“The Corner House” and other poems by Victoria Kennefick

(I don’t know how to spell) Meningioma

 
I float down icy corridors.
My face slips, blurs on skirting boards.
Plastic tiles suck my shoes.
 
In the GA Ward,
the flickering mouth of television
hisses at blankness.
 
An igloo of brains, snow blocks on pillows;
my eyes cast out to look for you.
The German lady asks me for water.
 
She’s never seen you here, she says.
She’s got a tumour, a hail stone in her head,
frozen on an x-ray in the hall.
 
In the waiting room, sweat sneaks out my armpits,
from behind bare knees, freezes like a smile.
Sun flaunts its limbs along the wall –
 
my body perves to lie with it, the mad yellow.
You do not come; I go out double-doors –
anti-bacterial soap melts in my hands.
 
Sun gropes my body back to skin
in the hospital garden.
You are not here but you are warm.
 
My hands are yours, palms up.
The bulbs, the bulbs are polyps too,
they have split open in the soil
 
and there are daffodils.
 

Iron Dragon

 
Mother at the ironing board, washing foams at her feet,
shirts to be steamed into submission.
She pulls one out, stretches its striped skin across the board,
licks her lips, tuts at talk-show drone.
 
A cat purrs against the glass outside, the window full of it,
beyond dark green leaves mantle my mother.
She shimmies the iron into hard to reach places.
In small gaps I think I see where sea turns into air.
 
The iron’s fat plastic body conceals its metal tongue,
pointed with holes, like buds for tasting.
It licks all the wrinkles out,
wraps its long, thin tail around us.
 
At his every-day ring she runs, the beast hot on his shirt.
I reach up; disturbed, the creature’s breath scalds.
At my scream she drops the phone,
her slap on my thigh, we both cry.
 
I touch the burn later; it’s flat, scaly,
like dragon skin.
 

The Corner House

 
Lemonade bottles tinkle in crates,
tiny glass babies kept in drawers;
skulled once by your small gullet
after a day on your uncle’s farm –
a packet of fig-rolls for lunch.
 
Now, push the cap off the bar.
Should anyone open the door,
light would land with a shock
on bouncy floors, splitting ceilings,
flight of the stairs towards sky.
 
Go back, first to the special orders
of bottled stout, golf on the TV,
Paddy Daly’s three ice-cubes in a Paddy;
your father sneaking pints of lemonade,
(before diabetes)
  the colour red.
 
Go back further, your cousin’s underage den,
fairy lights, cider, Blue Jean Country Queens.
Before that? The granny flat,
the curved bridge of her back,
white hair, a surrender to black.
 
To pig’s ears wilted over the pot
overhearing your father’s stories
of shoeless feet, neighbours eating swill,
fires out early, rosaries after dances;
his father making the church gates.
 
Drink up
  (the lemonade is flat and stale).
 
Sneak out
  (this place isn’t yours anymore).
 

Ballycotton Pier

 
Bright lemon day makes our eyes water,
Dad takes us to the pier to fish.
I don’t know where he found the rods &
without really showing us how, we cast off
into silty sea where humpback rocks congregate.
 
I don’t want to catch anything,
imagine something slimy will take the bait.
A tug; Dad shouts instructions, I reel in the line.
The fish’s mouth plucked above the surface
blows desperate kisses into air.
 
Tangled, the dogfish pants, smacks
the swell, swims around itself.
Dad says it’s not worth it, so we cut &
snap – the fish escapes back into black.
We watch it go, white-bellied, bitter & hooked.
 
At dinner, I squeeze a segment over fish
I will not eat, squint my eyes at splattering juice.
The hook in my heart judders, it is all at sea,
we will both carry it, piercing,
into ever deeper water.
 

A Decade

 
Our father is dead, I don’t know where he art,
but my uncle lies in a pale coffin, across the bay window.
We decide they’re both golfing in Heaven, having pints of Murphy’s stout.
My aunt, a Daughter of Charity, leads us in the Rosary;
our lips follow, words jumble out of order, watched children, falling.
Hail Mary (my middle name) ‘Holy Mary,’ my aunt says:
once the little girl who giggled during prayers, scolded, told the ground
would swallow her up. And it will, glory be to God, while my sister’s baby son,
named after my father, is here staring with new blue eyes,
learning how to say the Rosary, so he will be prepared.
 

Afterwards

 
‘At dances they twirled her, an upside-down umbrella,
the night greased-down-shiny, couples plastered
onto the side of pint glasses multiplying at the bar.
 
She stood next to a tall boy for the National Anthem.
He had the smell of petrol, a lift home so;
headlights of his car searched ditches for a kiss.
 
At the white gate, talk of the pictures,
sound of a door closing; gravel crackling underfoot.
She sat on this step under the window, looked out to sea.
 
Black water touched the sky’s soft velveteen.
She breathed in, then out; felt all at once
all at one with the air of everything.
 
Tears pearled her face, drops on a china cup.
She was of the fine make, bone-fine.
If you asked why she was weeping, she couldn’t say.’
 
I cry when my mother tries to explain her mother,
stars spin above us, frozen bodies miles off.
This is the last night we will sit on her step.
 
Through the open window, still hanging in the wardrobe,
her dresses listen, old pennies sleeping in their pockets,
their collars starched, skirts pressed and ready for dancing.
 
A Decade, Afterwards, Ballycotton Pier, The Corner House, Iron Dragon, and (I don’t know how to spell) Meningioma are © Victoria Kennefick


Victoria Kennefick’s chapbook, White Whale, won the Munster Literature Fool for Poetry Competition 2014. It was launched as part of the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2015. A collection of her poems was shortlisted for the prestigious Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2014 judged by Forward Prize winner, Emily Berry. She has also been shortlisted for 2014 Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award. In 2013 she won the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Bridport and Gregory O’Donoghue Prizes. She was selected to read as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2013 and at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival Emerging Writers Reading in February 2014. Her work has been published in The Stinging Fly, Southword, Abridged,The Weary Blues, Malpais Review, The Irish Examiner and Wordlegs. She was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in 2007 and completed her PhD in Literature at University College Cork in 2009. Originally from Shanagarry, Co. Cork, she now lives and works in Kerry. A member of the Listowel Writers’ Week committee and co-coordinator of its New Writers’ Salon, she also chairs the recently established Kerry Women Writers’ Network . She is the recipient of both a Cill Rialaig /Listowel Writers’ Week Residency Award and a Bursary from Kerry County Council this year.