This Woman's Life: Rita Ann Higgins
Published 09/10/2016 | 02:30
The second you put your snout into Genesis, you walk straight into the apple. What Jezebel had it? Eve. Who did she offer it to? Uncle Adam. So much depends on the apple and so much depends on bad old Eve for proffering it. I heard a talk on radio one time about malignant shame. It's like your common-or-garden shame but it has much more blush about it. It's a first cousin of a word that was drummed into us at school, náire. Tá náire orm. The literal translation from the Irish is, shame is on me.
Well shame was on me recently when I was caught by an unmarked garda car for rat running. It was on a Sunday morning, no cars around so I thought I'll chance it. Matlock was parked out of sight and he put the siren on and I was nailed. I stopped when it was safe for me to do so. All of a sudden I'm a model citizen full of consideration for other drivers. A few minutes before this I took a very dangerous right turn and I got caught. I felt immediate shame. I felt guilty and embarrassed. I knew I had done wrong and I was going to have to pay the penalty. That little right turn cost me €60 and a dirty mark on my licence. Matlock's pupils widened as I half attempted small talk.
A fortnight ago I said that Galway was morphing into a police state. An article in the Galway Independent this week adds weight to that assertion. It was reported that Labour councillor Billy Cameron raised the issue of hair braiders in the city at a recent Joint Policing Committee (that would be the thought police). It seems he said that he counted at least eight braiders on the streets of Galway. I think it should be knocked on the head, he said. His objection is not because they're not Irish but because anyone could follow the trend and it would clog up our streets.
I am fidgeting with a poem about shame that I started some time ago but never finished. I used to rent a cottage in Spiddal to try and get some work done. If anyone else said they had to rent a cottage to work I've have called them bourgeois. While I was there I did get work done and sometimes I loved to sit at the kitchen table and look out and admire the pheasants. An American student interviewed with me while I was there as part of her thesis. Later I read from her bound copy, "Ms Higgins liked nothing better of an afternoon than to sit in her cottage and look out at the peasants". It was signed off on by four academics from her university.
The poem has nothing to do with the student, but I am reminded of her as it all happened around that time. Nor has it anything to do with some members of the Catholic Church, despite their chilling lack of understanding for women who have suffered unspeakable grief at losing children with fatal foetal abnormality and other serious conditions. The butter-cupping, dark ages, power-of-the-church emotional blackmail, spearheaded at women who might have to do that journey of shame, is ill-thought out and callous. Where was mother church's moral outrage over the babies remains, unearthed in a former unmarried mothers home in Tuam?
The days of kissing Bishop Browne's ring and being fearful of John Charles McQuaid types are over.
(Who told you that you were naked? Genesis)
A fox traipsed up the bóithrín
so laid back, so handsome.
Eye candy for the vixen
vexation for the rat.
Nothing sly about him,
except the slope of his spine
had dodgy written all over it.
You could say supine
but you'd be just name calling.
He was now walking like a cheetah,
long Nijinsky steps.
Kind of odd for a fox to ballet.
He knew more than he was letting on.
Next I notice he's sporting a wolfish grin,
not like himself at all.
No way did a sheep's tank top
slide off his shoulder
Up or down I wasn't giving him another minute.
As it was I was making a right peata out of him.
I reached for my camera,
he reddened and ran.
Fermata is a stunning new poetry anthology that is being launched in Dublin on Tuesday October 11 at 6.30. in the Wood Quay Venue. All the writing in this volume is inspired by music and it is edited by poets Eva Bourke and Vincent Woods.
Artisan House are the publishers.