Anna Kiley by Bill Nevins

Anna Kiley came out from a family of nine
on a farm in Cahir in County Tipp 
somewhere at the end of the 1800s
she lived a century, wearing her good farm wife’s dresses 
and singing her great grandson Molly Malone
a Detective Sargeant’s mother in law, 
she oten took the bus from Stamford to Bridgeport
to visit relations with never a fear

We lived in one of those fine old two story houses
next door to the Ukranian seminary enclave St Basil’s and I ran free and wild as a child
I would fly upstairs in my Superman cape
for tea and  cookies with Anna and her daughter
even when I’d knocked over my mom’s best vase
for no anger, however righteous
could touch me sitting at the checkered kitchen table,
the fine afternoon light slanting through the curtain lace
singing cockles and mussels alive alive o 

Anna died in a fire
and no one could save her
just as I began my teenage years
her farm wife’s sleeve caught an open flame
as she tried to make tea
one last day alone
the wake was a grand event
they all say
I only cried for forty years or so
wandering manys the street broad and narrow
this wide world o’er

Delaney roared whiskey driven New York City nights with me
settling his own haunted dreams
with girls song and rebel disregard
of the church or Catholic fear
“Ah Billy look right into her eyes, man,
She wants you to see how pretty she is”
and his sly hand and smile
more often than not
found a way between gently coaxed thighs
all Ireland did arise
and we danced down Manhattan’s 
streets of fire and rain
laughing off our pain
and singing songs of Ireland
in the Bells of Hell
while Malachy held joyful court
and the Ballad of Bernadette Devlin wafted from the juke

The Bogside exploded and I hit Dublin
just as the Brits were dragging folk from their Belfast and Derry hovels
to prison ships and the Republican University campuses

you know the long story
the war and the glory

Paisley’s vicious bluster
and the Women of Armagh
volunteers cut down in Ulster
or on Gibraltar
mother of sweet Jesus
as, locked in a NYC cell on a street that Mayor Dinkins named after him,  Joe Doc played the barber for wise guys and kept the flame lit
or dear Roisin hauled off pregnant to a London hell
McGlinchey man and wife riddled
or Scatter O Hara in a lousy Dublin jail

or all the mourning
or all the peace doves in this new morning
at last
at last

but down all those years
the anger and the tears
I always heard the wheels
of her ghost rolled barrow
bringing me home
to Tipperary quiet nights
a jar in the pub
and singsong 
till the dawn


Bill Nevins, born 1947, grew up in and near NY City, lived in northern New England and the Philadelphia area and spent time in Canada, mainland Europe and in Ireland before settling in New Mexico in 1996, where he taught at UNM and in secondary schools. He is a widely published cultural journalist and a poet. He has two books of poetry, Heartbreak Ridge and AWE and a 2007 feature film “Committing Poetry in Times of War” focused on his teaching work. Bill is a father and grandfather and a Gold Star parent. He lives in Albuquerque and in the Angel Fire area.

For the past quarter-century, Bill Nevins has encouraged and fostered community poetry events and organizations in Albuquerque and in other parts of New Mexico, with strong national and international links to Mexico and Ireland. He is an active board member of the New Mexico State Poetry Society, the Irish American Society of New Mexico, and a member of Irish American Writers and Artists and a founding member of the New Mexico affiliate of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade, an activist literary group founded in San Francisco and dedicated to bringing positive change in the world through the power of poetry. According to Nevins, the Revolutionary Poets Brigade believes that “Poetry has always been and continues to be not only the way the poet listens to his or her innermost being, but a way the spirit of the times, in its most forward-looking incarnation, is expressed and heard. “

Bill Nevins organized the years-long Albuquerque Resolana series of public literary and discussion forums on crucial events and social concerns. He has also co- founded monthly Kaktus Poetry readings and several other poetry open-mics and special events in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Angel Fire and Taos. For the past year of pandemic restrictions, Bill has focused his energy on contributing to a growing network of online Zoom poetry, musical and literary events, including the recent Irish Poets Salon which drew 150 attendees and the weekly Cultivating Voices gathering, drawing poets and audience from New Mexico and beyond as far away as New York, Ireland, Mexico and India. He has more online programs in development including a forum honoring fallen troops and other heroes of our troubled times. 

Bill Nevins may be reached at and he welcomes suggestions for future programs.

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