‘Entering The Mare’ and other poems by Katie Donovan


Entering the Mare

(The inauguration of an Irish chieftain, as observed by Gerald of Wales in the 12th century)
She stamps and shivers,
her white coat vainly shrugging,
as the would-be chieftain
plunges in, burying deep
his puny, acrid man’s seed,
between her fragrant haunches.
The Goddess lives
in her fine rearing head,
the pink stretch of her lips,
the wide, white-haired nostrils.
Her hoof
might have crippled him,
her tail
whipped out his arrogant eyes.
Instead she jerks clumsily,
trying to escape
the smell of his hand.
Later he swims
in the soup of her flesh,
sucking on her bones,
chewing the delicate morsels
of her hewn body.
He has entered the Goddess,
slain and swallowed her,
and now bathes in her waters –
a greedy, hairy, foetus.
Rising from her remains
in a surge of steam –
her stolen momentum –
he feels a singing
gallop through his veins:
a whinnying, mane-flung grace
rippling down his spine.
Riding off on the wings
of the divine Epona,
he lets loose his dogs
to growl over her skeletal remnants,
the bloody pickings
in the bottom of his ceremonial bath.
from Entering The Mare (Bloodaxe,1997)


Beneath the amber hood
of the street lamp,
beside the black gates
of the somnolent park,
we are eyed by fanlights,
flanked by motionless cars.
In this blind Georgian lane
you lean in
to claim a kiss.
I offer you my goodnight lips,
staying like a shut purse
in your embrace,
wary after years
of opening too fast
my burns still hurt and proud.
Yet the sweetness of your mouth,
and your tongue — a luscious,
sinuous sea-creature –
is a feast I cannot resist;
nor can I pull back
from the strength in your arms
as you draw me close,
loosening your coat
to fold me
in your cinnamon heat.
Here it is, timeless,
a scene on a street:
a man and a woman
tongued and grooved
into one.


Little wrestler,
you snort, snuffle
and lunge;
latching on
like a cat
snatching and worrying
her prey.
Once attached,
you drag on me
like a cigarette,
puffing between sucks,
nose pressed close,
somehow catching
your wheezy breath.
Between rounds,
in your white wrap
you arch your back
for a rub,
like I’m your coach,
readying you
for newfound strength
in the ring.
Your fists flail,
fingers hooking
my nursing bra,
your feet curl and kick,
toes a feast
of tiny action.
There is nothing romantic
in this vital ritual,
yet I crane over you,
a loose sack,
liquid with the loss
of your form,
with the tears of labour
and lolling hormones
making me gush
along with my womb,
still churning out afterbirth.
So when
you dandle my nipple
with a gummy smile,
I tell myself
your grin’s for me,
even if you’ve got
that look
of a seasoned souse
on his most
delicious tipple.
Katie Donovan 2002

All poems published here are from Rootling: New and Selected Poems published by Bloodaxe (2010). Entering the Mare originally appeared in 1997, in a collection called Entering the Mare. Confluence comes from Day of the Dead, a collection from 2002.

Katie Donovan Image is © Mark Granier
Katie Donovan Image is © Mark Granier

Katie Donovan has published four books of poetry, all with Bloodaxe Books, UK. Her first, Watermelon Man appeared in 1993. Her second, Entering the Mare, was published in 1997; and her third, Day of the Dead, in 2002. Her most recent book, Rootling: New and Selected Poems appeared in 2010. She is currently working on a novel for children.

She is co-editor, with Brendan Kennelly and A. Norman Jeffares, of the anthology, Ireland’s Women: Writings Past and Present (Gill and Macmillan, Ireland; Kyle Cathie, UK, 1994; Norton & Norton, US, 1996). She is the author of Irish Women Writers: Marginalised by Whom? (Raven Arts Press, 1988, 1991). With Brendan Kennelly she is the co-editor of Dublines (Bloodaxe, 1996), an anthology of writings about Dublin.

Her poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies in Ireland, the UK and the US. She has given readings of her work in many venues in Ireland, England, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, the US and Canada. She has read her work on RTÉ Radio One and on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 3. Her short fiction has appeared in “The Sunday Tribune” and “The Cork Literary Review”.
  from Katie Donovan’s website