Aunt Nell Dreaming see published poem by same title

Collage by Mary Dauphinais


I catch you
rushing against the wind, the reeds
bend opposite, the lines
around your mouth draw deep
against the sun.

You hold your hands together
to protect them from the cold,
making yourself
a circle.

I dream of returning
from Ballinskelligs Strand
with three small shells
in my hand
(“They look like eyes,”
you said, “two for seeing
in, and one for seeing out.”
“Chinese hats”, I said.)


After tea
you inspect the leaves
that stick
like tiny birds’ feet
along the inside slope
of your bone-fine cup

As if
from behind a window
you look up, surprised
to see me so near
your thoughts, you say, “Sometimes
the leaves make nice figures.”


Sitting by the fire
your head drops forward
like a marionette’s

I stop reading
and search your chest
for breathing.

A string of beads
hangs between your fingers,
a wooden crucifix rests
in the shallow valley
of your green
cotton dress.


Last night, while the wind
railed against the cliff
below the house, you dreamed
a cross so clear you could feel it
between your fingers.

In the morning
you woke, hearing yourself say,
first to yourself, then to me,

“The nails are too short,
the nails are too short.”

– Published in Crone’s Nest Marylou DiPietro