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’s Southeast side influenced by an Irish grandfather who co-founded Local 399  (‘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.

Renny Golden

author, poet, activist

                                   Come,  Come

Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.

Ours is not a caravan of despair… Come, yet again, come, come.   



I know County Kerry in my dreams as if Pa and Ma’s childhood

belonged to me. Their laughter in the Chicago flat on Dante Street

a chime of small bells. Their brogues, a cadence of rain, brooks.  

We walk from mass past bungalows and weed lots.

Pa in a wrinkled suit: “Monseigneur’s a stuffed shirt, Missus.”

Ma: “A gentleman, Dinny, not your Mick boyos.”

In the parlor a tenor sings Oh the Days of the Kerry Pipers.

The dance of farmers whose language was forbidden.

They dance as if their bodies can outrun darkness.

Stomp, whirl past grievance, and what they’ve abandoned.

They dance to remember, then to forget.  They dance

for their lost valleys. They danced their way to heaven.

Now I hear a brogue in a crowd and turn as if I could call 

them out of graves, shake down their songs like apples

from the orchards of time.  All they left, never left.


I, too, knew how to leave.  Don’t look back, I told myself,

squeaking through marble halls in black-heeled oxfords.

In a year, snow whitened the Motherhouse, dusted Michigan barns,

the amputated cornfields brittle and dazzled.  I made vows

when summer lifted its antiphon of cicadas and warblers. 

A white veil, the Great Silence, bells that refused excuse.

A cohort of nineteen-year-olds from Irish and Polish ghettoes

whose laughter saves us from the scorch of discipline.

Not so much in rebellion—but irrepressible joy. 

There are leavings, old nuns we love.  Sister Anna.

At dawn our river of veils and white floor-length habits 

follow the coffin.  Her sack of holy bones listens

as we weave into a cemetery with its circle of stone markers

singing In paradisum deducant te Angeli, May the angels

lead you into paradise—you, Sister, who asked so little.


When I left, Dylan was singing “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”

America on the bridge, floodwaters rising.

So much was washing away, what could I hold onto?

Not the church with its military and Admirals sailing

the ship, women below in steerage.  I had no ambition

to go above deck.  Instead I left again.

When I went to El Salvador during the war,  I was baptized

anew by campesinos.  I knelt in a church in Mejicanos flooded

with candle-light and prayed for Brigido, a catechist, to hold out

Hung by his wrists, forced to squat for hours,

cut, cursed, bloodied.   He gave no names.

Everything immediate as a bullet, a comunidad

that had power but could not save anyone.

Their stubborn hope like a shudder of stars

above the killing fields.  No way out.  Only each other.


Now the graveyards of Chalatenango.

Their unremarkable crucified asleep beneath

white crosses and plastic flowers where

farmers fled B47s that blew them into sun and stars. 

Their song, though, was indestructible.  Forty years later

it rises still above the campo and slum gullies:

Cuando los pobres crean en los pobres

ya tendremos la libertad. When the poor believe

in the poor, then we’ll have our freedom.

I kneel, hear their voices fall through dust showers over

a silent field, its fuego trees, sonsonate birds that skim

cornfields where the poor, who believe in the poor, blaze.


Click:  Renny’s FACEBOOKhttp://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=552133516
Willa Literary Award from 
THE MUSIC OF HER RIVERS will be published by University of New Mexico Press 2019