“Inishturk” and other poems by Alvy Carragher

Confession

 
he gave me three Hail Marys,
even though I couldn’t remember
any sins to tell him and relied solely
on things I’d read in Dennis the Menace,
whispered words I’d heard my parents screaming,
just to hear how they sounded, see his face fall
and figure out how bad they were
 
I sat in hard pews looking at my sister
bent over in remorse and
wondered if God heard me lying,
stayed head bowed long enough
to look like I’d said mine
 
I slipped the Hail Marys into my back pocket
and left my sins to sort themselves out
 
we made our way home,
two miles of country road,
my sister high on forgiveness
 
I pressed against the cold pane,
our dog cracked against the chain,
there was the smell of scrubbed floors,
the mottle of memories stuck in our carpet
 
I waited for the slump of my sister through the door,
slower up the last hill home, I had left her there,
the slap of my bag on my back
and from my pocket
the sound of Hail Mary
screaming her own name
 
the off-kilter crooning of my mother
as she sang eighties music to the oven,
it was easy then,
lost in the ritual of coming home
 
before the softness broke and the silence fell,
we sat tight fists at the dinner table, waiting
for his words, hoping they landed on someone else
 
I want to tell my sister, even now,
about the Hail Marys,
how I should have said them for her
 

Inishturk

 
I slowed my step for you,
as we dipped between hills,
at the edge of the Atlantic,
they sent us away each morning,
no room in the cottage to hold us,
you tripped to keep up, as we ran
our small wild hearts out to sea
 
at the cliff’s edge,
our backs to the sun,
that big American wind
ripped the coats off our bodies,
we dropped and rolled to keep from blowing over,
cousins told stories of pushing battered cars in,
to watch the sea’s snarl swallow them whole
 
our uncle kept an eye on things,
bent to the window of his front room,
the shake of his sick hands
pressed to the telescope,
waiting for that terrible sea to rise-up
and force out another goodbye
 
we hid in the calm of the bay,
scrambled over wet rocks and seaweed,
settled to a day spent smashing barnacles,
making bait to fish-out a hundred crabs,
just to throw them back in again,
until, one cracked against a currach,
split its hard shell, and we stood still
as the slosh of water pulled it under,
the dull ring of death sat between us
 
that night, playing suduko
by the turf fire, huddled together,
and you, too young to understand,
watched my numbers dart across paper,
we walked the black roads,
the sky awake with starlight
led us along pot-holed boreens,
as we counted the wink of houses,
and trusted the land beneath us
 

The carpenter’s daughter

 
sits in the sawdust heap, because it smells
just like her father, all warm dust and work
 
sweeps wheelbarrows of it out from under saws,
the scent of steel, the blade still above her head
 
pulls planks bigger than her across the room,
wants to know how to fix a shelf, or sand a chair
 
she loves most what wood can become,
rubs the blisters on her soft hands
 
they’ll turn calloused like his carpenter’s skin,
a small sacrifice, to be the one, to make-
 
a new world from that which has fallen,
sliced from the sky to never see it again
 
she has the gist, but not the knack,
the gist is building with bravery
 
to take a tree stripped of all its dignity,
then put it back together tenderly
 

It’s easier if you pick a moment

 
one place in time where your eyes met,
most likely there is red wine involved
or mascara and bad but flattering lighting,
there’s a dance floor with a pulse
driving you into his arms, remember that
 
or was there a simpler day,
cocooned in duvets till afternoon,
sunlight filtering your laughter
and he made cinnamon toast
in the sandwich maker,
you got butter in your hair and the bed
smelt like burnt sugar for days
 
you probably fed each other, at least once,
was it chocolate or grapes or
another excuse to have your
hands bare at the others lips,
mouths salty with the taste of skin
 
did you catch him, sometimes,
shadowed in the morning,
as he slipped into day-clothes,
you pretended to be sleeping,
so he could leave you a love note
and the coffee seemed sweeter
with his morning words
penned across paper
 
remember when you sat by water,
head in his lap, just listening,
he told you a story about lost loves
finding their way back to each other,
you didn’t think about the words,
just thought that it sounded nice
 
it’s easier if you forget the context,
the fight before, the hours spent
screaming over dirty dishes,
how the bills grew up around you
 
details will only make you forget,
the part in the story, when he says
he will always love her
and you know with certainty
that he means it

Inishturk and other poems is © Alvy Carragher.

alvyA Pushcart nominee, Alvy’s Carragher’s first collection is forthcoming with Salmon Poetry (2016). She has featured at events like Electric Picnic, Edinburgh Fringe Fest, RTE’s Arena and Cúirt International Literary Festival. She has a first class honours in her Ma of Writing from NUIG where she focused on poetry. Her work has been published in The Irish Times, The Boheymth, The Galway Review, Ofi Press Mexico, Bare Hands Poetry and many more. She is also an Award Winning Blogger at With All the Finesse of a Badger.
 
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