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“St Christina’s Gut” and other poems (series) by Clare McCotter

Saint Teresa’s Heart

 
Claiming it a charism too diamond for the dark
they hung her heart out to dry in a glass globe.
Scraped and chafed with a life story

the walls of its chambers reverberate still.
A girl calling out to another, scratches
gold swallows and nival lilies on woodwork

none can unravel. A mystic with inquisitorial
breath brimming the nape of her neck
etches on stone: he has no body but my own

immaculate and shining in fields of barley
this flesh has flown. A nun crossing
night’s cedar soul, writes on an acre of snow:

O my sisters this I left, leaving only entrails
filled with stars and garnets. An old woman
contemplating a wide geranium sky

pencils in its margins: morning has come
all is light and all are inexorably pierced
peregrine and moons circling earth’s fine tilth.
 
Saint Teresa’s Heart published Abridged 0-39 (March 2015), p. 12.
(Revised since publication)
 

Saint Christina’s Gut

 
Of all the trees my favourite
this sea green turning silver pine
roosting me among the stars
the strength of its scent
sapping the stench
of their flesh and their gold.

Hunched on the top branch
I am a sparrowhawk
female of the species
larger by far than any male.
Today I have fed well
on the prey he could not take.

I, my own cartographer
up here with my book of maps
comping high contours
in charcoal chords.
Under this cape my dewy breasts
swollen with lapis lazuli.

Out at the end of a birch twig
I am an ortolan bunting
my song winding
its way past the sun
a thousand pin pricks of light
bursting from seeds in my craw.

No holy anorexic I gorge
on the tufted heads of thistles
in the lavender fields
in fields of millet
vittles needed navigating night
on my long journey south.

High among incensed rafters
I am a pigeon sunk on the hoops
of my nacreous skirts.
This scavenged gut
a neap tide warm and lapping
the edges of magenta feet.

Saint Christina’s Gut published Abridged 0-37 (July 2014), p. 44.

Saint Joan’s Mirror

 
Pouring over her
like amethysts and water
the voices
tell how she glowed
white and gold
walking with night’s dead
in doublet and hose.

Whispering we know
breast buds bruise
plaits hiss, mirrors sicken
they slip away
in snowdrifting petals
leaving her luminous
in the garden of almonds.

She will put the Dauphin
on the throne
rise the fleur-de-lys
over Orleans
and in male attire still be
their astral child
inviolable in the last pond of sky.
 
Saint Joan’s Mirror published Crannóg 41 (Spring 2016), p. 51.
 

Mary Magdalene’s Foot

 
Pilgrims kiss
the window in this silver shoe
seeking a blessing or cure
from flesh once witched
by the beauty
of a road travelled
with Mary of Bethany and Salomé.

A wanderer then
casting my sandals off before entering
the fields of the forest
the footprint
left beside morning’s stone
a weathered intaglio
washed with wild hyssop and water.

And washing others
on the shores of the black harp sea
I was the starry diviner
the myrrh bearer
in eastern light
my insouciant sapphire heart
freer than any in Samaria or Judea.

Some stormy season
this small window will shatter
returning me
to the holy ground
my fingertips swimming out
to the pines and hawks
my sole firm on the dark mineral earth.

Mary Magdalene’s Foot published A New Ulster 39 (Dec 2015), pp. 15/6.
(Revised substantially since publication)

Julian’s Eyes

 
All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well
Julian of Norwich

She did not drink dark cups from the sores
of the dying, feed the destitute
or found an order. Bernini did not trace

the arc her spine, sculpt her sigh or tease out
the sweetness of her fiery entrails.
In a stormy seaport she saw, that is all.

The remaining years in an anchorite’s cell
spent sounding the depth of her vision
till touching the loveliness of its nacreous floor

she wrote: do not accuse yourself of sin
behovely, it lanterns the stones of your wrath
and of this be sure wrath has no breath

but your own. The father no entity only place
where winds stir the high green grain
and a mare swims across a lake’s sunstone face.

Julian’s Eyes published The Galway Review (January 29 2016).
(Revised since publication)
 

Mechthild’s Tongue

 
Lord, you are my lover, my longing, my flowing stream, my sun, and I am your reflection
Mechthild of Magdeburg

Though they think
the bright wick burning in my dark cave
unfit to proclaim the word

still will I speak
because for you, Lord
I have wept in the school of the night

with you tasted mint
and wild sorrel in the mouths of stones.
I have touched rock

drank wine and wild honey
gulped jasper from the face of the sun.
And other than the bird

divining blue, the fish
breathing aquamarine, I cannot be.
My name written

always outside their book
a Beguine sans rule or vow, cursing
the cathedral clergy

who withholding holy office
withheld little
the night a wounded deer moaned

beside the spring
that is myself and kneeling there to drink
drank molten light.

Mechtild’s Tongue published The Galway Review (January 29 2016).
(Revised since publication)
 

Our Lady of Częstochowa

 
Not one to meet on a dodgy side street
Częstochowa is a hard looking case
round the block more times
than she cares to recall
some claim her canvas a tabletop
painted by Luke the Evangelist.
Carried in a blanket
over wintered fields and lakes
to a village shrine.
Placed there to guide and guard
every man woman child
golden grains and heavy horses
their dancing flocks of white strokes.

Not ones for faffing around
the Hussites hit the ground running
shedding icon blood to sap self
laying low sanctum and soul.
With two deep scars
gullying face eye to jaw
slashing swordsmen
thought her well and truly done for.
Fooled by mossy breasts
and robes of iris fleur-de-lys
they could never have guessed
how well the bitch on the shelf
could handle herself.
Czarny Matka The Black Madonna
Queen of the Heavens
Mother of Earth, Star of the Sea
Hodegetria She Who Shows the Way.

Her right hand pointing at her son.
His straight back at her.
 
Our Lady of Częstochowa published The SHOp 46 & 47 (Autumn 2014)
p. 46.

Clare McCotter

Clare 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, Panning For Poems, The Poetry Bus (forthcoming), Poetry24, Reflexion, Revival, The SHOp, The Stinging Fly, and The Stony Thursday Book. Black Horse Running, her first collection of haiku, tanka and haibun, was published in 2012. Home is Kilrea, County Derry.

Disarticulation and other poems by Clare McCotter

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