Julia Margaret Lynch Curtin (1896-1939)
My grandmother’s sister Julia was born with a flaw in her heart.
The doctor’s words to her parents tore like a claw to the heart.
Head of her bed by a window, no winter thaw for the heart.
Never to wed because childbirth would be the last straw for her heart.
Rumors her father punched at least one suitor’s jaw for her heart.
But a redheaded traveling salesman would not withdraw from her heart.
Swearing his love was chaste and he’d keep hands off for her heart.
Swearing on Mary and Jesus with one freckled paw on his heart.
How could her bantamweight father not go soft in the heart?
Beautiful bride: such a chorus of ooh’s and ah’s from all hearts.
When her belly poked out it proved there is no law to the heart.
Julia’s motherless boys would grow up raw in the heart.
Statue of Mary’ Mother
There is no God, and Mary is his mother. – attributed to George Santayana
She does not take communion on the rare occasions when she finds herself at Mass for a Catholic wedding or funeral, yet she has four images of Mary in her bedroom—five, if you count the lumpy baby Mary being held by her mother, Saint Anne. That little china statue belonged to her grandmother—not the pretty, flirty Gram who was the president of her local altar society, but the other one, with stringy gray hair and nicotine-stained fingers, who lay in bed shrieking curses at the assholes on Boston talk radio. That grandmother, who lost her mother to cancer as a girl, wanted to be a nightclub singer, until she got knocked up in her teens and had to get married. She left the Church when an Irish housemaid aunt with a nest egg died and willed it all to Catholic charities. But she didn’t get rid of the religious statue: she just rolled it up in a soft towel and stashed it in a bureau drawer. Mary is always a baby when portrayed with her mother, because she was three years old when handed over to the temple priests. Did Saint Anne feel sad? Or merely smug at having done her duty? Her likeness stares straight ahead, the gaze unreadable. One hand cups the baby’s bottom, and the other points to heaven.
JULIE KANE, the great-grandchild of eight Irish immigrants, is a native of Boston and longtime resident of Louisiana, where she served as the 2011-2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate. Professor Emeritus of English at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, she also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Western State Colorado University. Her books of poetry include Rhythm & Booze (2003), Maxine Kumin's choice for the National Poetry Series and a finalist for the Poets' Prize; Jazz Funeral (2009), winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize; and Paper Bullets (2014), a collection of light verse. Her poems appear in more than sixty anthologies including Norton's Seagull Reader, Penguin's Pocket Poetry, and Best American Poetry 2016. Julie has collaborated with musical composers including Dale Trumbore, Kenneth Olson, and Libby Larsen; she wrote the libretto for the one-act opera Starship Paradise, produced by Center City Opera Theater of Philadelphia, and her poems have been sung on CDs by artists ranging from mezzo soprano Susanne Mentzer to the American Boychoir. Coming out this fall will be Nasty Women Poets: An Anthology of Subversive Verse, co-edited with Grace Bauer and published by Lost Horse Press.
See also: An Interview with JULIE KANE.
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Issue 12 #CompanionPlaylist