Philomena’s Revenge

By Rita Ann Higgins b. 1955
As a teenager
she was like any other,
boys, the craic,
smoking down the backs.
Later there was talk
she broke things,
furniture and glass,
her mother’s heart.
‘Mad at the world,’
the old women nod,
round each other’s faces.
But it was more
than that
and for less
she was punished.
That weekend
she didn’t leave a cup alone
every chair hit the wall,
Philomena’s revenge.
Soon after
she was shifted
and given the shocks.
Round each other’s faces
the old women nod
‘Treatment, treatment
they’ve given her the treatment.’
These days
she gets on with the furniture,
wears someone else’s walk,
sees visions in glass.
She’s good too
for getting the messages;
small things, bread and milk
sometimes the paper,
and closing the gate
after her father drives out,
she waits for his signal
he always shouts twice,
‘Get the gate Philo,
get the gate, girl.’

Rita Ann Higgins, “Pilomena’s Revenge” from Philomena’s Revenge. Copyright © 1992 by Rita Ann Higgins. Reprinted by permission of Rita Ann Higgins.

Source: Philomena’s Revenge (Salmon Poetry, )

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Poet Rita Ann Higgins b. 1955


Subjects Living, Health & Illness, The Mind, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Born in Galway, Irish poet and playwright Rita Ann Higgins was one of thirteen children in her family, and left school at the age of fourteen. She began to write poetry in her twenties after being hospitalized with tuberculosis.
Higgins’s frank, wry poems often look squarely at economic and gender-based inequalities. Calling hers a “smart, sassy, unabashed, female working class voice in Irish writing” in a 2011 Irish Times . . .

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Poems by Rita Ann Higgins

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, The Mind, Social Commentaries


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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