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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
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TANYA OLSON

 

 

 

Tanya Olson in Southword JournalTanya Olson lives in Durham, North Carolina and teaches at Vance-Granville Community College. She holds the M.A. in Anglo-Irish Literature from University College, Dublin and the Ph.D. in 20th Century British Literature from UNC-Greensboro. Her work has been published in Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Review, Cairn, Fanzine, Bad Subjects, Main Street Rag, Pedestal Magazine, Elysian Fields, and Southern Cultures. She won first place in the 2005 Independent Poetry contest and was a runner up for the 2009 Rita Dove Award. She is a recipient of an Emerging Artist Grant from the Durham Arts Council and was the 2008 Fortner Award winner. In 2010, she won a Discovery/Boston Review prize and was named a 2011 Lambda Fellow by the Lambda Literary Foundation. In 2011, Boyishly was a finalist in the National Poetry Series Open Competition and at Arktoi Press. She helps co-ordinate Durham’s Third Friday, is a member of the Black Socks poetry group, and serves on the board of the Carolina Wren Press. 

Photo © Derek Anderson

 

 

Slave to the Virgin

 

 

Matt Talbot walked Dublin
with crushed glass in his socks.
With barbed wire around his chest.
Chains wrapped his right arm
and knee, cords on the other side.
Hid these bindings beneath his clothes.
Crossed the city’s river moving from mass
to mass this way because he found himself
a slave to the Virgin.

Carried bricks for a living. Made alms
of what he earned. Slept only
on a plank bed. Kept but a timber
for his pillow. Never swore. Took
the pledge. No tobacco. Told no one
how he lived for pride in devotion
he thought the most devious sin of them all.

Bound his body to learn his body.
Learned his body to forget
his body. How else to get to empty.
How else to reach freedom but by journey.
Back and forth across the waters
beneath the monkey puzzle trees.
Walked quickly. Head down.
How else to approach her
but with a tested heart made toom.

A slave amn’t I. My body a coffle
chained in one world
driven to the next. There’s mornings
I think of heaving me
over the bridge. Nights, I dream
I cross the river north
to hide myself from myself.
To keep me off my trail.

But there’s no smarts in that.
This river is a knife
through the city’s middle.
These trees are but puzzles
to a monkey.
Amn’t I a slave to the Virgin.
Amn’t I a hod-carrier for the Lord.

 

 

©2012 Tanya Olson

 

 

Author Links

 

Boyishly: Olson's blog

Poems by Olson in the Boston Review

Olson poem in the Pedestal Magazine

 

 

 

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