“Disarticulation” and other poems by Clare McCotter

Selfie With Thelma

after Thelma and Louise
In the Southwest desert
shedding turquoise on an old man’s palm
she trades time
for a beat up Stetson hat.
Only a day or two
since she posed with rose red lips
black sun glasses
and Audrey Hepburn headscarf
marking the start of their journey
with the big Polaroid held at arm’s length.
A snapshot of two smiling faces
left lying on the backseat
of a convertible
loaded down with all the stuff
they thought they needed
pencilling in borders
shoring up boundaries
soon smudged with ochre earth
lost in the dust from a stampede of stars.
Everything looks different now
doused with dirt they are part of place
gunning the engine
before flooring it for the canyon cliff.
Out here at Dead Horse Point
there are no shallow graves
wooden markers or name plates
only a thunderbird
still whipping up storms
suspended in a high solitary leap of faith.


in memory of E M
For them the grave gave no rest.
Solely a spot to have and hold
not visit on stormy nights
with avellana and white lupin.
Their beloved kept above
the inscrutable depths.
Each light riddled skeleton
dispersed near and far
along slender paths
in groves of mountain thorn
among the forest’s earth stars.
Scattered bone shrines
leaving the departed free to wander
across space and place and time.
Out there in the raven Mesolithic
would they have buried you
with ochre and antler
deer teeth, flint and amber?
Far from settlement
on an island low in brackish water
would they have fanned flames
to seal the grave’s scarlet lips?
Back in our un-velveted sixties
dying the wrong death
your own was dug in liminal land.
Striking distance
of font and altar and magenta
gold and indigo glass
the tract where they lowered you
our dangerous dead.
But soon unearthed bones
will gleam in a blue Bedouin moon.
Humerus ulna radius
set on the valley’s wind scoured floor.
Femur fibula tibia
high on dry northern chalk.
Mandible and skull
without blessing stone or feather
here above bog and pine
and old ghost trains.
Alone where the watch bitch walks.


From boyhood he had an eye for wood
reading sycamore and sitka spruce against the grain
he knew where to dip his hands into the shallows
scooping out rainbow trout and salmon.
It was all about patience, he said
kings of the orient and stars and lambs and shepherds
coaxed to surface with small short strokes.
Knife more buff than blade
guiding stag out of oak that wanted to be deer.
Disappeared on august sixteenth nineteen eighty one
his was a long wake
push and pull motion paring flesh to bone
laid out in half bog half quarry three miles from home.
Twenty nine years of Sunday searches
brought her a graveside
to shadow with time and worry whittled skin.
Thin as each and every syllable they chip in granite –
it wasn’t authorised by the leadership.

Shergar’s Groom Wonders

What friends would think
if they knew
history is filtered
through the eye
of a horse
other times would have buried
in a bridle of brass
with grave goods at his muzzle.
Shergar’s groom wonders
if those rebels
would have emptied a Mauser
into the river running down his face
or turned him loose
on mountain or meadow
slapping his rump
just for the hell of seeing him run.
Shergar’s groom wonders
if his bright boy
expected car-lined afternoons
bookies shouting odds
a jockey punching air
being led up that rickety ramp
night a soul-shaped thing
was glimpsed in frosted breath.
Shergar’s groom wonders
if Equus could really be attuned
to the rhythms
of the human heart
his dark pulsings
the last
the horse heard
no other could have gotten so near.
Shergar’s groom wonders
to this day where his bones lie
knowing they thought
him the perfect hostage
free from blood
they thought wrong
the horse
more brother than his father’s son.
And he would have been made lovely
for the earth.

“Disarticulation” and other poems are © Clare McCotter
unnamedClare McCotter’s haiku, tanka and haibun have been published in many parts of the world. She won the IHS Dóchas Ireland Haiku Award 2010 and 2011. In 2013 she won The British Tanka Award. She also judged the British Haiku Award 2011 and 2012. She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on Belfast born Beatrice Grimshaw’s travel writing and fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Abridged, Boyne Berries, The Cannon’s Mouth, Crannóg, Cyphers, Decanto, Envoi, The Galway Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Iota, Irish Feminist Review, The Leaf Book Anthology 2008, The Linnet’s Wings, The Moth Magazine, A New Ulster, The Poetry Bus (forthcoming), Poetry24, Reflexion, Revival, The SHOp, The Stony Thursday Book and The Stinging Fly. Black Horse Running, her first collection of haiku, tanka and haibun, was published in 2012. Home is Kilrea, County Derry.