My late, much lamented sister-in-law, Bronagh Murphy, was in her time a playwright, a nurse, a poet, an actress, a midwife and a highly qualified expert in infertility treatment. She brought people into this world, and ushered them out, she brought poetry into this world in her writing and her actions, and ushered herself out of this world in a way which showed us how to live – she did all this with extraordinary care and compassion. There was nothing ordinary about her. Ruby is  a poem of hers I heard her recite a few times at gatherings of family or friends – it captures a particular moment in her nursing experience when a dying woman’s daughter was unable to get to her in time… (and it says everything about the kind of person the poet was).

French's refrains

French's refrains


You lay as on a beach
Spindley legs entwined
Nails bloody red

Waxy flesh, draping brittle bones
Like a golden yellow stole

Courtesy, not of a Floridian tan,
But a boulder of cancer
Blocking the duct

Visions of you in your days of yore
A lusty Jewish broad
Vocals etched with
Sediment of Scotch and tobacco

And as you gasped your last
I begged my God to make it fast
Bereft of drugs to ease your pain
I thought of French’s sweet refrain

As your daughter wrestled with traffic
On the Finchley Road
I climbed in bed and held you tight

And from crazy Celt to dying Jew
I did the only thing I knew
“Are you right there, Ruby, are you right?”

Crazy Celt

Crazy Celt

5 comments so far

  1. Maud Hand on


    So delighted you posted that of Bronagh … I’d never heard that briliantly incisive poem before and as you say, it so right sums Bronagh’s life and spirit up …. and I hadn’t been aware of her love of the bauld Percy French … spot on! Thank you


  2. ArkAngel on

    An honour for me to introduce it to you – I’m hoping to work with Seth to put together a book of some of her poetry and other writing

  3. Maud Hand on

    You know the thought struck me that it would be an excellent thing to do … I was thinking of that in relation to my own forays with Maura Soshin O’Halloran – there’s two documentaries radio ones I must send you copies of … as I reckon you’d appreciate them and one features Percy French and how much he meant to another great man I know who was taken before his time … xx

  4. ArkAngel on

    Look forward to hearing the Maura doc – missed it over Xmas along with most of the festive radio

  5. Michael Tim on

    I love your site!

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