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Deirdre Purcell: A new poem by Dermot Bolger to mark first anniversary of writer’s death

The Girl on the Library Steps (In memory of Deirdre Purcell, 1945-2023)

I can now no longer ever pass these library steps
Without thinking of them as being a monument to you,

Without seeing you in my mind climb each one,
Having walked all the way from your childhood home,

Traversing busy roads in pursuit of the magic in words.
Your lives since then are too numerous to enumerate,

Fleeing a safe job to embrace whatever fate held in store,
Juggling roles of mother, wife, journalist, actor and author,

A friend to all of us who, in moments of need, discovered
The benediction of sensing we possessed a wiser big sister.

The forks within your life are so varied, voyages so vast,
That I keep returning to this weekly outing at the start,

When a young girl in a summer dress skips up these steps
Into a strict omerta of silence in a small public library,

Cradling in your arms those books due to be returned,
Yearning for new books to discover, expansive worlds,

Fictional universes forming, unbeknownst, in your head,
To later emerge in the unforeseeable future where you led

A life more multi-layered than in any mystery adventure.
Perhaps this is why now, when I pass these library steps,

I keep envisaging you as a child rushing up to its doors
In your eagerness to delve into the possibilities of words:

The words that later shaped the novels you conjured,
The words used to comfort friends who suffered loss,

The words used to advise, encourage and make us laugh,
The words scribbled on cards so that we felt treasured,

The words that lit blue touchpapers in your imagination,
Passing the litmus test of an integrity so clear it caused

Total strangers to confide in you their innermost thoughts.
We sometimes stood too close to glimpse your uniqueness,

The steely steadfastness, amid both adversity and success,
Which saw you never shirk away from any setback or task,

The humanity at your core which kept you so true to yourself
That in your heart you remained, amid each myriad identity,

The same bright-eyed girl who skipped up these library steps,
Unaware that the books sought here would shape your destiny.

Dermot Bolger 2/11/2023 Commissioned by Hachette Books Ireland in memory of Deirdre Purcell.