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‘Our Sleeping Women’ and other poems by Attracta Fahy

 

Our Sleeping Women

 
I think of my grandmothers,
their faces etched in mine,
their strength sleeps in my bones.
We meet in fields of crows,
their voices speak through the wind.

Old graves sloped down
from our farm. As a child,
I played house, tea sets
on tombs, innocent,
listening to spirits.
Daughters left to work
with duty not to themselves
but others who cared little
for the objects they’d become.

From the clay they cry
the song of the crone,
dreams of lives unlived, hope
moves in the soil beneath
my feet, rises in my breath,
they call – willing me on
with their work,

let your blood bleed
for daughters defiled, mothers
abandoned in shame,
scrubbed of sin in laundries.

Don’t listen to scavengers
who have taken your use,
their fear ripping your pleasure.
Starve if you need, until you’re heard.
Scream yourself into your body.

Your face ours, your womb creator,
the only real home, your self.

Red

 
After her father’s death she needed
a new bag, a red one, ‘a particular red’,
she searched, described the colour:
not the brown-red jasper, carnelian
or sardonyx, stoic like stale blood,
the fire red of scarlet, zircon,
flaming fluorite flames – of hell.

Not caring for dark rose, blood red rose,
rosewood or even a rose itself,
she continued her pursuit, not magenta,
garnet, or even red topaz –
too dark, they felt murky, dim,
vermilion looked too dainty.
Everyone tried – salespeople,

traders, desperate to sell,
appease and please, ‘No’ she said,
‘No’. She needed this bag,
this exact bag, the colour specific
in her mind.
Not jasper, fire opal or sard – although
patterns are appealing – not opaque,

chalcedony stones of the high priestess’s
breastplate. Merlot felt obscure, shadowy,
and too rich. She bought red shoes,
tourmaline, not quelling her longing;
this bag, colour, stone, haunted
her travels, she needed to find it.
Crimson could suffice, virtually

there, this hunt could leave her bereft,
she explained that the red-orange of
carnelian felt weak, it would not carry
her identity – a woman now – and the pink
red agate, amaranth and coral seemed
too youthful. Still in her prime,
the extremely rare beryl appeared

exceedingly old, barn red burgundy
like lava, too strong. Salmon although
elegant, robust, was fragile and flaky
when cooked, orange-red amber
could calm. Tired in search of her red,
unable to unearth that colour, the search
for red defied her. She gave up.

Her friend called. Just back from holiday,
she had found the perfect bag – Imperial Red.
Within, her gift, an antique ring, gold, with a
red stone – fire ruby.
 

Despondency

 
arrived as an unwelcome visitor,
a hungry heron, unsure of prey.
A dark cloud filled the air.
At first glance, I could not see
its slate eyes penetrate,
empty places. Sound,

a vibration, like a crow
cawing before rain.
This time, I welcome its company,
unlike when shutting it out.
We spoke, I listened, chatted
about necessary loss, the things

I loved,
pictures, trips, that china cup
and him, the importance of
grief in letting go.
Peace moved in. After,
we made tea, dunked biscuits.

This dark cloak, my friend,
its pockets, brimmed with wisdom.
 

A Diagnosis /My daughter speaks

 
I remember when my mother forgot simple
things, like where she left the hairbrush.

I helped her find it.
Older than my mother when she

forgot, I don’t remember little things.
Impatiently, my daughter tells me I need

to see a doctor, I may even have Alzheimer’s.
‘I’m worried,’ she says, ‘you’ve got

the wrong names for thing’s
and everything is lost in our house.’

She asks about breast checks, –
her friend’s mum had found a lump.

That mole on my skin needs to go,
she heard about melanoma. Yet again she

asks ‘What age can you get Parkinsons?’
After a half hour in the kitchen,

‘Can I get a lift to my friend’s house?
We’re having a sleepover.’

I lay the basket of her worries
on my table,

I drive.
 

Deirdre of the Sorrows.

 
With fierce perseverance,
a heart, broken with love,
she walks each day, two fields
from her house, to Lough Corrib.
Picks steps like a cautious
curlew on solid ground,
finds a secluded place,
unknown to others.

Hidden between reeds,
she leans in to shelter
against ancient trees.
Caught by a shimmering ripple
across the winter lake,
she dreams the music of another
and weeps for her loss.
No birds sing, instead,

winter mist, in harmony
with grey clouds, reflect
on water, no corals or shells,
only the impassive stems
of dead iris flaying in the wind.
A swan drifts to the lake edge,
others wait in the distance.
She also waits, to hear a bell,

as if to transform the tears that drop
like pearls in an Annaghdown inlet.

Ophelia

There is a storm looming,
somewhere mid-Atlantic
hurricane legs pound toward shore.

Ophelia, unpretentious
builds strength, overemphatic
waters, her eye focused,
moves with intent.
Her swirl dress manoeuvres,
blue hair stream waves
across horizon,
glisten in hazy sun,
clouds heavy with rain.

You listen, hear the eerie prelude
to the roar of her womb.
A thunderous rumble,
seagulls hide behind stone.

Tension, gusts,
brewing stomach knots,
like a braid waiting
to be undone;
her froth mouth
explodes, white foam lunging
her breath onto our path.

A day for sitting,
looking at old postcards,
remembering
you longed to leave,
cascade like others
into the wild, like
Ophelia,
betrothed to Hamlet,
became tornado,
wedded herself.

Your ticking watch,
louder than time,
ruby warm fire flames sucked,
as Ophelia swallows the tide.

A garnet sky,
silver cumulus turns rose.
It is raining –
lines on cards,
from those who stormed
their adventure.

Ophelia
is gathering,
criss-crossing twists
pink, intertwines blue,
crashing she flows over rocks,
flooding

Her entrails
blow over your window,
trees stripped bare
like dangling threads,
call you to let butterfly
fingers, slip ribbons
onto your hair,
rip your tide.

‘I will leave, follow you in winter,
‘Ophelia,’
you whisper, to scattering leaves,
pots, chairs,
the cards thrown over your table,
30 years on.

‘I will wear
a blue swirl dress,
twirl swelling waves,
into hurricane.’

Attracta Fahy’s background is in nursing and social care. She works in private practice as an integrative humanistic psychotherapist and supervisor. She is living in Co.Galway, and has three children attending college. She completed her MA in Writing NUIG in 2017 and participates in over the edge poetry workshops with Kevin Higgins. Her poems have been published in Banshee, The Blue Nib, The Lake, Burning House Press, and Galway Review.

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