St. PATRICK’S NIGHT
Poems by Elsa Corbluth
Elsa Corbluth won joint 1st prize in the Cheltenham Festival Poetry Competition, 1981, for ‘Dirge For St. Patrick’s Night’, the title poem of the present collection.
On 17th March 1980 her daughter Eilidh, 18, wishing to “help Mother Teresa” went as a voluntary worker to the Mother Teresa hostel for women in Kilburn, London. On her first night there, during which she helped with a St. Patrick’s Night party, a fire was started by one of the residents. There were no fire precautions, although the hostel had been open for 6 years and housed some alcoholics. (There was not – and there may still not be – a legal requirement for such “independent” hostels). Eilidh, and nine homeless women, died.
St. Patrick’s Night is a collection of poems attempting to deal with Eilidh’s death.
Dirge For St. Patrick’s Night
Rain on the red roses:
I had a daughter. I have none.
Grey fog on green hills rises:
I had two children. I have one.
Mist on the scented blossom:
she left, one afternoon,
face a flower, body lissom:
the same night burned to bone.
Needing to tend the needy,
so to find, and touch, Christ,
she reached his house unready
for this mocking of her trust.
Flowers of flame flourished redly
in her window while she slept:
love of dead Christ proved deadly,
her youth and my joy trapped.
Jesus said, suffer children,
not black-stick skeletons.
God’s Joan or devil’s cauldron?
Ash, all the holy ones.
At her grave’s head, pale roses
picked with their claws of blood:
eighteen summers’ slain praises:
under wet grass lies her God.
I use words: no-one listens.
I use tears with no ending.
My one girl the rain christens,
gutted house beyond mending.
ST. PATRICK’S NIGHT
Price £3.95 per copy post
Cover illustration: ‘Lands End’ by Eilidh Boadella, aged 14.
Publication: APRIL 1988 (48 pages laminated paperback).