A bolthole, a room half elsewhere
adrift in distant grandeur,
where breath condenses between damask drapes
and the wing of a mahogany table.
Where an ear might catch the scratch
of a pen, a girl trawling the depths of an inkwell
pouring words, slippery as a river of fish
spilling loose of their net,
slapping their wet tails on the brocade.
What to do with such riches —
feed them to her mother’s wedding gifts,
pile them into fluted dessert dishes,
fling their blue-black panic into the belly
of the lamp ravening on the sideboard,
the soft spill of innards silvering her fingers
cracking their verbs and consonants
the way her mother cracks
the necks of chickens.
The Three Card Trick Man
After a line by Tom Duddy
The reason I come here is not the horses,
though bookie shops abound and a litter of crushed slips.
It is always sunny and work is over for the weekend
and the girl in the red dress has just stepped out –
not exactly a carnival atmosphere, more
a thoroughfare of anticipation, the mood buoyant,
a painter’s delight,
the air still holding the day’s warmth.
There he is just off a side-street,
part of a circle hunched around a makeshift table.
The scrubbed nape,
an odour of soap and aftershave.
The picture steadies, the table is swept,
and the look when he turns to her
pales the red of her dress.
Impossible to say what passes between them –
a wager of innocent measure,
the small treacheries of love and its necessities.
Here I will leave them with everything still to play for.
It is midwinter.
Your hands are chilled.
I lift you,
gather your first whimpers onto my pillow,
knowing as much by instinct as touch of skin.
We lie here amazed at the dark,
aware of the house sleeping around us,
the quiet patterns of breath.
Outside, the snow lies thick.
In this landscape of wild skies
and running tides,
and mornings lit with rapture,
I must have been falling most of my life
to land here temple to temple
in this pre-dawn calm,
of breath with breath
your hands cupped in my palms.
What had us on the road
that early May morning
when the Ballisodare bread van
and dropped two wax-wrapped, sliced-pans
on the tarmac
warm and fragrant
as two babies
tossed from their cradle.
The van sped on
like a run-away train
or a liberated pony
lifting its tail.
Prime and other poems are © Peggie Gallagher