“Ecliptic” and other poems by Karen O’Connor

Red

He said my chi was unbalanced
Suggested I wear a red linen shawl
Around my waist – to keep my liver warm

Yoda of the herb world
Laughed at my expression
Admitted it sounded odd

But red always means heat, he explained
So I wore it, next to my kidneys
Like the scarlet woman

Wrapped in reminders of lust
I wore it for my gall bladder
For all hope of redemption

Then he heated me with Bamboo & Hoelen
Spiced me with Cinnamon
Peppered me with Peony

Seasoned so, he grilled me lightly
For three years, turning every quarter
Until my mouth grew apples

My skin sprouted olives
Peppers hung where my breasts had been.
Then he wrapped me in vine leaves

And buried me on the shore.
Warmed by the earth I waited – centuries
Until I was born from my sand womb

Wriggling out in a gush of warm sea water
Naked but for the birthmark
A ring of red around my middle

© Karen O’Connor from her collection Fingerprints (On Canvas) Doghouse Books

 

God Child – Still Birth

for Louie Joseph Collins

I am your Godmother
And yet when you were born
I didn’t want to hold you, or touch you
I couldn’t see past those plastic flowers
They’d wrapped your tiny peeling fingers round
Or the image of you being transported
From the labour ward in the blanket covered Moses basket
Or the room with the holy pictures and the low-watt lamp
Where you waited for our introduction

I was blinded by your frowning forehead
Your skin dark from waiting to be born
Hold him, hold him, pick him up and hold him
I took pictures, closed my eyes through the lens
Looked at the small table lamp, the crochet blanket, the floor

I watched your Nana though, my sister
Take away the plastic flowers; scoop you gently into her arms
And talk to you, talk to you
My darling little boy
I’m your Nana and I’ve waited a long time to meet you
It’s okay my darling, you’re safe now, nothing can harm you

And without warning you were there, in my arms
Surprised by the weight of you, the feel of you
I held you to my breast and closed my eyes
And I met you I met you
No words can explain that meeting
But I met you I met you

Now, when I am quiet, alone, painting
You pull the kitchen chair to the table
Kneel up to get a better view
Your curls wiry and unruly
Bounce with your rhythm
As your small fingertips – dip in the paint
Often leaving their mark at the edge of my canvas

© Karen O’Connor from her collection Fingerprints (On Canvas) Doghouse Books

Thaw

After three days
Of living in one another’s ear
I want to take my clothes off
Climb naked into the fridge
Curl into a foetal pose
Close the door
A hushed click
Marked by the trays and shelves
Piled with decaying cheese
Curdled milk, last nights Chinese
Or was it last weeks?
You’ll find me
A light dusting of frost
Like baby powder
My knees drawn to my breast
My fingers locked
Crisp, fresh, rejuvenated
In explanation, a short note
Pinned to the drinks dispenser
LEAVE TO DEFROST OVERNIGHT

© Karen O’Connor from her collection Fingerprints (On Canvas) Doghouse Books

 

Being your mother

I eat the things you spit out
I bend to your will
at night when I hold you
my shoulders breaking
from the strain
of your two-year
two-stone body
like my ribs will crack
and turn to dust
deep inside a place
I never knew existed
I sing, my breath catching
in my throat
your fingers instinctively
milking mine
settling into sleep
and still I hold you
pull you close
my muscles burn
the night ploughs on
but you and I are still suspended
in my mother’s arms
her fingers curling in my hair
her breath, like mine
breathing in with yours
so close, I often think
it’s you are holding both of us.

 

© Karen O’Connor from her collection Between The Lines Doghouse Books

 

Ecliptic

Our daughter draws crop circles
on the hotel stationery
reminding me that we were married
on December twenty-first
the day the sun stood still
the warmest day
stunning after weeks of rain.
Your father, regal in his
soft cap and matching scarf,
your mother, my maid of honour
a role she had never fulfilled
and you and I after twenty years
saying ‘I do’ as though
we were new and shiny
looking into each other’s eyes
knowing nothing would ever
be the same again.
Afterwards in the hospice
his red rose buttonhole
pinned to his paisley pyjamas
your father told us to go,
waving his handkerchief as though
we were embarking on a voyage,
he sang a verse of
Limerick You’re a Lady
his voice unnaturally low
but clear and crisp
like those expanding circles
growing outwards, touching
space beyond the page.

 

© Karen O’Connor from her collection Between The Lines Doghouse Books

 

Karen O’Connor is a winner of Listowel Writers’ Week Single Poem Prize, The Allingham Poetry Award, The Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award for Poetry and the Nora Fahy Literary Awards for Short Story. She is a poet and short story writer and her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. Karen’s first poetry collection, FINGERPRINTS (On Canvas) was published by Doghouse Books in 2005. Her second collection, Between The Lines, also from Doghouse Books (2011), was featured on RTE Radio 1 Arts Programme, Arena.

Website: https://www.karenoconnor.co.uk/

 

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