Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Tomas O'Leary

Poet Tomas O'Leary

Tomas O'Leary -- poet, translator, music-maker, singer, artist and expressive therapist -- has a volume of New & Selected Poems from Lynx House Press: "In the Wellspring of the Ear."  His previous books of poetry are "Fool at the Funeral,"  "The Devil Take a Crooked House,"  and "A Prayer for Everyone."  His poems have  been published in a wide variety of literary journals. 
    A teacher for many years — (college, high school, elementary, adult ed) — he has worked for the past couple decades with folks who have Alzheimer's, playing Irish accordion and eliciting cognitive and emotional responses through songs, stories, poems, & free-wheeling conversation.
    Tomas grew up in Somerville, a son of Irish immigrant parents, and went from there to South America in the mid-60’s as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. He unearthed the gist of “Earthquake” from a journal that lay buried 50 years.

Earthquake (Colombia, '67)

Don Chucho loaned me a nice horse
that had no name, nor had the horse
a name for me.  We anonymities
ate breakfast and set out
early one morning from the pueblo
over the  hills and far away.
Magnificent, the air, the vista,
furry clouds that rested softly
on the mountain palms beneath us,
because where we were was high.
A scary-hairy gargantuan spider
gave us pause, but we sidled round it.
My mission was to find the house
of don Miguel, campesino-in-chief,
to drink aguardiente with him and his
cohort of tillers of very steep farms,
and talk of the small school we'd build,
and eat boiled chicken and drink
more aguardiente. It's not hard
to get lost in these hills when you're just
a green gringo from Somerville, Mass.
Unsure where I was, I finally spotted
a house on a distant rise.  It was dancing
crazily, pots and pans clanging
where they hung on the veranda.  Then
the ground beneath my horse
seemed anxious to abandon us.
All credit to the horse, who said
no way, and started back, and I went with it.
Upon return I found
the town had fallen down, at least by half.
The church was gone completely, the bank
and many houses.  My horse was glad
to be free of me, though I sensed
no egregious insult.  I walked
the ruins of the town, Roncesvalles
of Tolima in Colombia, sole gringo
in this pueblo of maybe a thousand,
Peace Corps ruminant looking for work.
Struck dumb by an earthquake, plunged smartly
into rubble with the rest.

                                      --Tomas O'Leary

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for pulling me into the being of such a journey.