Category Archives: Fun for lit majors

To Ireland

Dear Ireland,

Many of your children’s children live in the US. We cherish our Irish roots.

You’ve known terrible suffering – we hear it in your poetry and song. You’ve known terrible physical poverty – but never poverty of spirit.



Margaret Coaina Reilly, approx. 1909

“It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” This is a poverty you have never known. Please, Ireland. Please vote to keep your babies.

The land where the Jumblies live


The shelf above the sink in our house is the land where the jumblies live. I collected a whole box of them. Sometimes I wish they would go to sea in a sieve, as in the poem, and let me off putting them away!

When I was younger I took delight in the saying, “A clean desk is the sign of an empty mind.” No more! Now I fervently hope an uncluttered house leads to an uncluttered brain!

A misty, moisty, morning…


…and cloudy is the weather. I haven’t met an old man, clothed all in leather, but it wouldn’t particularly surprise me if I did.

Last night very late, while everyone was asleep, I padded along through the house to the guest room with the tall windows and looked out. A few windows were open to the sound of frogs and insects making a steady din. I looked at the trees in the mist and thought, oh, I am too busy. So much beauty all around, but I rarely stop to admire it these days.

Now it’s eleven, and full-on busy time. I was on my hands and knees this morning with a tweezers and a box cutting knife, removing straggly bits of wallpaper embedded in tile grout. I remembered a time years ago, pre-babies, when my husband, watching me carefully transfer pasta sauce into a container with a rubber spatula, told me with amusement about something called the law of diminishing returns. I wish I could apply that here, but you can’t just leave wallpaper sticking in grout, can you?

Soon I’ll be done. I resolve to go outside and enjoy the cloudy day. If I see an old man clothed all in leather it will probably be a biker, and I will smile and nod.

Yay daddy, yay cake!


Happy Father’s day, one day late! I’ve been practically too busy to think (a state of affairs not entirely without advantages) let alone draw – but I can share Daddy’s portrait from his Father’s Day cake. He thought he looked a bit Mephistophelean rendered this way. I did my best – I worked in a cake shop once, believe it or not; but filling jelly doughnuts and putting roses on petit fours doesn’t require too much skill. The children didn’t notice, and were delighted to present the cake (and to help eat it.)

Intimations of future laundry

My heart does flips when I behold

The peas and carrots fly:

So was it when I first began;

So is it with each little man;

Shall it be so ’til I grow old?

I heave a sigh!

The Child is father of the Man;

But now, I find my days to be

Filled to the brim with piles of stained laun-der-y.

* * *

Forgive me Mr. Wordsworth, wherever you are. While chatting with my brother on the phone this weekend, I paused to bellow gently at the children: “Stop eating like The Cookie Monster! I am tired of cleaning up the mess!” My brother laughed wickedly; but I forgive him because he has small children too and suffers similar things.

A little Donne

A mural near downtown Asheville NC

A mural near downtown Asheville NC

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp’d town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,

But am betroth’d unto your enemy;

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


John Donne’s “Batter my heart, three-person’d God” (also known as Holy Sonnet 14) has a vivid central conceit – the soul as a walled city, and the Holy Trinity employing a battering-ram to gain entrance. While my husband and I were on a walk this week we saw the mural above, and it instantly brought the poem to my mind.