I am confused for a moment, remembering a writing course I took in Dingle, during the time I lived in Ireland.   It was given by a poet famous for her writings in the Irish language, the brilliant and ginger haired Nuala ni Dhomnaill, who was down from where she was living in Dublin for a while.  We met in a second floor classroom of the Diseart, a building designated for the teaching of Celtic Studies.  It is up a hill, near the top of the town, where Nuns are buried in a small cemetery surrounded by calla lilies.

In my memory, it is Winter.  My classmates and I are on tea break.  We huddle around an electric kettle, holding the same ceramic mugs that are used by other groups that meet in the building, like the Wednesday Art class I also attend.  In Nuala’s class, I sit next to Emer and Orna, my fellow writers from the Dingle Writers Group.  They are forever annoyed with Louis, Emer’s father in law,  who is a little too happy with his own poetry for her, or for Orna’s taste.  When we go around the circle, each of us reading out our  poem for the week, the bearded and smiling Louis, proprietor of a successful pottery business,  manages to slip in an extra one, sometimes two more poems than we are supposed to be allowed to read.    Nuala lets him get away with it every time.   For the most part, I enjoy the show.

And I listen to Irish being spoken, along with English.  I don’t catch much of the meaning, not having gotten past the beginning level in Irish class.  No surprise, Irish is one more course I have taken here in one of the Diseart’s classrooms.  Its upstairs rooms flank a hallway featuring the floral carpet of another era, with extravagant blossoms existing on an impossibly huge scale.  On one side of the hallway,  the windows of the classrooms look out over the churchyard.   The grass is low and green there, dotted all over with tiny daisies.  Louis, Emer, Orna and I all write in English, though I have known Orna to bring the occasional poem written in Irish along with her to our monthly writing group.

A few weeks in, there comes a night in Nuala’s class, when I decide I have had enough of Irish.   After stewing about it for a while, I stand and head out the door.  I may have gone for a walk down by the dark harbor, I don’t know.  But I am back in my place again the next time, my poem for the week written, listening and watching.  I am welcome here, though this is a class supported by the Irish government for the purpose of keeping the language alive, and I a foreigner who hardly speaks it.  We read a poem by Paul Muldoon, who translates Nuala’s poetry into English, and writes in a gorgeous way himself.  It is a poem that strongly evokes Autumn, specifically Autumn  in America, as Irish people refer to this country.

After thinking about it a little more, I realize it may not have  been Winter when I stood with the others from Nuala’s class, chatting around the tea kettle.  Confusion is replaced with the certainty that we drank tea year round, wherever we went.   People used to find it funny that I could leave mine until it was cold and still enjoy drinking it.

What I do know about those seasons of drinking tea, and of writing, is that it was in that class I wrote what I consider a Summer poem.  Nuala picked up an orange, and after cutting it into pieces with a knife, passed one around to each of us.  She told us to close our eyes and to focus on the sharp taste of the fruit, and to let it bring to mind whatever it might before taking up our pens to write.   For me, this is the poem that came of that inspiration:



 As a child I found the secret place where bees lived underground.  It 

was next to where the boys had their fort, that dark and private 

 boys’ place where no one else was allowed.


 I kept the knowledge of the bees to myself.


 In Summer you could never trust them.  They lurked in the coolness 

 of the clover at evening.  I had been stung often enough to know

 that, but  didn’t stop walking barefoot there.


The bees were there again when I stood beside him under too

bright sun, and felt, but couldn’t say my heart was breaking.

 The air was heavy with  the vibration of wings and the softness

 of humming.