“On Returning to the Vineyard,” “After My Mother’s Funeral” and “Lead Us Not into Temptation”

On Returning to the Vineyard

The rain is not even similar here—

the particular slant,

its lack of urgency.

The buildings don’t obscure the wind

like my windy city.

I am caught and swept away into a faint picture.

I can’t get lost here—

into an obscureness that is me.

To return to where I had my first real kiss

with the new associate named Chuck

on a clean concrete sidewalk

outside of where I drank my first real cocktail,

a Tanqueray and tonic with a twist (my mother’s drink)

and actually wore red heels.

No, that was not like here

where in the ninth grade

Jonathan DiSalvo hurriedly kissed me

behind Mrs. McGee’s bakery,

the hot flour mist invading my nostrils

like a sick love song.

The island holds me hostage.

The city relaxes my judgement.

The island betrays secrets.

My city allows them deliberateness and certainty.

The beauty of the things—steel, glass, concrete

succumbs to marsh, salt, and silt

that swallows me whole like quicksand.

After My Mother’s Funeral

“There is good even in this,” my father declared

after we plodded through a dewy field

in Southbury, Connecticut

plucking strawberries

filled with afternoon hunger.

Delighted with the possibility of sweetness,

I snatched at those vines

betraying my 4-year-old hands.

I couldn’t stop.

Prickly bee sting bullets

punctuated the flesh.

That fierce vine did not mar the beauty.

“Enough,” my father said

wiping my mouth on his sleeve,

leaving the remaining fruit to rot on the ground

as my balled-up fist crushed that nectar.

Lead Us Not into Temptation

You’ve always been a fidgeter.

Hands in your mouth,

hands in your brown shaggy hair,

hands in mine when you were little.

When were you so little that your hands

fit into mine?

You put your hands on your desk—

one on top of the other,

thinking there is safety

in folding things neatly.

The teacher reminds you that

back in her day,

the nuns would come over and

slap the sin out of those hands.

I know you counted each one in your head—

gluttony, sloth, lust, wrath,

but the bigger ones

around your identity

remain hidden inside

locked away.

The writhing hypocrisy

invading the answers

on your catechism workbook.

You sit confused,

terrified of a lingering ruler that seems

out of place on the corner of her desk.

You navigate the edges, wonder if the chipped

part of the metal would fracture a knuckle

or rip the flesh from your thumb.

“Mom, what are the sins—the really bad ones?”

You ask me on the way home.

Gripping the steering wheel, I say,

“Love one another.”

“What?” you wonder out loud.

“Just do that, Son, and you will be okay.”

I see you put your hand in your mouth,

and when we turn the corner,

you bite down on your thumb

chipping the red nail polish

clean off the nail.

About the Author

Beth Curran

I have been teaching high school English for 21 years and strive to incorporate poetry into the daily lives of young people in order to help them cope with their daily struggles and questions about life. My poetry focuses on the everyday struggles and mysteries of being a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a New England girl at heart.