I am a writer, professor emerita, poet, and social justice activist.  My books reflect concerns for those made voiceless or marginalized.  I grew up in Chicago on the Southeast side influenced by an Irish grandfather who co-founded Local 399 (originally the ‘Micks’ who shoveled coal into furnaces) and an Irish grandmother who was a seanchai (story-teller).  The poem below reflects three of my most formative influences: Irish grandparents, paternal and maternal, all from County Kerry; being a Dominican Sister for 8 years; co-founding the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America and going to El Salvador during the war years.

Renny Golden

author, poet, activist

                      The Parting Glass

           But let them be, they’re dead and gone

                                                          W.B. Yeats

The dead are singing: Oh the Days of the Kerry Pipers.

Ceili dancers’ feet a whirr of blackbirds.  My Pa’s music

a shout of farmers whose language was forbidden.

Pa cannot remember the Irish words Guim grasta ort,

I wish grace on you.  But he knew Slainte!, lifted

a parting glass hours from his last Irish dawn, a ghost

riding to Cobh harbor no longer afraid of death.  Now a Kerry

brogue, I turn for the speaker as if I could sing angels out of heaven,

shake them down like apples from the orchards of time.


I was nineteen that dawn when our river of black

veils and white mohair habits floated the coffin

to our motherhouse cemetery, its sack of holy bones

listening as we wove a Michigan backfield singing

In paradisum deducant te Angeli, May the angels

lead you into paradise.


The graveyards of Chalatenango with their unremarkable

crucified asleep beneath white crosses and plastic flowers

bordering sorghum fields where Salvadoran peasants walked

roads that blew them into sun and stars while they sang

Cuando los pobres crean en los pobres ya podremus la libertad.

When the poor believe in the poor, then we’ll have our liberty.

I kneel, hear their voices fall through dust showers over this

forgotten milpa, its fuego trees, sonsonate birds that skim

corn fields where the poor, who believed in the poor, blaze.

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