‘Moving Like Anemones’ and other poems by Lorna Shaugnessy

Crystal

 
The blower adds breath to heat,
turns and blows within the mould
until he finds precise form.
Molten glass vibrates.
It takes ten years
to learn how deep you can cut
before the glass shatters,
how deep you have to go
to catch the light.
Mistakes pile up
waiting for the furnace,
a second chance,
instability anchored
by the weight of lead.
 

Río Tinto

 
We cannot enter the Roman graveyard.
The gates are padlocked and chained
so we press our faces to the wire,
squint at the skewed angles of mossed stones,
the departed minions of enterprise and empire.
Behind us the mines, where pulleys and sidings
punctuate strata of centuries-old endeavour.
Rock and mineral are bared in russets and ochres
too raw for peopled places. Their cratered wounds
fill with water so deep you could drown there.
Today is Sunday. In the high, hushed
absence of trucks to rumble up the hill
we try to hear beneath the wind,
listen for the sound of stone,
touch the injured past, its fissured heat.
 

Moving Like Anemones

(Belfast, 1975)
 
I
 
I cannot recall if you met me off the school bus
but it was winter, and dark in the Botanic Gardens
as we walked hand in hand to the museum.
Too young for the pub, in a city of few neutral spaces
this was safe, at least, and warm.
The stuffed wolfhound and polar-bear were no strangers,
nor the small turtles that swam across the shallow pool
where we tossed pennies that shattered our reflected faces.
We took the stairs to see the mummy
but I saw nothing, nothing at all, alive
only to the touch of your fingers seeking mine,
moving like anemones in the blind depths.
 
II
 
Disco-lights wheeled overhead,
we moved in the dark.
Samba pa ti, a birthday request,
the guitar sang pa mí, pa ti
and the world melted away:
the boys who stoned school buses,
the Head Nun’s raised eyebrow.
Neither ignorant nor wise,
we had no time to figure out
which caused more offence,
our religions or the four-year gap between us.
I was dizzy with high-altitude drowning,
that mixture of ether and salt,
fourteen and out of my depth.
 
III
 
The day was still hot when we stepped
into cool, velvet-draped darkness.
I wore a skirt of my sister’s from the year before
that swung inches above cork-wedged sandals.
You were all cheesecloth and love-beads.
I closed my eyes in surrender
to the weight of your arm on my shoulders,
the tentative brush of your fingers
that tingled on my arm, already flushed
by early summer sun.
Outside the cinema I squinted,
strained to adjust to the light
while you stretched your long limbs like a cat.
You were ripe for love and knew it;
I blushed and feared its burning touch.
 

Dogged

 
The injured past comes back like a mangy dog.
It hangs around, infecting my doorstep with its sores
and the smell of neglect, trips me up when I venture out,
circling my legs, ready for the next casual kick.
If I feed it, it’ll never go away.
If I ignore it, it’ll never leave
but press its scabby skin against the door-pane,
crouch in the corner of my eye, licking its paw,
or cower in the wing-mirror as I drive away
and limp out to meet me when I come back,
loyal and unwelcome as disease.
 

The Watched Phone

 
Her son is out there somewhere
the rain beats his jacket seeps through his jeans
runnels of water travel from nape to chin
 
somewhere out there her son in seeping jacket
beaten from nape to chin
travels through runnels of water
 
out there the rain seeps nape to chin
water runnels down jeans and jacket
her beaten son is travelling
 
he seeps through jeans and jacket
runnelling out somewhere
rain beats
 
water seeps and her son
travels rain-runnelled nape to chin
beaten out
 

Pain has a shaved head

 
and no eyebrows. It stands on one leg,
one foot, the side of one foot,
afraid to take up too much space,
knows the meaning of nothing
and the provisional nature of everything,
knows in a split second it could plunge into something worse
but has no tongue to cry out, only a beak that opens
and closes without sound. The soles of its feet are charred,
toenails thick as claws and a grey-green mould
grows slowly up its legs to bloom in the moist places
of the groin and under arms. Spasms
contort the torso into impossible forms
but its eyes never leave the pitiless ground
that thrusts frangipani, oleander, passiflora,
bird of paradise, hibiscus and royal palm
up and up, relentless,
till the nerve-ends of fronds
touch blue sky.
 
Moving Like Anemones‘ and other poems is © Lorna Shaugnessy

t4_-491194348Lorna Shaughnessy was born in Belfast and lives in Co. Galway, Ireland. She has published three poetry collections, Torching the Brown River, Witness Trees, and Anchored (Salmon Poetry, 2008 and 2011 and 2015), and her work was selected for the Forward Book of Poetry, 2009. Her poems have been published in The Recorder, The North, La Jornada (Mexico) and Prometeo (Colombia), as well as Irish journals such as Poetry Ireland, The SHop and The Stinging Fly. She is also a translator of Spanish and South American Poetry. Her most recent translation was of poetry by Galician writer Manuel Rivas, The Disappearance of Snow (Shearsman Press, 2012), which was shortlisted for the UK Poetry Society’s 2013 Popescu Prize for translation.