Auld Jack Devine, as afternoon bows to the long shadows of a June evening,
stands there, then, in the green and wet field, as they all are green and wet,
appraising these Americans searching County Mayo for Jack Devine,
clutching a damp ship’s manifest:
Well. Aye. Ye found him.
Auld Jack, eighty if a day, points with crooked finger to the new house,
built in 1927, he says, where he and Mary live,
and then over to the stone cottage where Agnes was born
(before crossing the Atlantic on her mother’s hip at three, brows knit) –
and then east across miles of rolling misted hills, promise after green promise:
Ye see over t’ere? Down dat hill, like, t’ere’s a shrine, in Knock.
(I see Agnes in white, marrying big John Madden, a Galway cop, so being
Irish and Catholic, of course, legends are then born, and children, at 509 Hubbard)
T’ey sell bottles of holy water to tourists. T’ey tink it’ll do them some good.
(So many children, she named two Thomas, so the lore goes-one Thomas they called Lester, the other, Patrick, and one or two didn’t get a name at all- )
T’ey tink tat after t’ey die, like, they’ll get t’heaven, says auld Jack.
But he looks over the fields, sniffs as though smelling the phoniness from here,
(They say that during Prohibition, the police raided Agnes’ kitchen – all signs pointed to a still, an improbable amount of sugar and yeast-)
and spits on the ground, leaning on his gnarled wooden cane;
But, I, says auld Jack Devine, I t’ink dat when ye die…I t’ink dat when ye die, ye jest go right into t’ground, like,
(But I imagine a flourish as Agnes opened the oven door on eight loaves of bread baking, and then the cops, embarrassed, looked at the oven, looked at each other, saying Thank ye Ma’am, have a good day.)
and dat’s t’end of ye, like.
And Jack Devine just looks at us, then, rain dripping from our faces, and there is nothing to say.
But though Agnes
(born Bridget, a name lost in the new country with a single flick),
died an ocean away from the stone cottage,
she’d already passed along strands and strands of gleaming double-helixes –
adamantine baubles, a secret code passed to my own children,
(though German and Norwegian genes washed up, too, on the shores of our bones)
faint constellations of freckles, bright red strands in long brown locks –
with every infusion there is an evening, of sorts, a fading,
love means compromise-
and until we are completely conquered, we shine.
And so, auld Jack Devine with blue eyes that pierced,
(and Mary in tears at our goodbye, surely, she cried, I’ll not see ye again in this life but in heaven! Surely Mary, it’s so!)
though I did not say it then, no, I don’t believe that when you die, it’s t’end of you, like.
Jack Devine, here you are-