‘Red Hen’ and other poems by Shirley McClure

Maternity

 
I want to have poems
by Caesarean section
wearing my Infallible lip gloss
 
and counting on my designer
obstetrician.
I will keep my bump discreet,
 
drink litres of San Pellegrino,
strive to avoid striae gravidarum,
laser them later if it comes to it.
 
I want to live a normal life
despite the media,
and when it’s time,
 
my lines will glide out raring
to open their lungs and wail
as true as any natural birth.
 
Published in Clifden Anthology 35, 2013

 

Red Hen

 
We know nothing
about hens, yet find ourselves
in charge of half a dozen.
 
The odd girl out –
you call her Mrs.One – loses
her footing in the mud.
 
You carry her
into the hen-house
with piano player hands.
 
Still there the next day,
she has turned her blunt
red beak to the wall.
 
We talk to neighbours
about red mites, infections,
wonder if she’s egg-bound.
 
We fill her bowl
with cabbage-leaves,
stroke her tight wings.
 
Her sisters cry out,
foul her water,
shit on her plumage.
 
We are told you’d get
a new hen for the price
of the vet. For the first time
 
I want to crack a bird’s neck.
Instead we hand her back,
ailing but alive.
 
Weeks later you find me
in quick tears
for the red hen;
 
you brush the rust
of my feathers, fill up
my hopper with oyster shells.
 
Published in Orbis, 2014
 

Yoga class

 
I skipped my yoga class
because the man was due
to fix the curtain rail.
 
Upstairs, he poised in heavy boots
on the edge of my bed,
but not before prudently
peeling back the elegant blue
Brown Thomas duvet.
 
Beneath him I stood
at optimal angle to flaunt
my cleavage, to hand him screws.
 
Smoothly he inserted the rawl plug,
then with slightly quicker breath
he drove it deep
into my freshly painted, trembling
Orchid White walls.
 
Threading the hoops unto the pole
we lifted it together,
our fingers touching
as he tenderly
completed the work.
 
Later we did yoga together
dreamt up new asanas
and held them, and each other
until light began slinking through
my brand new curtains.
 
From Who’s Counting?

 

Text Sex

 
Text messaging,
the first hot Sunday in May-
he: I hope you’re doing something
wild. I’m
busy with lambing.
She: Sun-bathing
out the back,
does that count as wild?
He: That depends
on how naked you are…
 
She pictures him delivering,
arm-deep
in placenta,
imagining her nakeder, fuller,
redder than she really is, outside
on a blue rug holding
a silver mobile phone.
 
She turns over, pale still,
unhooks her bra;
they joke about his sad life
chatting to sheep
phone dating,
dreaming of nakedness
in Edenbrook Heights.
 
If she were less prudent,
She’d ask him over now,
shower him, sponge each finger carefully,
massage his neck and armpits
with apricot soap;
but it’s not like that with them,
his wedding band has left a mark
that no lamb’s blood can cover.
She dresses, texts goodbye
and phones
the take-away.
 
From Who’s Counting?

ShirleyPhotoBoyle12_smallShirley McClure’s (1962-2016) Stone Dress was published by Arlen House in August 2015. Her CD Spanish Affair, with her own poems plus poetry and music from invited guests, was launched in June. All proceeds from the CD go to Arklow Cancer Support Group, where she facilitates a writers’ group. Her first poetry collection, Who’s Counting? (Bradshaw Books) won Cork Literary Review’s Manuscript Competition 2009. She won Listowel Writers’ Week Originals Poetry Competition 2014. Shirley lived in Bray, Co. Wicklow.