Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Bridge Turns Purple for Prince

The front page of the Providence Journal recently featured a  striking photo of the new Rt 95 bridge bathed in a purple glow.   Mayor Donald Grebien had responded creatively  to the death of  one of America's greatest  musicians and performers, PRINCE.   I was struck by the beauty of the picture and the aptness of the tribute.  It was also  another  example of the  sound judgement of  Mayor Grebien and his responsiveness to the mood and  needs of  the people of  Pawtucket.

This is not the first time that the Mayor has shown good sense and sensitivity. His nuanced and  well-timed response to the  Pawtucket Red Sox and their threatened departure from  Pawtucket resulted in a renewal of the attempts to persuade  the Red Sox  to stay  on and  consider  upgrading the landmark McCoy Stadium. Symbolically,  Grebien threw out the first pitch on opening day  and that gesture to "PLAY BALL" seemed to  promise renewed efforts to  raise the loyalty of  the city population  to the ball team and the team to the city.

 One of the reactions I had to the news that came crashing down last year that the Red Sox were going  to move out of McCoy was a sadness and sense of injustice that our small  but important city, a  place that once had pioneered so much,  has been stripped of so many of its assets. Now on  bleak days it seems like a blighted shell of its former industrial and merantile glory--a city that could hardly sustain another loss.

Now another loss is  underway.  We have been told recently of a  plan to close down the historic Memorial Hospital  in the guise of   efficiency and cost saving. This announcement has raised the specter that this  city  will lose  a hospital that has served for over a century the  needs of the area that includes Pawtucket, Central Falls and Valley Falls, The Sayles family that  provided the initial funds  created a hospital that was a touchstone for  Pawtucket pride and well being.  I remember  walking in the grounds  when I was a child and admiring the young nursing students  in their crisp uniforms and dramatic capes  who lived in the   gracious Nursing School residence  --still visible on the Pond Street side of the  hospital campus. The people of Pawtucket  and Central Falls deserve a full service  hospital  near where they live as the  founders of the Hospital intended.

Yes, Pawtucket  has some major assets still intact but the city's greatest asset is its diverse and  enterprising population.  Seeing that  photo of the bridge bathed in a magic purple glow  also made me aware that something new and praise worthy has been added to the assets of  the city of Pawtucket.   See how we are still growing and evolving under the able leadership of Donald Grebien?


Friday, April 1, 2016


Well just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here came the logo and slogan  for JAWS IV. Spawned here in the warmest and coolest waters of Narragansett Bay. And if we don't like  the new ways that Gina and the Guys on the Hill have come up with to spend our tax dollars, we are branded as NEGATIVE.  Mark Patinkin need never fear--he will not  run out of material here in RHODE ICELAND,
I must say that I do like the way we have grabbed national attention again.  We should  just embrace the  reality of our  twisted souls--like Idaho chose FAMOUS POTATOES for their  motto.
You want negative? Try these on for size---



OOPS!  I just thought of another apt slogan--





Friday, February 5, 2016


Maybe like a lot of you, I sort of lost interest in the Super Bowl once the Patriots were no longer in the picture.  But even I am not immune to the hype and I must confess that I am  sensitive to Manning's position as a more limited but still brilliant quarterback. And I also see the charm of the prowess and youthful energy of Cam Newton. So I have paid  more attention. Today two stories that centered on  coaching caught  my eye.  The PROJO  discusses the  amazing  success of Kubiak with his history of a mini-stroke  being hired by the Broncos.  That story attests  to some loyalty in a world where coaches and players  are discarded daily with the mantra--nothing personal.  But I guess that  between Elway and Kubiak there was a personal bond of friendship which Elway honored,   On my own I did admire the way  Kubiak brought  Peyton Manning back to his position  part way  through a game where temporary QB Osweiler was faltering. Peyton turned the debacle back into a  triumph and the relief of the team and fans to have Manning back was palpable.

Also I learned something about the origins of the KEEP POUNDING  war cry of the Panthers.  That  phrase  originated with a sick and dying coach, Sam Mills.  There is no recording of the speech which  gives it the power of legend, but it seems that the ailing coach  transmitted his own indomitable fighting  spirit to his team when he described the  ways he was pounding back at the incurable cancer that was destroying him.  A Panther player who heard the talk reports that it was so powerful that "grown men wept," I was moved also by the longevity and power of this story and how it continues to inspire the team. One player remembered the message as "No matter what the circumstance is; no matter what the situation is, no matter what the score is, you continue to just keep going, and keep pounding. You don't give up," 

As I read these testimonies, I could not help but feel their power and  energy.
I thought about  my recent  low  points; made worse  by two deaths  since Christmas--my wonderful cousin Grace and my dearest friend Nick. A mourning spirit has stolen my energy and lowered my sense of my own  health and possibilities.  I stopped pounding--I was awash in grief and frequent tears.  But somehow  the  words of Coach Mills  to his team  brought me  up short.

How can I keep pounding here in Pawtucket?  How can I both honor the dead and include  their  struggle and their fighting spirit  into my life?
I don't have the answers yet to those questions, but I do know that by asking that question every day I will discover what  my answer is and what KEEP POUNDING means in the Bucket.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Playing the Mug's Game in the Bucket

"[Poetry] may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves." "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality." "As things are, and as fundamentally they must always be, poetry is not a career, but a mug's game. No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: He may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing. "

These words above were written not by someone who hated poetry  but by one of the greatest of modern poets--T.S.  Eliot

They deserve our close attention and our respect.Mickey Coleman who visited me  recently from Ireland left behind a CD with songs that he has written and he performs.  HE HAS A   GOOD VOICE AND HE ALSO  HAS A POET'S TOUCH WITH THE LYRICS.
I have played his CD now  several times over and I  am reminded again that I come from a family of poets, singers, bards. 

My first memory of poetry besides the nursery rhymes that my mother read to me and I recited back to her is my love for the poem THE HIGHWAYMAN. She read it to me once and after that I asked for it every night. I started to memorize the melodic opening lines and I would sit with the book on our couch and recite it to the book and believed that I was reading it. I did this several times a day and was relentless in it . When my mother saw and heard she sat with me and just pointed to each word as I recited it and after many tries I suddenly got the connection and I was reading it. And I believe that I taught myself to read because I so loved the poem and wanted to read it any time that I wanted and not need to wait for someone to read it to me.
Listen to the wonderful cadences of the opening lines

The Highwayman


The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

I loved the word pictures and when I looked at a moon in a cloudy sky, I said the line from the poem.
Since I knew it by heart it became a kind of party piece—I could recite it to friends and amaze them.
Also I loved the sad romance of the lovely Bess who dies to warn her lover of the waiting Redcoats.

My second favorite romantic poem was the tale of Fair Ellen and the gallant Lochinvar. Here is the text of that pom which I also memorized and would recite often at the request of my Uncle Joe.


O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,

There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

I suppose that the real daily source of my love of poetry and lyric was my mother's devotion to the voice of the Irish tenor, John McCormick. Every day she played a record of him singing such lyrics as those for I Hear You Calling Me and some of the melodies and words of the immortal Irish poet Tom Moore: Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms and Oft In the Stilly Night or The Last Rose of Summer. She would sing those gorgeous lyrics and the sound of her and her beloved Irish Count would fill the rooms of our Pawtucket tenement with their tender verses.

When I think of all the ways she encouraged poetry I wonder how I could not be a poet. When I was seven years old and began to go to the library by myself, I discovered and fell in love with the poetry of Lord Byron. I was so besotted with him and his male beauty that I cut his picture from the frontspiece of many volumes that I borrowed and put them on my bedroom wall.
I read and reread them and added some to my repertoire, such as:


When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sank chill on my brow--
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell in mine ear;
A shudder come o'er me--
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well--
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met--
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?--
With silence and tears.

WITH THESE  GORGEOUS LINES  I signed onto the Mug's game.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I want to write about a Visitation   in the Bucket yesterday.

I had been reading about recent discoveries about the Irish and  ancient  Celtic DNA.  Some  of it just showed up on my doorstep yesterday. MICKEY COLEMAN --He sent me an email and then a phone call saying that he was  coming to Providence from NY  and wondered if I would meet him on such short notice.  He had heard of me in Ardboe --the site of an ancient HIGH CROSS planted by Saint Colmain and the original home of my mother's parents, Joseph Coleman and Jane Conlon. It seems that  his great grandfather John Coleman was the brother  who did not leave Ireland in the  first part of the 20th century when Joe Coleman and his brother Big George  left Ardboe and sailed from Derry to  Boston.  I  agreed to meet and he showed up yesterday with his wife Erin and their 11 month old son Micheal,  He is a musician and he  gave me his CD which has a song that he wrote and sings about  my grand father's trip from Ardboe  it is called THE PATH TO PROVIDENCE.
We talked for a couple of hours and  I  felt so  happy to have  a new  and younger connection to  that half of my heritage.  He is only 30 so he never met  Margaret and Uncle Joe when  they re-discovered their family in trips that I took with them to  County Tyrone in the 1970s.  But he knew  about me and then he saw a picture that my mother sent to the Lough Shore News that showed her father Joe and George and their  friend Peter Coyle n Cumberland.
He is a person who takes an interest in his ancestors and  is moved by all they  suffered and endured to try to find a better life.
So it was very moving to me.  I had met so many of the old timers in  my visits in the 70s that he never met because they were  no longer alive.  I mentioned names  that I could recall and he filled in their details and was so glad that I  met them and could tell him how they had  seemed in their last years.  He is a writer of his own music and he  left some  copies of the CD with me. He has a website  www.  MICKEYCOLEMAN  
I do feel grateful that  he sought me out and I saw so much of  Margaret Coleman and Johnny Devlin's curiosity and ferocious intelligence and spirit in him.  
This seems  like a fine New Year's harbinger. Especially when they handed me the  baby boy--it felt like he  represented the  light that all babies bring into  the world and the special light of the Christ Child.  Also he seemed in his baby strength and energy to be a  signal of the possibilities of the NEW YEAR 2016.  After all the  New Year  is often shown as a baby in diapers chasing out the old year.
It reminded me of that lovely image from the poem of Sir Patrick Spence
Yestreen, I saw the  new moon
With the old moon in her arms.
So the young  usher us out --if we are lucky. 

 I also  got a call from my best friend  in Ireland Christine Hobson--so the  Gaelic  ghosts and  connections are gathering for the NEW YEAR,

Strangely  about three weeks ago I wrote a poem for the online Wisconsin poetry workshop  that surprised me 


Fingers of ground fog
pushed through the window
seeped into my dream

like the miasma
of the bog
where I once
stood to dig peat
with my cousin Gerard,
who chortled as he showed
the visiting Yank
how to cut and stack the ancient fuel.

That wet wind cracks the code
of sucking mud, mold, compost,

waves of earthy decay

wash away the lingering undertone
of last night's
passing skunk.
Eyes wide open now
I inhale the scent of sod
that covers my dead.

It seems  this  writing and  recalling and honoring  our ancestors is in our DNA 

We know that the Coleman's are descendants of Saint Colmain of  Ardboe and  were a sept of the O'Neill clan. They were the  advisers to the Chieftain and also the bards who celebrated the victories and lamented the death s and defeats of the clan.  So we  know this  urge  even duty to write has  persisted for centuries we see it in John Coleman of Mullinahoe  a poet in the late 19th century, in Margaret Coleman,, in me, -we share a bardic hereditary tradition.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wonderland to LaSalette

Last Friday I drove with my husband and my two cousins Louise and Frank  through the Winter Wonderland  at Slater Park.  They are older but much more nimble than I am.  One small limitation they have is that they do not like to drive at night.  I am not yet bothered by the  night driving and I wanted to share the  display of lights and family devotion that is WINTER WONDERLAND in SLATER PARK.  We drove through and even in the slight drizzle the air was warm and we enjoyed seeing  the  hundreds of  decorated trees.  
Since my cousins are both long time Pawtucket residents, they  recognized many of the family names that are memorialized with the placard and  the pictures that some  families attach to the trees.

What a magnificent testimony that display is to not only  the real meaning of  Christmas which is to remember and   pray for all those who have made our lives possible and  love-filled--beginning  with the infant and his Holy Mother and leading up to our own mothers and fathers and all those  ancestors in between who  showed us the way  to eternity.  Christ famously said that in His Father's house there are many mansions.  And I think that he meant that there would be  a place prepared for all of us and that  is why the Xmas trees--so many and so differently decorated --reflect that spirit of inclusion.  There is an old Universalist Saying  GOD DID NOT MAKE SOULS TO LOSE THEM.  The mansions of   heaven will be myriad and they will be different but they will be there for each and every one of us--waiting for us. God must love difference because  He made each of us with our unique DNA and He wants  us to bring those diverse talents  tot he table of life.

After the joy of seeing Winter Wonderland I got a bit ambitious and decided to ask my cousins if they could also spare the time to   take a drive to the  shrine at LaSalette.  They agreed and with Frank's excellent directions we  followed back roads that were  new to me and we were there  in a short time.  We drove  into a dark parking lot and there were no lights. We could see  buses  lined up and some people were leaving their cars. I drove closer to one little family and  rolled down the window --
What happened to the lights?  I shouted  to them--they  come on at 5pm, they answered,
I looked at  my clock in the car and it read 4-48.  We counted down the two minutes and  suddenly the  old shrine was ablaze of light. And we  were struck with the beauty and drove around many times to see all the  nooks and crannies of that site.
It struck me  as an enactment of that night over 2000 years ago. It was dark and the  world was shrouded in longing  for its Creator and then it was a blaze of Light.  My Aunt Grace  displayed in her living room  that  famous painting of Christ as THE LIGHT  OF THE WORLD and here in our humble way  in Attleboro  we  saw it happen and  we were de-LIGHTED .

All the way home we talked about  the old days and the places on Main Street Pawtucket that we  remembered and  described.  How my Aunt Anna and her friend  Rita would go bowling and then stop at the  Windsor Diner.  Or Frank recalled Majestic Novelties -- a store  that he had  run. And I thought about  Thursday night Xmas shopping at Prescoe's and Shartenbergs and so many other details of our lives  filled with no cars-- just  bus rides and long walks--ALL IS CALM  ALL IS BRIGHT.

Monday, December 7, 2015


I guess it is no secret that I have been feeling a bit discouraged lately. As advent began I felt mostly grief and very little joy.What kind of  Xmas day could I plan? This time last year I was in the hospital and then rehab.  The two Christmas holidays before that I had spent having the  Xmas  meal--an excellent one--as it was prepared and served at the Linn Health Center  in East Providence with my Aunt Anna who was  a resident there. But now she was gone, and my neighbor and friend  Doris was approaching the first anniversary of the death of her dear daughter, Donna,  and my best friend,  Maureen was trying to imagine a Xmas without her  husband, Mitch,  I felt the weight of these losses and was weeping  way too easily when  I thought of them. I was feeling sorry for myself.

  That all changed a few days ago when I was making my daily drive through Slater Park with my husband. He loves to watch the geese especially when they take it into their collective mind to cross the street from the pond to the picnic area. This day as I entered the park I saw a new sign that said  No Thru traffic.  I drove  as far as I could and saw hundreds of people standing in line and cars parked everywhere. People were  moving as quickly as they could carrying huge  bags of what looked like  Xmas ornaments. The day was brisk and damp,  but they looked joyous--their  eyes were shining and their movements were full of purpose.  I went as far  as I could and turned around in the parking lot across from the Daggett House.  I could see a line of  young and old people that snaked a long distance and I could feel the charge of their excitement and delight.
What is going on--I wondered--and instantly my heart supplied the answer--. And I knew that in some way they were honoring their dead.  I stopped and asked a Park employee what was happening. And he said they were getting ready for WINTER WONDERLAND--  people lining up to get their placard with their family member's name and some  words about the person and then they can pick out the tree and then they can decorate it.  Their joy was immense and I caught some of that delight to see them and hoped I would soon have  the energy and health to  remember ANNA  with a tree   decorated for her at  Xmas.

It is one of the things that really  made Xmas and Advent real to me again, and it is one of the things that makes Pawtucket a good place to live. THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND WELL AND BACK IN THE BUCKET!!.