Mary Pat Mann

Nora, Cora, Sheila: old,
wrinkled, grey, streaky
climb the hill above the bay.
It’s time for bilberries.
They want some
for making jam
with tea
on winter afternoons.

They come upon a Yank
tall, young, spectacled, lost
looking for a well where fairies dwell
or is it a salmon?
Is that a rowan? he asks,
they don’t grow in Ohio.
Have you any Gaelic? says Nora.
No, he says, no.

Looking out across the bay,
he says, isn’t that the place
where mac Lir had a castle?
you know, the sea god?
the one with the crane bag?
magic stuff?
Mac Lir? says Sheila
there’s a MacNair in the village,

Scotsman he is
married little Kathleen Carroll
twelve year back,
last cottage on the left.
He turns away
blowing air out his nose
what do they know? he thinks,
old women

Mac Lir, is it? Cora chortles.
Walking back to the bay
they sample berries as
the sun goldens the water.
Sheila mimics his accent:
You know, with the crane bag.
Reaching the reeds
of a sudden, they seem taller

gawky, long-legged, crested, beaky
they rise lazily
circling the strand.
Eyeing the young man
still scrambling on the hillside
they call to him.
Looking up, he sees shadows

of wings, folded necks
like snakes curving to
strike. Grabbing his
bird book, he finds grey herons.
Ah, he says, indigenous.
Nora, Cora, Sheila, old, knowing,
repeat the call he cannot hear:
We’re the crane bags, dearie
we’re all mac Lir will ever need.

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