A Saturday Woman Poet, Contemporary Irish Women Poets

“I Was Swallowed by a Harry Clarke Window” and other poems by Niamh Boyce

I was swallowed by a Harry Clark window.

 
All that flesh. So exquisitely etched.
Decked in magenta, Prussian, cobalt, lemon
even the halos are mandarin. And, oh
so sweet are those cool palms that peek
from viridian pashminas to pray and bless.
 
I’m on the side altar, reverent, gazing
mouth open, keeping clear of the sacristy
(old habits die hardest) when
the scalding tangerine of Saint John’s robe
pours down my throat. Burnt, I douse my
 
tongue in a panel of inky night. Graze stars,
how they bite! And bite, and bite…
 
Fully digested, I stretch
on a glass horizon that peaks like a breast.
Oh, all here is holy, and all here is sex.
 
I Was Swallowed By A Harry Clarke Window was published by New Irish Writing Magazine

 

Frida Kahlo

 
Eyes me from the blue wall of my semi d
in bare necked upbraiding majesty.
 
How luscious is my pain, she exclaims
and I, can produce it, for you, again and again and again.
 
Prefer me bleeding in the red dress
or the yellow one? Like a bone for a token?
 
Just love the way I left absolutely nothing
unspoken? My torment glued to tin votives
 
for eternity. My pudenda pushing its way
through a bouquet of bad memories.
 
Pray gringo, pray for me.
Pick me clean but pray for me.
 
Frida Kahlo was published in The Poetry Bus

 

The First Time She Painted Me

 
She done me in my blue dress
She done me in my pale blue dress
and the wall about the door sang blue too
 
like the breast of a beautiful bird – soar, soar
then I saw the light, the light pour in
thought of church, candles, the Virgin
 
Mary with a snake underfoot
I saw her smile and move that foot
let the serpent wind round her ankle
 
till she swooned and dropped the infant
he shattered without a sound.
Oh Mary, said I, what’ll you do now?
 
Woman, keep your hair on, says the virgin
there’s plenty more where he came from.
 
The First Time She Painted Me is previously unpublished
 

Auld Lang’s

 
Play us an old tune Harvey!
Get on with you Cecil!
 
Why are all these people in my dream?
Have I died and gone to the BBC?
Is this what god meant by purgatory?
Cut glass accents splintering under hoof?
Ties tight enough to strangle Adams fruit?
 
And there’s the sweet lord
lifting a Daz white shirt
like a flasher in the park
as dry lips get to grips
with cigars off which
teeny tiny ladies
plunge, flashing
regions nether
and sausage gut
suspenders.
 
Guts, I’ll have yours for garters
says uncle Toff, as he sucks his teeth
with a short shnup
like a rubber glove
coming off.
 
And all the men grow pink cheeked and sprout wings,
tiny things, that wouldn’t carry a budgie across a kitchen,
but they rise and rise and their bellies hang sky high,
there must be a dozen or so of them,
overblown milk fed men,
their navels like punctures ready to happen,
and drown us all,
drown us all who waltz
across the parquet floor
paired and in time, mouthing Auld Lang’s Syne
 
as the piano woman doubles
to set herself against the clock, and the count
(of ten, nine, eight…) down, towards midnight
 
and I look again and see she’s not bent,
that her spine curves with intent
under the daisy dashed taffeta
hailing down her back,
 
five, four, three,
the fat men go cerise,
and two, and one,
and the year
bursts open.
 
Auld Langs was published in The Poetry Bus
 

Petronella

 
Sleepless under hotel sheets I summon
the sleeping child pose of my sleeping child
the wild raspberries on the saucer beside him
 
that tired mother this morning, her twins
sucking slim wedges of melon, those two
tanned magpies who speared all the fruit.
 
Then Alice’s maid, who preys on my dreams
climbs in, with herb fingers and hot breath
clutching a sack cloth dyed red, whispering
 
whoever needed a scapegoat as much
as Alice? Four greedy husbands hoping
for the deeds? Step-children planting seeds?
 
I drift off under thin sheets, sensing poetry
in these walk on parts, the after charge
of a passing heavy goods vehicle
my heart that will someday stop beating.
 
Note: Petronella was the maid of Alice Kyteler and was burnt as a witch in 1324.
 
Petronella was published in The Moth Magazine
 

Night

  
Blue-black fur skims every part of me that moves
and I move quickly, from mother bed to a maze
of paths, glazed with scattered crumbs of glass.
A creature whose voice I can’t hear, whose face
 
I can’t see, is teaching me to read with my feet.
This is a time, not to think. Travelling deep
is tough. It’s always winter. No. Love isn’t enough
in the tinker palace of memory. Bird women squawk
 
overhead, a carnival of forgotten babble.
Baubles swing from their claws, clear spheres
pregnant with sea, moon and sky. They swoop.
Their eyes are yellow with history. Look back!
  
Who knew there were so many of us? I see beasts
unfettered freaks. Feathered, furred and taking
corners until undergrowth gives way to cliff face.
Blinding sapphire waves break, plunge us
  
one by one into an amniotic ice blue sea
where we settle to an alert rest. If
you look now, I’m still. Except for a fishy
under-lid flicker. Sleeping. Not
  
bottom of the ocean, breathing water.
Permeable. Suckling the rushes of some
early second. When a secret runs past
my fingertips, I listen.
 

Night was published in Southword Literary Journal

Niamh Boyce

Niamh Boyce

Niamh Boyce’s novel The Herbalist (Penguin Ireland) won 2013 Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. She won Hennessy XO Writer of the Year for her poem Kitty in 2012 and her unpublished poetry collection, The Beast Is Dead, was highly recommended in the 2013 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award.

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