If you were able
you’d go upstairs with me.
Dream your hips poised mum
dipped towards the sun.
In some afternoon’s shuttered light
we’re choosing fabrics to be hung.
your certainty, tugs the rope
of a French church bell.
You’re young again, words held
on winding steps in France.
In this dream I have, as then,
There’s ceramic grace in your descent
decanting scant, satisfied goodbyes,
The wind snaps my back door shut
as I move about the kitchen.
I look over to where you’ve been.
Take in the disappointment of your seat.
The driver’s words are tumours
fat and fibrous, with teeth
sure I’ve seen ‘em blacks fightin in our streets.
his mouth is a gargoyle spout
moss on rivered stone
young voluptuous women
blown across his bones
Tell ya girl, soon Cork won’t be our own
Soon Cork won’t be our own.
Down the bend of the road, he shrinks to small talk
his trip up North
not noticing the cold tap run inside my tone.
Got the cataracts done
Got a deal
Living in a fog, and me behind the wheel!
Fright to god I didn’t get killed.
His eyes are clean; they’re clean
but there’s no light in them
they belong to a child
unsurprised by what’s been done to him.
By the time I leave,
I’m wishing him well.
what it means
this being human
I’ve seen my city’s private parts, advertised on plywood signs
in block-lettered chalk
Adult Only Store Used-up girls inside, starting life in another country but still
I know them from somewhere
I’ve eyed the types, those grey-skinned soggy men, sunken-eyed from watching
The ships that line our docks are tough but grieve to watch the washed-up
purchased lives they’ve lost
Born without footing across slime and muck, slipping up and down inside
our harbour walls
Freezing to death in backs of trucks, not surfacing long enough to breathe
and float and see
black- water swirling menses, spitting ragged blankets up, onto concrete blocks,
no longer fit to warm them
until summer dries them out, maybe days from now, maybe never, maybe lost
in the hacks and splutters
The muttered lines about safer distances between us, between me and these girls
on scratchy screens
inside stores I’ll never enter
Riverrun after James Joyce Riverrun past Eve and Adam Drip and bubble on his tongue River wash through stone and gravel Hot traintracks His schoolbag Oh River Run Thank him for the gift he gave me to celebrate my newborn son River protect the London boy who praised me For just being there River run through his black hair His wings so small so tightly clipped Riverrun a song of loss Forever present on our lips Riverrun past Eve and Adam Thalweg Land bend Delta Flood Once upon a time we left him stranded but the current’s changing A change has come Riverrun, from where he kissed him in some Underpass Overpass Armpit Ledge Behind a wall Wedge of stone River how you’ve always known to carry Adam Carry Eve Carry every love you see River run, past Eve and Adam Past songline Fault line Border Blood Past tall orders Boys born in armour Tense Protective On the run Riverrun through tidal waves Mudflats Basins Wider plains River find the mouths you need Inside us Make them speak of ripples Oxbows Currents Streams Forever carving Changing shape Oh river run and river make Build new mountains His life’s at stake
None of this is helping None of this is helping I hate feeling wanting to hit something not you something thick and unsuspecting a giant block of ice maybe maximum impact Your words are GRATING and I hate bloody zoom pressing small hard LUMPS under my skin Declaring the ugliness of life, My life how I’m living it Telling me how many mothers are raped Speaking to their pain, explain invisibilised deaths at sea. You turn words into verbs even your words have energy I can’t summon. You explain the wrongness of charity Only solidarity, connectedness but I don’t feel it with you hard blow to the ego to feel rage and your language, your speaking to, Honouring, framing, your sensitive lens None of it is helpful; I’m not at all helped. Your naming of friends, Libya Syria Ghana, Reminds me how I’ve never met them. My life is angled away from, what you call the Global South I’m left in no doubt I’m not good. I am not good. Not like you, whose mascara is too thick to look nice, your hair still wet and dripping There is no time, no time, no time your hair still wet and dripping I want everything to be better the privilege that’s mine is layered and sickening. But none of this, nothing about this, or you, is helping. © Jennifer Horgan