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Image by Jeremy Bishop


with the martello journal

Mother Wakes From Her Dream of Becoming a Tree

by monica de bhailís

Her new wisdom stirred by an older wonder—
these days, her girlhood on the farm much closer.
It’s her job to notice natural phenomena.

She reports such a strange sensation.
I worry if it felt like a pain or sickness,
What kind of tree was it?

None of the above, she says—
it was simply what it was, a process.
She accepts a cup of tea, sips it,

studies bare oak limbs that fill the window.
I say it’s time to get up, she replies
sure there’s no hurry on us.

She knows when the time is right and I trust her—
when light sinks and softens it’s her signal—
a slight movement of her head, her shoulders.

I raise the orthopaedic bed—it whirs, winches.
Her arms reach out in counterbalance.
Mine slip in beneath them, hug her to me,

hoist her higher. She twists and lifts,
swings her legs to the floor, laughing:
Whoosh, strong gust from the East!

I inch her sore arm into a bunched sleeve.
The arthritic fingers branching
wide in all directions

catch in yarn of her jumper—
Wait now...we must learn patience.
Her arms push through and she stretches.

I kneel to close the velcro straps on her slippers.
Hands on my shoulders, she leans on me to stand,
straightens. Two taps of her stick—she’s grounded.

Her range is wide as the house, a root system—
we proceed to her chair in the kitchen.
Here, it’s dusk all day, nothing happens.


She knows better: A grand stretch this evening—
the cock stepped out a scarlet fraction farther—
It’s a pity that you missed it!

Some time later, her heart begins to flutter—
Not unpleasant, like when a bat unfurls its wings
to test the end of winter.
She refuses supper

but drinks slowly from a glass of water.
We discuss our ash dieback, how the tallest one
stands proud in the canopy, its ghostly crown

turns rose gold as the sun lowers,
how death is part of the woodland’s future.
It’s the hour we watch the line of sentry beech

lift silver shields and shoot shadows
as rooks come home to scots pine and oaks listen.
She says trees are comrades always looking out for us.

As hawthorns stoke red embers on the horizon,
I get up to draw the curtains. No, wait! she calls,
Dark will be home soon. I want it to feel welcome.

Monica de Bhailís is a researcher and writer living in Dublin.  She won the Red Line Poetry Contest in 2020 and has poems published in a number of journals including Poetry Ireland, Mslexia, Honest Ulsterman and The Ekphrastic Review.  She was a 2021 recipient of a Words Ireland Mentorship award, and is working towards a first collection.  Her research on the Bronte family’s Irish connections was recently published in Bronte Studies: the journal of the Bronte Society and she is also preparing a memoir based on her exploration of the history of her childhood home in the townland of Coolbrock, County Wexford.  

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