Anne Tannam is a Dublin poet with two collections: Take This Life (Wordonthestreet 2011) and Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor (Salmon Poetry 2017). Her third collection 26 Letters of a New Alphabet (working title) is forthcoming with Salmon Poetry in 2020. Anne’s work has been widely published in literary magazines and journals and has been featured in The Irish Times, RTE National Radio and the Irish Poetry Reading Archives at University College Dublin.
A spoken word artist, Anne has performed at festivals and events around Ireland and abroad including Electric Picnic, Lingo and The Craw Festival in Berlin. Anne co-founded the weekly Dublin Writers’ Forum in 2011 and 2016 was awarded a writers’ residency in Chennai Mathematical Institute, India.
A qualified and accredited coach, Anne offers practical and effective support for writers through her business Creative Coaching www.creativecoaching.ie
She rings me in the early evening
¾my first born lately flown the nest¾
to tell me they’ve been picking figs
from trees growing on his father’s land.
She tells me of their plans to make fig jam.
I let the phrase settle in my ear,
say it to myself to taste it on my tongue;
close my eyes, see a table set for breakfast
¾ the winter Spanish sun still warm
across the walls and tiles ¾
the two of them sitting in easy silence:
one drinking the last of freshly squeezed orange juice,
the other spreading fig jam on crusty bread,
days of such mornings behind them,
days of such mornings ahead.
On their wedding day his father said
I’ll forgive you everything if you do right by this girl:
the unfinished education;
the empty table setting at Christmas;
the family name unpolished, unloved.
I never met my grandfather,
a man who lived under the glare of his wife,
but I remember my grandmother—a small woman—
her mouth eternally disappointed.
Dad bringing us down to visit her
to the small dark house on Bulfin Road
where the furnishings took themselves too seriously.
Later, in that same house, I found a studio photograph
of the polished family; my grandfather, something familiar
in the way he’s leaning against the table,
my dad, a beautiful child about three years old
sitting beside his brothers and sisters, and there
my grandmother, upright and disapproving
staring into the camera, daring it to blink.
That blond-haired little boy,
the man who loved his wife for sixty years,
couldn’t wait to cycle home from work,
gave up his wages every week,
cooked our fry on Saturday mornings,
scrubbed our nails, polished our shoes.
Still wonders if he did enough.
Still wonders if he’s been forgiven.
It’s taken until now
to tune into the
miraculous presence of birds.
I knew there were birds before.
I’d heard them singing.
Not like this.
Not like the earth depended on it.
Finally I’ve got round
to learning the name
of the tree that grows
on the footpath
outside our house.
It’s a sycamore tree.
Last year, someone gave
me the gift of a hazel tree cutting
which I brought home
on the carrier of my bike
before throwing it
in the corner of the garage
where it lay un-watered
for six months
before the man of the house
took it upon himself to dig a random hole
in the front garden and plant it there.
When I turned fifty-two last October
I saw the knee-high hazel tree cutting
planted there in our front garden,
and took to watering it every week,
took to chatting with it,
took to admiring its
tightly held secrets
until one morning
in spring, I opened my eyes
where once was only brown,
twenty-six letters of
a new alphabet
unfurled in green
the answer to a question
I’d been too afraid to ask.