‘Fugit Amor’ and other poems by Catherine Phil MacCarthy’

The Chamber

One ear to chimney-breast, on bended knee, better to hear
trapped wing-beats, he prized ajar the black ornate
cast hood. Then, slid his arm inside the flue.
As though one gloved limb were deeply sunk
in hind-quarters of a cow, to guide the head in utero.
Though here, no calf in hairy smear or bloody stink
was sensed. First, soot sprinkled rolled up sleeve
of shirt; his thumb and fingers gripped wiry claws
and held. Down, gently, drew his haul into the room.
Disheveled. Stained. Feathery mass weighed his hands.
He cupped the ample beating heart and walked.
The bird was fond of warmth, or slightly stunned.
For seconds brooded. Then, lifted wings and hopped
onto the window ledge. And flew. A freed white dove.

The Chamber is published in The Irish Times.

Fugit Amor

At the Musee Rodin I looked for us
among the lovers. We were never that
fierce, a couple twinned in flight
white marble bodies all delicate curve

back to back lying across air. And yet.
How those arms reach over his head
seize her shoulder, her breast,
how she strains beyond his hands

free and fleet as a bird. They were once
a world lost, abandoned flesh,
and in that searing rush how could they not
fall apart? Look at mouths averted,

bodies caught in space.
He is cast over her facing the heavens,
she is facing Earth. Stretched
on that rack, desire holds them

still, governs her tongue, consumes
him. Here, see how love fares
beyond death, tender as hell,
transports like doves’ wings.


Fugit Amor is published in Suntrap, Blackstaff Press (Belfast 2007). An early version of this poem was published in The Irish Times.


The First Rod: Mackerel at Inis Oírr

Cast the line off the pier
summer nights
into dark stillness,
read the dusk blind,
Atlantic waters at full tide.
Wrist so deft and light
arching the throw
high and wide now,
all six feathers kiss
the black surface like stars
shooting without trace

where a shoal
in its own sweet hour
clots and ripples a current
to the hands, charged
at the least quiver
to reel in the bowed line,
amid whoops and cries,
at pains to land
the weight of this prize,
wriggling and twitching
with silvery light.

The First Rod: Mackerel at Inis Oír is published in Suntrap, Blackstaff Press, Belfast 2007. An early version of this poem was published in The Irish Times.


From early summer
their sage heads
intricate as a mosaic,
swelled to infant cabbages
like three we picked
when you came
flirting and peeling,
ivory leaves
to dip in melted butter
and tease shy flesh
between our teeth.
The rest got spiked
purple hair
the week you left,
tips festering
to pincushion blue
and remorsefully
hanging their necks.
By November our world
was shrunk
to a brown withered husk,
hearts turning to
skeins in my hands.

Artichokes was first published in The Irish Times, May 11, 1991 and is published in This Hour of the Tide (Salmon 1994)

Catherine Phil MacCarthy’s collections include The Invisible Threshold (2012), Suntrap (2007), the blue globe (1998), This Hour of the Tide (1994), and One Room an Everywhere, a novel, (2003). She is a former editor of Poetry Ireland Review (1998/99). She received The Lawrence O Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry in 2014 and won the Fish International Poetry Prize in 2010. A forthcoming collection, Daughters of the House is due for publication.

Fugit Amor’ and other poems are © Catherine Phil MacCarthy