Colleen has a Master’s degree in English Literature and is an author of stories and poetry focusing on the dynamics of human relationships
Poem One: Perspective On Helen Keller
I learned to speak, to read, to understand;
Things which so many such as I
Had lacked the chance to do.
This freedom brought me renown.
Exalted persons said I had become
A type of universal inspiration.
They praised my endless energy, unceasing courage.
How could they know of how it was,
How empty and how lonely much of time
So often was, within my isolation?
Oh, there were books, yes books;
And through them I learned much of men and women,
About their time together, how it was.
I knew those yearnings well I read of there.
My reading let me see I had a share
In the earth’s restlessness, not mine alone,
But mine alone to keep, unlike those heroes,
Or ordinary people whom I knew.
Who might I tell this to?
Who had an ear to listen to that prayer
Of everyday and infinite despair?
When I was young, a man wanted to marry me.
Perhaps because he was a news reporter,
My mother felt he might not be sincere,
But merely saw me as publicity.
I heeded her; the young man died soon after.
Brief as they might have been, we could have had
A year or two of tenderness together.
At least, such memories, however few,
Could warm me, as a quiet hearth in winter.
Now, I can never know, will always wish,
With endless sadness.
I cannot feel ill-used by parents, friends,
Who sought to keep me safe from exploitation.
And if my life was often beyond bearing,
How could they hear or see?
What could they know?
Watch And listen To The Video Recital By Sinead Spearing
Poem Two: The Child Within
I didn't know he cries-
My cousin Gregory. Greg’s big, eleven,
And plus he’s a boy.
The way it happened was, Greg grabbed his bat,
And then he called us all to go outside.
I didn't want to go ‘cos it was cold,
But I went anyway-we always do the stuff Greg says –
We let him boss us.
After that, I didn't see him fall.
He might have slipped on the top step were it was icy.
I heard him yell; he fell right to the bottom.
I guess he hit his forehead pretty hard.
I saw some blood, and then his mom came running.
She bent down to make sure he was OK,
Then picked him up, like he was still her baby.
She called him “sweetheart”.-was that weird or what?
And worse, he hugged her!
After Greg’s mom went home, we tried to play,
Only it wasn't fun, not like before.
I'm scared it won't be like that anymore;
Maybe it can't be.
Seeing Greg cry that way, I felt afraid.
It made me think, Do grownups ever cry?
If they do, then why?
When I grow up, will I?
Poem Three: A Passing
“Remember me the way I was.” My grandma urged, as she lay frail, enfeebled, approaching whatever afterlife, if any,
Without a word, we glance at one another,
Each understanding what must not be said,
The way she was? She should instead implore
Us to forget, and by forgetting, treasure
Thoughts of these kinder years, months, weeks and days,
Softened by laughter, wisdom without scorn.
Still, echoes, recollections, will pervade
Our lives for decades.
There were those gifts, bestowed with such affection,
Later extorted back by threats to phone
Our friends, employers, spouses,-anyone
To tell some grievance we might once have voiced,
Of no significance beyond its moment,
Yet, with the power to disrupt, destroy,
Long-nurtured bonds of tenderness or friendship.
Then came her diatribes on alcohol,
The smallest sip of which doomed its partaker,
Not only to the catacombs of hell,
But worse, the curse of her prolonged displeasure,
Surpassing flames of underworld despair.
Now, watching beside her bed, I see her stir,
Then hear her say, her voice a mere half-whisper,
“Albert, you're here; I hoped you'd come for me.”
Hearing these words, I recognize the name
Of her brother, killed in the First World War.
As long as I’d known Grandma, she had worn
That cross of honor he had been awarded
After his death.
I thought of times when, sipping cups of tea,
She'd told me how, when he and she were small,
Although she had been only two years older,
She often sat and watched from the front window,
As twilight edged to dusk, then dusk towards darkness.
As darkness neared, if Albert stayed outside
Beyond the time he should be home for dinner,
She would rush out to plead at every door,
“Has anybody seen my little brother?”
Until she found him
Now, as I lean closer to her pillow,
I hear her say, her voice a mere half-whisper,
“I see an aeroplane, all shaped in light,
Looking as if it had been glued together
From a few pipes, a length of rubber hose and a coat hanger.
Still, now I know I'm safe because you're here.”
I too feel happy, hoping Albert has
Flown back to free his sister from this sphere,
Away, towards sunrise.
Watch The video: "A Passing" Recital By Sinead Spearing
Poem Four: How? I Need To Reach New Pathways
No longer can I listen to the morning radio
Filled with reportage of the surge and flow
Of week-day traffic. I envision, know
That moment when you turn, just at that light
Slowing a little, easing towards your day,
Into its roadway.
Nor will I let our poodles romp or run
Along that sun-touched path we roamed together.
I draw the dogs back, ruining their fun-
Somehow, I need to reach an avenue,
A life with you no longer at its core;
Yet, through my mourning rage, I ache to roar,
Give me one answer, tell me
You do not keep in touch, While I, too much?
This note will signify
English Speaking Union
The poems by Colleen Swan were read by renowned actress and poet Margaret McCarthy at the English Speaking Union (ESU) New York Poetry Circle on March 30th 2015. The poetry of Susana H. Case and Rosalie Calabrese was also featured.
© 2013 Colleen Swan