Georgia Hilton is a poet and fiction writer originally from Ireland who lives now in Winchester, England. In 2018, her poem Dark-Haired Hilda Replies to Patrick Kavanagh was joint winner of the Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize – her debut pamphlet, I went up the lane quite cheerful, being published by Dempsey & Windle that same year. Georgia’s first collection, Swing, is also published by Dempsey & Windle.
Dark-Haired Hilda Replies
to Patrick Kavanagh
On Raglan Road I saw you first
a dishevelled man with heavy
black-framed glasses. So severe
you looked but you had a wound
that made you beautiful.
After we talked that first day, I
dreamt of you. You were walking
towards me very fast and purposeful
with an intent that might have been
mistaken for malice, had I
not loved you. I abandoned
caution at first. But my father gave me
a great gift when he said to me, Hilda,
you cannot eat words and air,
so I became a doctor
and married the engineer.
But not before I had given you
poems with your own name in them,
given you my youth. Let you open
the catch to a window in my mind,
thinking I would fly, but you had me
chained to a pedestal. I,
no marble idol, just a flesh
and blood woman. And you were always
an awful man for the drink, you said so
yourself, Patrick. Oh to think
I might have been one of those
sorry women who follow
their husbands to the pub screaming
for them to come home before they spend
the rest of the housekeeping. I might
be a creature made of clay, Patrick,
in fact, I’m sure I am,
but you have a brass neck
calling yourself an angel.
If I were to slip into the river,
it would not be at Poor Man’s
Kilkee, where teenagers
and vagrants take their ease
with cans of lager.
Nor would it be on O’Callaghan’s
Strand, where the grey silt
is deep, deep and a dozen swans
are on the slipway.
Nor would I make a dramatic
leap off Sarsfield Bridge
by the boat club, where an
indecisive light flickers
over the martyrs of 1916.
No – I would choose this
stretch, just downstream
of the Curraghower
with views of King John’s Castle
and Thomond Bridge.
By day the seagulls swoop
and dive, swans fight
the estuary current,
and you can see the hills
of Clare beyond the bend
of the river at the Island Field.
But by night my eyes are drawn
only to the water –
the roiling inky black
inviting me to shed
surrender my skin.
The old stone steps are there,
I would not need to climb or jump
but simply descend like a debutante –
keeping both shoes on.
On the Naming
of Convict Ships
It seems cruel to name a convict ship
the Eleanor. Eleanor, after all,
is the parson’s daughter,
who smiled at you once or twice.
You could no more touch her
than you can touch thin air.
Eliza is the girl who took your hand
at the county fair.
Caroline is your sister, Georgiana
the grim mistress you have only
glimpsed on horseback.
Jane is the governess at Manor Farm.
Mary is the dairyman’s daughter.
Elizabeth the name you sometimes murmur
in your sleep, and Isabella is someone
you will never meet. Isabelle, Isabella,
Dark-Haired Hilda Replies to Patrick Kavanagh:
I went up the lane quite cheerful (Dempsey & Windle)
On The Naming of Convict Ships: Swing (Dempsey & Windle)