“The Caul” and other poems by Annette Skade

The Caul

I get it from my Grandmother:
head in hands, chin resting
in the heel of an upturned palm,
skin over mouth and nose,
fingers a mesh to sift
the cruel sight, hard word,

She was born with a caul.
The midwife said it was good luck,
cut away the membrane,
examined its milky translucence
and placed it in tissue to be kept.
Her father sold it to a sailor
as a charm against drowning.

She saw the worst in others,
but her eye for us was softened
by the tender veil of her birth.
All her life she loved chiffon scarves,
It’s my belief she missed
part of herself sold away.

Papyrus Fragment

A buff-brown moth hovers
on temperature controlled neon,
displays paper thin wings,
ragged margins of ancient grass
speckled with alpha, omega, nu.

It darts, bares a blaze
of underwing to plain sight;
this endless, fragile need
to make a mark,
to come to light.


Corded wrist, thick fingers
set down the pint glass, snatch again
at the coil of rope round his ankle
as it drags him over the side.

This is how we live through survival,
telling and retelling: how the gear
swept him into chest-piercing water,
left him helpless from the jolt.

How he swung in thick dark,
worked his hand loose,
worked out  which way was up,
freed his foot from the noose

and climbed up to the surface:
the side of the boat like a building,
faces of mates high on the rail,
waiting for his body to come up.

He told them how he did it:
the plans in bunk
for every type of escape;


Break, break, break
        On thy cold gray stones O Sea,
And would that my tongue could utter
        The thoughts that arise in me.
                           Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Concrete blocks,
bricks, bottles,
car batteries,
old televisions
get tipped
from this kitchen ceiling.

When the dust settles
I’m still here,
scattered in the debris:
for the next
smoothing over.

Garden Geometry

I planted love-in-a-mist to fool the carrot fly,
find myself taken in
by the fuzz of unsteady green
lolling among strict lines of vegetables.

Foil satellite dishes of pink and titanium-blue
quiver on flexing stems,
crook sepal filaments at the sun:
an irresistible signal to pick.

On the kitchen table their green haloes crack,
charge little screws of colour
to hover on a net of spiny fractals:
more lightening strike than carrot top.

High Line

If he were a train he would be idling,
if he were a train he would drown traffic,
if he were a train he would shed
heavy bars of shadow onto West 16th Street,
draw the eye, shunt forward,
pick up speed, chop back room,
backyard, back street, aircon,
gutter, central heating pipe,
shutter, dark overlaying light.

He paces it out above car stitched streets:
americ- ONE WAY –no stopping anytime-
spans a subtle Hudson, snaps
ornamental grasses, railway sleepers
rearing into benches, girders and rivets
rhythms of windows and bricks,
adjuncts, angles, precincts, abutments.
Picture him on the High Line;
contained, reaching into distance.

Reading Poetry in a Car outside the Trafford Centre

I've tried to explain the strangeness of
working without the sun, bundled
with countless others down consumer cataracts,
all seeking their own seeking:
Netbook; IPod; BlackBerry;
a token; a statement; a trophy.
No east or west, no horizon,
small wonder I read to the last second.

Words rise as I cross the car park;
the tread of feet
on pink marble is a heartbeat,
the weaving in and out
a dance that we all know
and this shopping mania a gathering.

Thimblerig Cover Best

Thorston Merz ColourAnnette Skade is an award-winning poet, and teacher, living and writing on the Beara peninsula on Ireland’s south-west coast.  Her first collection Thimblerig was published following her receipt of the Cork Review Literary Manuscript prize in 2012.

She has a degree in Ancient Greek and Philosophy from Liverpool University and she has just completed an MA in Poetry Studies from Dublin City University, where she read everything from Anne Carson to the York Mystery Plays, Elizabeth Bishop to Maurice Scully.

Her poems have recently appeared in the SHOp poetry magazine, Abridged and the Cork Literary Review . She won the Poets meet Painters Competition in 2010 and was placed second in 2012 and her work appears in those anthologies. In October 2013 she won the Bailieborough Poetry Festival & Cara Poetry Competition