Poem: Magdalenes, by Aidan Mathews


On a weekend with my child in her Cambridge college
Don’t I go and call Magdalen Magdalene in a blunder
Same as the laundry back in Donnybrook village
Where the parrot knew the start of the Hail Mary
In the best church Latin as far as Dominus tecum ?
When I put the Dublin the in front of Magnificat
The punters smile at my gaffe like the Dalai Lama.

Then, for a moment, I whiten to shorts and school-cap
Beside myself at the troughs where the washer-women
Stab at our dirty linen with white bamboo poles:
The Y-fronts auburn with turd, pyjamas silver with semen,
And the drift of my father’s cotton detachable collars
That he wore like stocks in the witness-box in the Four Courts
In the course of his own, his medico-legal, maudlin.