in college; surely I could manage a two-minute trip to the altar. You wouldn’t believe how long the first two minutes and seven seconds of Claire de Lune seem when you’re shaking in your pale silk slippers.

Upon the altar, I realized that I’m wearing a ring on the third finger of my left hand, a little gold circlet, an everyday sort of ring that I’d forgotten to remove. “The wrong ring!” Silently, discreetly and only in a tiny panic I slipped it off and palmed it into Colin’s hand; I think he probably still has it.

Webb had the right rings in his pocket: mine a ring Elmer and I bought in a pawn shop with money unexpectedly left to me by my stepfather’s late mother, Mary Killick, a woman who saw good in everyone and who was charmed by Mussolini. Elmer’s ring is the one I’d worn on my middle finger since I was 15, it was my father’s wedding ring from his marriage to my mother.

The vows were complex. (Hey, I was a writer-girl and former performance artist, what did you expect?)  They were a combination of homily and prayer, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Rainier Maria Rilke, the traditional Lutheran marriage service, not asked and repeated, but answered from memory. When Elmer married the first time, in a civil ceremony Alaska in 1968, he was struck dumb: instead of saying “I do,” he was only able to nod. (Yeah, yeah, we know.)

He and I practiced and practiced and practiced. He memorized his lines until he could have said them in his sleep. At least that’s what we hoped. His voice rang out strong and true to the last line of Rilke “With only this one dream, You come, too.” During the recitation of his vows, he never once wavered, finally arriving at the great long riff that is the pinnacle of the Lutheran intent: “that I take you to be my wife from this time onward, to join with you and to share with you all that is to come: to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and to respond, and in all circumstances of our life together to be loyal to you with my whole life and all my being, until death parts us.” The tears welling in my eyes spilled over.

The ebullient notes of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring filled the sanctuary, and we dashed down the aisle to receive guests at the back of the church, who kissed our cheeks and went outside to stand in the drizzle tossing rice. The Chinese say that all the rain that falls on your wedding day are tears you won’t have to cry in your marriage. Such pragmatists, the Chinese.  My groom and I and the little girls climb into the carriage for a ride through the rain to the Park and down Yellowstone Street to the Depot, a handsome Italianate railroad depot designed by Reed and Stern, they of the Grand Central Terminal fame. People come out on their porches to wave as we pass by.

Meanwhile, back at the Livingston Depot, a fully loaded coal train has rumbled by. A coal train is extraordinarily heavy and it can send significant vibrations through a building. Before the wedding, our friend Sheryl, baker and bridesmaid painstakingly assembled the exquisite wedding cake at the Depot, hurried to change her clothes and rushed to the church by quarter to four. (That’s where she was.) But the rumbling of the coal train had set the cake to shaking and it had slumped, a delicious disaster on the cake table.

No one tells the bride anything when something goes wrong. I missed Sheryl long before I realized the cake wasn’t there.  I would survey the room occasionally, greet guests, tip my head to Noelle, and mouthe, “Where’s Sheryl?” She’d shake her head, shrug a little. Finally I sent Webb to see what he could find out. I swear he and Noelle exchanged a look. Webb came back and whispered in my ear.  When they took us to her, Sheryl was sobbing. This was worse than the cake. Cake is just cake even when it’s your wedding cake.

It wasn’t so bad that it couldn’t be served; it just didn’t look the way we thought it would. And it was the incomparable Velvet Underground Cake, from the recipe they used at Rosie’s Bakery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Here’s the recipe.  They don’t credit Rosie, but they ought to, it’s definitely hers. It takes at least a day to make this cake and it is worth every minute of effort.)

“Well,” I said,  hugging Sheryl, “let’s just eat it.”

The best man found a wedding crasher, a middle aged woman, crouching in the coatroom behind the coats. She had snuck in to hear the band, she was “auditioning” bands for her daughter’s upcoming nuptials. As it turned out,  that particular band couldn’t be had for love or money (though I remember we had them for $600). We’d engaged the MSU Jazz Swing band to play jazz standards. The day before the wedding (yes, one day before) the director, Glenn Johnson, called to say he was very sorry, he forgot the students would be gone on Spring Break.  But, he was quick to add, he said he knew some jazz musicians who would be willing to fill in this one time, friends of his, if that would be okay.

It turned out to be far better than okay. The friends, as it happened included seriously well-regarded musicians like Eric Funk and Kelly Robertie, among others. It’s like expecting a cover band and getting the real thing. Not only that, they had a bigger repertoire, more Gershwin, and Eric Funk can sing. And they didn’t usually play wedding gigs, so they were having fun, breaking into a series of lively polkas, when one of my husband’s co-workers started the rest of the railroaders to pinning currency to my dress. Sometimes traditions just happen to you.

Somehow we miscounted tables, and didn’t have a place for the musicians to sit during breaks. So they sat with us, dispensing advice on marriage and love and the blues, eating roast salmon and medallions of filet and game stew. You can imagine the advice, but they offered it tenderly.

And not once, not twice, but three times they played us our song, Eric Funk talking over the piano . . . “The more I read the papers, the less I comprehend, the world with all its capers and how it all will end. Nothing seems to be lasting. But that isn’t our affair; We’ve got something permanent, I mean in the way we care. . .”  And then he sang Gershwin’s very last song:

 

It’s very clear

Our love is here to stay;

Not for a year

But ever and a day.

The radio and the telephone

and the movies that we know

May just be passing fancies,

And in time may go.

 

Many things have changed since that day in March. Those musicians have scattered, they don’t play together anymore.  Sheryl has closed her bakery. The pastor was sent to a church in the far corner of the state. I haven’t seen Colin since the day we put him on the plane. My Nana is gone, and so is my stepfather, and so is my Dad. We’ve left Montana.

 

But, oh my dear,

Our love is here to stay;

Together we’re going a long, long way.

In time the Rockies may crumble,

Gibraltar may tumble,

They’re only made of clay,

But our love is here to stay.

 

Wherever green is worn

March 17, 2009 § 3 Comments

On Things Irish and the Celebration of St. Patrick

by Larkin Vonalt

So many things about the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in America bother me, and I have not been good company, watching throngs of green-attired Americans from the sidewalks, going from bar to bar in Boston, or Butte or Chicago. My friends used to say, “Lighten up, have another beer.”

The very last night I spent publicly celebrating the wearing of the green culminated in watching drunken young men urinate off the awning of the M&M Restaurant onto the crowd below. That’s it, I thought, there must be a way to mark St. Patrick’s Day that does not involve green wigs, green beer or puking.

The year before last we did return to Butte to watch the beautiful daughters of Sullivan-Daley clan, dear friends all, dance the parade route. I wore a green ribbon in my hair, and my Chinese husband had on a small button that read “Irish, sorta.” They say that on St. Patrick’s Day that everyone is Irish, and for many Americans that is literally as well as figuratively true.

In this country, we celebrate a number of holidays that find their roots in our ancestral cultures: Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest, Chinese New Year. But Hallmark doesn’t market cards for those occasions, and no city dyes her river, and Americans don’t make such perfect asses of themselves as they do for St. Patrick’s Day. It seems a strange way to pay homage to a complicated people with such a complicated history, who despite or because of the struggles have given us a legacy of literature and music quite apart from any other.

Unlike my friend who sends me excerpts from the Irish Times, and brings me Irish tea and Irish socks and Irish linen and writes an excellent online journal about the Irish diaspora in Montana ( http://montanagael.blogspot.com/ ) I know almost nothing about Ireland. You don’t have to know much to begin to understand how intensely tangled a thing it is to be Irish. Even when I was just 19, and passionately interested in the hunger strike and eventual death of IRA activist (and MP) Bobby Sands in the Long Kesh outside of Belfast, I couldn’t figure out if he was a villain or a hero. Nearly 30 years later, I am still no clearer in my understanding.

This ongoing struggle between Protestant and Catholic, Loyalists and Irish Republicans is found even in what the “wearing of the green” is supposed to stand for. Originally, the color associated with the Catholic Feast Day for St. Patrick was blue. “Wearing of the green” refers to the wearing of a shamrock on your clothing, to show your Irish nationalism or at times, to show your loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church. (St. Patrick, who lived 385- 461 A.D., used the three-leafed Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish.)

Some Protestant Irish have taken to wearing Orange on St. Patrick’s Day as a sign of rebellion, drawing from William of Orange (the King of England) who defeated King James II, a Roman Catholic, at the Battle of Boyne in Dublin in 1688, ensuring a Protestant (and English) military dominance in Ireland, and creating tension that has existed ever since. Yes, ever since. 320 years.

I don’t exactly know how it is that I never went to Ireland. I went other places that meant less. Italy, for instance. I could have skipped those months in Italy altogether for a few days on Wicklow Head and been the better for it. I wept on the grave of James Joyce, still in self-imposed exile in Zurich. It was only 600 miles more to Dublin. If James and Nora could manage it in the twenties, well surely, I could have made the effort. I didn’t.

Joyce wasn’t the only Irish writer that stirred my heart. Oscar Wilde had been a favorite since high school. How could you fail to find amusement and encouragement in quips like “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much,” or “Biography lends to death a new terror,” or “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”

William Butler Yeats rounds out a trilogy for me. I named my thoroughbred mare “Pilgrim Soul” for a phrase in his poem “When You Are Old.” This is the stanza:

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

Yeats’ most famous poem is without question “Easter 1916” about the week-long Irish uprising. His ambivalence about the use of violence to achieve home rule is clear in every line. And so too, is his utter grief at the outcome.

And so, I no longer really celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so much as I mark it, acknowledge it, carry it in my heart, which if in reality is only a very very small part Irish, is wholly Eireannach for this one day. 

In the morning, I will arise and go now (not to Innisfree) but down the stairs, dressed quietly, a dark moss green merino sweater. Breakfast won’t be much, Barry’s tea with milk and sugar in my usual leaf green mug. (No doubt the boy will wear something very green so as not to be pinched at school.) In the kitchen, I’ll choose music with an ear to the day: The Pogues, The Waterboys, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, U2.

I interviewed U2 in 1981 when we were all just pups, and they were playing in bars and opening for bands like J. Geils. Bono predicted their phenomenal success, we wished it for them but did not believe it. It disappoints me now how they have squandered it, with missions that are only about Bono’s ego and every record a re-hash of the one before it. Never mind, who knows what any of us would do with that sort of success?

Lunch will be simple. Potato Soup with brown bread and a Guinness. Perhaps in the afternoon, there will be time to peruse the Irish Times or curl in a chair to revisit William Butler Y. Dinner is the more complicated Limerick Ham. You didn’t think Corned beef and cabbage did you? Corned beef is not even Irish, but Irish-American. Immigrants in New York, looking for a cheaper alternative to the traditional bacon or sausage, turned to Jewish butchers, who provided them with the pickled brisket we associate with the 17th day of March.

My husband had an interesting question about the fact that St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, when many Roman Catholics have given up eating meat. Apparently, there is a special dispensation from the Bishop to allow for eating meat on the Feast Day of St. Patrick, and this has worked pretty well except for the very rare occurrence when St. Patrick’s Day actually falls during Holy Week and they have less wiggle room.

Limerick Ham is usually a cured leg of pork, traditionally smoked over Juniper branches. Okay, so no juniper branches and a leg of pork is a bit much for the three of us, so we adapt and cook a small smoked ham, first by boiling in apple cider and then finishing in the oven, and served with an accompaniment of potatoes and cabbage, with burnt oranges to finish.

Burnt Oranges

4 Large oranges

5 ounces sweet white wine

1 tablespoon butter

half-cup sugar

10 ounces fresh-squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons Irish Whiskey (warmed)

Carefully peel the oranges thinly. Then with a sharp knife remove as much of the pith and white skin as possible, keeping the oranges intact. Cut the thin peel into fine strips and cover with sweet white wine. Put the oranges into an ovenproof dish. Put a little butter on top of each one, pressing it down gently, then sprinkle each one with a teaspoon of sugar. Put into a 400F oven for 10 minutes or until the sugar caramelizes.

Meanwhile mix the orange juice with the sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and let it get syrupy, without stirring. Add the orange peel and wine mixture and bring to the boil again, then cook rapidly to reduce and thicken slightly.

Take the oranges from the oven and if not fully browned, put under a moderate broiler for a few minutes. Pour the warmed whisky over them and set it alight, over heat. As the flames die down, add the orange syrup and let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Serve at once.

Perhaps a glass of Bushmill’s while clearing up, listening to the boy practicing the cello in the next room. Settling on the velvet sofa to watch a movie, maybe The Crying Game (exploring the themes of race, gender, sexuality and nationality against the backdrop of the Irish troubles) or Michael Collins, about the Easter 1916 uprising. Perhaps neither, perhaps simply to bed instead, taking the green ribbon from my hair, the words of Yeats running through me like a long deep river.

Too long a sacrifice

Can make a stone of the heart.

O when may it suffice?

That is Heaven’s part, our part

To murmur name upon name,

As a mother names her child

When sleep at last has come

On limbs that had run wild.

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith

For all that is done and said.

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;

And what if excess of love

Bewildered them till they died?

I write it out in a verse –

MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and Pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

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