And Who Shall I Say is Calling?
She was a Connemara girl. Red hair. The red was bottled, but still. A wonder. Talk about stories, talk about language, talk about deprivation. She’d grown up so poor she took to school hunks of stale bread thrown together with slices of orange in between. She was so poor the nuns beat her. At eighteen she got out. Became someone else.
“E could go in one end of a henhouse and come out the other end with a man,” said her friend years later. It was true. I was the man.
“For fuck’s sake,” she would say. “I could muurder a feckin’ beer,” she’d say. “Lovey? I’m down the pub with a few of the lads and we’re philosophizing,” she’d say over the phone. “Will you come?” Music was her joy, her salvation. Mary Black. De Dannan. Van. Hothouse Flowers. Dolores Keane. Richard Thompson. Dylan. Leonard.
“For fuck’s sake, Richard, you don’t know Leonard? Who’s been minding you, ya por thing? He is grand entirely.” Homemade cassette tape slides into tape deck. Wine glass, already full, topped off. Then.
And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?
The chorus, those voices, that story. That song.
Our love was doomed, born as it was on charm and booze and loneliness. But that music. Talk about the dimming of the day. Talk about a soundtrack for love and its discontents.
She was my wife once
the poor girl from the bogs
with the jam jars of tea
and the red hair and the stories
who ran away to London
to become a nurse
who found Leonard
and for a while
a man to love her.
~ Richard Pelletier
Also published on Medium.