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Monday Meditations

Here's a Monday meditation in honor of Joni Mitchell, honored recently with the Gershwin prize, and finally being recognized for the brilliant talent she is. She's also been an idol of mine since I first took up a guitar at age 15, and more recently, she inspired my obsession with Ireland's (and the U.S.'s) Magdalene laundries. This poem first appeared in Sheila-N-Gig.



     Become the stone the river cannot wash away.




West of Presho, South Dakota, beyond

Chamberlain’s river bluffs, the land flattens

out to prairie again. We’re headed for the


Black Hills and her cocoon of shadows.

We’re laughing, singing with the Ipod. My

bare feet are on the dash, one hand out the


window making dolphin waves in the wind

when Joni Mitchell and the Chieftans come

on. It’s The Magdalene Laundries, with its


opening dissonant guitar and tin whistles

like mourning, like being lost at sea.

The song, this stone I’ve just swallowed,


lands somewhere too deep to name. Before

the song is over I’m crying, typing

Magdalene Laundries into my phone.




I know too much now. I follow the laundry

girls around, pathetic second cousin with

pockets full of stones, begging let me in!


Red hair is all I have of Donegal kin.

Maybe that’s why I veered down this

gorse-thorned path. Or maybe in some other


life I washed and ironed sheets in the sad,

relentless steam. Maybe that’s why I went

to Ireland, touched the ground and stone


walls, pressed my cheek against  

headstones, sought every empty or

covered-over space where girls once


searched for a way out. All these years

and still the song plays, looping

somewhere in me, a jumble of stones:


     One day I'm going to die here too
     and they'll plant me in the dirt
     like some lame bulb that never blooms

     in any spring, in any spring.


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