The Irish phrase mar dhea /“mor ya” is characteristic of Irish English speech. A skeptical interjection used to cast doubt, dissent or derision (or all three) on whatever phrase or clause precedes it.

In a previous life I would have been a scullery maid
and you the stable boy, all grimy with horse-sweat
and saddle-soap, wearing the dreamy look of the artist
you’d become after several unexpected incarnations.

We’d meet in the kitchen sometimes. You with a basket
under your arm, me lugging a load of laundry.
I’d admire your fine grey eyes, note your broad shoulders
under the workman’s leather waistcoat.

Because you had no sisters you’d befriend me,
sympathize with my shabby treatment
at the rough hands of the Under Housemaid.
When I’d whimper that I hated dusting,

couldn’t master blancmange for love nor money,
you’d dry my tears with the tail of your cambric shirt,
say I wasn’t cut out to be a servant,
that I should have been a poet instead.

That one remark would dribble into my ear
like rain on a parched summer garden.
I’d keep it hidden next to my mother’s ring
and the holy picture of my patron saint

under my pillow in the attic. Imagine it
breeding in the cellar of my soul like a dark tuber,
tendrils reaching out to neighbors in the compost heap,
twining over the woodpile, sleuthering up to the rose bush.

And there it would have to incubate, waiting
for the twentieth century to complete its work
of post-Colonial amnesia. Or perhaps deliverance
would come sooner when you’d wait for me

one evening in the kitchen garden, among
the fragrant Stock and Cushion Spurge
whose Latin name—Euphorbia Polychroma
delighted my tongue when you described

its electric yellow bracts blooming on low cushions
in late April. It was then I knew I’d run straight out
the back door and into your arms, abandoning
the washing and the mistress’s querulous complaints,

into whatever future might be waiting,
closing the wrought-iron gate behind me.