‘Mulcair’ and other poems by Amanda Bell

The beauty of the game

 
is lost on me when I watch you play.
I see the curve of your cheek,
the rounded base of your skull
– once a custom-fit for my palm –
and feel again the warm weight of your incipience.
 
No more walnut-snug in my armour
your head now bobs around the pitch
and air shrieks with the thwack of
plastic against wood,
against bone.
 
(first published by The Ofi Press)
 

Dark Days

 
i.m. Savita Halappanavar
 
Suspended at the end of Krishna Paksha,
the moon is a sickle
freeze-framed in the night sky.
 
The fireworks have been cancelled,
replaced by candles
and a vision of you
dancing on the cusp.
 
These are dark days
between Diwali and Advent,
waiting
 

for the moon to wax.

(first published by the Burning Bush 2)
 

Troglodytes

 
On visiting Lascaux cave for the 70th anniversary of its discovery
 
Inland, the road torcs into forest.
Among walnut trees, the house vibrates
with life: bees, hummingbird moths,
an infestation of squat black crickets.
They love the shade of cool clay tiles
and watch us sleep, eat, bathe, make love.
We sweep them out at night; they won’t jump –
just scuttle, and keep returning.
 
Deep in the lamplit chamber, shadows
in the knotted scaffolding, they watched
hands palpate the limestone for flanks, spines,
manes – and draw them into life.
And when the lamps guttered, they scurried
over aurochs, bison, the inverted horse,
till a dog arrived, with boys and lights,
and they were brushed aside:
not far, but out of sight,
waiting for night to fall.
 
(first published by The Clearing online)
 

The Darkness

 
In winter I awaken to the dread
of losing something indefinable,
and darkness stretches out around my bed.
 
September flips a trip switch in my head
and daily living seems less feasible;
in winter I awaken to the dread.
 
On All Souls’ Night I’d gladly hide instead
of letting on that I’m invincible,
as darkness stretches out around my bed.
 
By December, it’s as if the world were dead:
to fight the darkness seems unthinkable.
Each winter day I struggle with the dread.
 
I wish that I could hibernate instead
of coming to and feeling vulnerable
to darkness stretching out around my bed.
 
I try to think of shorter nights ahead
though springtime now seems inconceivable.
In winter I awaken to the dread
of darkness stretching out around my bed.
 
(shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Competition 2014, and appeared on their website)

Mulcair
Lacking the romance of source or sea, this river middle, sectioned out in beats,
is nonetheless a beaded string of stories, a rosary and elegy.
 
Teens of the 1980s swam in jeans –
our Riviera was the weir at Ballyclough,
where we clambered weedy rocks and dove from trees,
sloped off to smoke and throw sticks into the millstream –
each day at four the river water ran from brown to red.
 
The salmon steps were our jacuzzi, where Jacky Mull
was held under by the current, re-emerging blue
and slower. His life moved one beat down to the factory,
Ballyclough Meats – leaning over concrete walls we watched
him lugging piles of horse-guts – each day at four
the river water ran from brown to red.
 
Beneath the stone bridge lampreys shimmered, on the rocks –
we dislodged them
                                    with rod butts till they coiled round our wellies,
tumbled them onto the lawn at home.
                                                                        In the evenings
we sloughed off our dark silty clothing, forgetful
of our monstrous quarry, slowly writhing on the grass –

each day at four the river water ran from brown to red.
 

 
(first published by The Stinging Fly)
unnamed (2)Amanda Bell is a freelance editor living in Dublin. She completed a Masters in Poetry Studies in DCU in 2012, which proved a catalyst for her own writing, and since that time her work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Burning Bush 2, Crannóg, The Ofi Press Literary Magazine, Skylight 47, The Clearing online, and in haiku journals Presence, Blithe Spirit, shamrock, cattails, and haibun today. In 2014 her work was shortlisted for the Cúirt New Writing Prize and the Strokestown International Poetry Competition, and in 2015 she was shortlisted for the Fish Memoir Prize, and longlisted for the Rialto/RSPB Poetry Competition. Her critical writing has appeared in journals and essay collections. She has a research interest in ecocriticism, and particularly the work of Kathleen Jamie. She reviews regularly for Children’s Books Ireland’s publication Inis. Amanda is a member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group, and is editor of their forthcoming collection The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work.
‘Mulcair’ and other poems by Amanda Bell

‘Delta’ and other poems by Stephanie Conn

Wie is de vrouw on de overkant?

 
Who is the woman on the other side?
It was the only phrase that stuck
in months of pre-trip conversation class.
 
As I struggled with the syntax,
it became clear you were a natural,
spending hours in the lab perfecting your grasp.
 
You couldn’t wait to track down a local
to ask how to say I love you? Ik hou van you,
you said, content with your acquisition.
 
You led me in the appropriate response,
encouraged me to practise daily. Ik hou ook van you;
all it took to keep you happy.
 
The towns we visited belonged to you,
their guttural place names all tongue and throat;
Groningen, Maastricht, Utrecht.
 
You strode through their stone streets
listing the features of gothic churches,
as I fumbled with a bi-lingual map.
 
(first published in the Yellow Nib)
 

Delta

 
The dilapidated hut at the sand’s edge
is a trick of the light, and shadows lift
to reveal a delicate arrangement of driftwood,
crate and rope; the uprooted debris of the sea.
 
Sunlight settles on a sodden sponge.
 
Here on a flat shelf of beach
disparities are ironed out;
faded plastic strips, origin unknown,
dull the glare of emerald glass.
 
Curious shallows slip to the shore.
 
Inland, the polder’s stillness is not disturbed
by the pylon’s hum or the clouds insistent shift.
She is remembering the sea, its possibilities,
drained by the regulated tidiness of men.
 
(first published in The Open Ear)
 

The Metronome

 
In my life there are several firmly fixed joys: not to go to the Gymnasium,
not to wake up in Moscow of 1919 and not to hear a metronome.

Marina Tsvetayeva

 
Tick-tock.
I am four –
I want to live in a cuckoo clock,
emerge on the hour from the wooden door
to call my call.
 
Tick-tock.
I am six –
straight-backed on a black stool as a steel stick
oscillates, its methodical click
measuring my days.
 
Tick-tock.
I am eight –
I want to live in a bright street-light,
peer at the path or up to the sky, and wait
to speak to the stars.
 
Tick-tock.
I am ten –
lead-legged on the parquet floor as mother
sneers at the words that flowed from my pen,
and rips the book.
 
Tick-tock.
I am twelve –
I want to live in Valeria’s room,
touch powders, pills, scent bottles on shelves,
lock myself in.
 
Tick-tock.
I am grown –
know now that love is sharply felt in parting
for she played her last note, left me alone,
free at fourteen.
 
Tick-tock.
I am old –
the clock sends shivers through my clicking spine,
the power of the lifeless over the living told
in the steady beat.
 
(first published in the Ulster Tatler)
 

The Portrait of his First Wife

 
Jealous of whom? Of the poor bones in the cemetery?

Maria Alexandrovna

 
They stand
face to face,
his two wives –
 
no, not quite.
The young one, seventeen,
still has her feet on the ground.
 
She looks up
to the other, hung high
on the drawing-room wall.
 
The beauty gazes back,
smiles with her dark eyes,
her mouth as delicate as a bird’s.
 
The girl walks
to a tall window, looks out
at the silver poplar leaning across the gate.
 
A growing daughter
quickens at her centre, drives her on
through the rooms of this wooden house.
 
And she waits
for the strong wail of a son
to drive out the song of all her nights –
 
the call of a nightingale,
emerging softly from beneath
the locked door, to sooth a living boy.
 
(first published in the Stony Thursday Book)
 

Blinking in the Dark

 
If you have placed your hands, at their urging, on the new wet skull,
small as a cat’s, and recoiled in surprise at the slippery touch
of matted hair, despite the months of waiting, of willing this moment
to arrive, then you too can go back to the start of it all;
to that moment in the dark, eyes shut and alert to every touch
when I caught my breath, and you took it and made it your own
and surged blindly on, splitting to become whole; of course,
we were totally unaware in the instant we set you ticking (busy talking)
but that night I dreamt of rain, or heard it on the window pane –
persistent drops that fell and found the swell of a lake or river and made
for the open sea; I thickened as shadows pulsed on screens and lines peaked
and fell long before the quickening that made you, finally, real –
you held on tight, where others had faltered, and were content
to watch your tiny hand open and close in that watery room until the walls shuddered
in their bid to expel and you emerged and cried out into the light –
our cord cut, they carried you off to count your fingers and toes,
the vertebrae of your still-curved spine, checking for tell-tale signs
that you might be less than perfect; they did not see the cord take form
or hear it hiss as it slithered upward, past my breast, and I lay caught,
lead-legged and tied to machines, as it rose up, ready to swallow me whole.
 
(first published in Abridged)
 
These poems are © Stephanie Conn

blog_32_54d0e3dbad78b-290x200Stephanie Conn was born in Newtownards, Co. Down, in 1976. Her poetry has been widely published. She was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Prize, highly commended in the Mslexia Pamphlet Competition and selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. She is a graduate of the MA programme the Seamus Heaney Centre. Stephanie is a recipient of an Arts Council Career Enhancement Award and recently won the inaugural Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. Her first poetry collection is due to be published by Doire Press in autumn 2015.
‘Delta’ and other poems by Stephanie Conn

Looking at how the media presented the Oxford Professor of Poetry Election for VIDA !

maxresdefault (1)There is an interest for women poets in how media presents electoral processes like the recent Oxford Professor of Poetry appointment. Just as there is an interest in how media views poetry generally.

“I would like to see something different at the next election. I would like to see the media discussing women poets and the benefits that they can bring to the chair, and how their role can influence emerging women poets. I feel that this can be achieved by speaking to women candidates with intelligence and not utilising them as filler material in your ossified view of what poetry is.” (VIDA)
 
I started Poethead as a platform that could create visibility for women poets and their translators. Poetry is primarily a process of creation, however, media often engages with poetry at the point where it has become a product, often within the published book. This convergence of media and poetry was always going to be problematic. That a lifetime of creative effort goes into a finished book or books is not recognised by the reviewer who is only interested in producing copy. In order to fully understand the poem within the book, and the book as object, one often has to read the entire body of work by the poet. That we need magazines like Jacket2, Harriet, UBUWEB, Wording the Between, Poetry Foundation, and other platforms wholly dedicated to the poem is a given for the poetic reader. That the media finds the poet a difficult and irascible creature is also a given. It seems far easier for media to use a simplified strategm or model to present the reader with something amounting to cultivating interest in poetry. Evidently the British national press has been using outdated models to platform poetry. It requires review.
 
If the media had generally ignored the Oxford Professor of Poetry election, it might have been better than the samey efforts journalists used to generate interest in the voting process. Mostly the British media opted for failsafe methods in an attempt to bring interest to the Oxford Election. That the press chose to generally ignore one of the candidates who happened to be a woman candidate seems to me beyond remiss. A created invisibility on the part of national media organisations in the case of A. E Stalling’s candidature for the Oxford chair points to laziness and to a lack of effort with regard to examining androcentrism in literary publication and in academic appointment. In the three centuries since its inception the Oxford Chair has been almost wholly occupied by male poets, with the exception of a brief nine-day female occupancy. So, this week I wrote about media laziness for VIDA! Women in the Literary Arts.

If the media is incapable of challenging sexism in poetry, is uninterested in the academic perception of poetry as a male preserve, or indeed in the low review numbers of books by women poets that occur in their newspapers, then what happened at Oxford will continue to occur intermittently and that my friends is just boring.

Looking at how the media presented the Oxford Professor of Poetry Election for VIDA !

“Summer Haiku” by Maeve O’Sullivan

 

summer haiku

 
 

choppy Irish Sea
failing to dislodge
this red starfish
 
 
 
 
poppy bed:
the unopened ones
as lovely as the blooms

 
 
 
 
a garden full of sunflowers swaying tall
 
 
 muddy summer frogpond    no splash
 
 
 
 

 
 
reject samsara ?
this wild summer river
this wild path
 
 
 
 
these stone walls
hemming him in too-
cinnabar caterpillar
 
 
 
 
cloudy afternoon…
my sweet pea flowers
becoming peas
 
 

A Train Hurtles West

 
 
morning downpour-
we have both dreamt
about our mothers
 
 
 
 
lingering
in my small bathroom…
mum’s perfume
 
 
 
 
Auld Lang Syne
in the background-
I sign her DNR request
 
 
 
 
 
 
 mother dying       a train hurtles west
 
 
 
 
death cert. incomplete   granny’s maiden name
 
 
 
 

All through the Night:
this out of tune version
strangely moving

 
 
 
 

cloudy morning…
her solar-powered plastic flower
sways hesitantly

untitledMaeve O’Sullivan works as a media lecturer in the further education sector in Dublin. Her poems and haiku have been widely published and anthologised since the mid-1990s, and she is a former poetry winner at Listowel Writer’s Week. Initial Response, her debut collection of haiku poetry, also from Alba Publishing, was launched in 2011, and was well-received by readers and critics alike. Maeve is a founder member of Haiku Ireland and the Hibernian Poetry Workshop. She also performs at festivals and literary events with the spoken word group The Poetry Divas. Her poem Leaving Vigo was recently nominated for a Forward Prize for a Single Poem by the Limerick-based journal Revival.

“Summer Haiku” by Maeve O’Sullivan

“The Last Childbearing Years” by Lindsey Bellosa

The Last Childbearing Years

Deliciously, all that we might have been,
all that we were— fire, tears,
wit, taste, martyred ambition—
stirs like the memory of refused adultery
the drained and flagging bosom of our middle years.
–Adrienne Rich, “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law”

 
1.
 
The green leaves: so young against the sun.
How our bodies betray themselves; spine
of white pine, all its vertebrae clinging
to the last of the day’s light—
what insects have fed on it? What birds
housed their young… it being an instrument
and now, not, and now: what? We call it
dignity, what the young fear in their lushness
but the fear once swallowed can’t be swallowed again.
It isn’t the age that tortures; it is the anticipation of the age…
the sons who will forget us, not being forgotten;
the purpose that ruins us and not its loss.
What is empty is not there. Does the past mock
like a calling bird? Do lost opportunities rattle
like phantom limbs? Or what is never tasted,
never remembered? Houses that weren’t built,
children who weren’t born and something, something
else… the scent almost perceptible; the sky always
hanging just out of reach.
 
2.
 
They tell me you won’t remember this time
I am weaving around you like daisies. That our walks
by the stream are only burblings; that my work is you
but it can’t be recognized or rewarded as work,
its meaning uncertain— but it must be done
and certainly not in the wrong way.
 
Dusting the whatnots: waste of a mind;
wasted body becoming an abandoned nest,
a field gnarled and burly with weeds:
eventually past fallow; past use
 
having been granted only that tenderest of privileges
which withers, then rots. I watch my body make a cage of itself:
sag and bulge with importance that is not its own,
leaving behind the shell that is me, and the me—
being for someone else, when it is not wanted or needed…
what does it mean? What is it to itself and how does it stand
in the mirror without its usual measurements?
 
3.
 
Don’t stand at the foot of the bed.
Preserve the allure: don’t see the flower
bulge and pulsate; expand like the moon
which swallows the world, only for another
to emerge. Don’t see how everything comes from this place:
smallest doorway, passage between unbeing and being,
portal. If you see this work, see how the body
is not what it seems: how flesh rips like silk—
not an oil painting, not a porn movie or needlework, not anything
cultivated to the delicate preferences of the eye. Only how power
gushes in laps of grey and blood ; the sheer will of the body
to stretch itself, to reach. How the body houses a sea, all life
teeming in a moment. Only a woman can do this. Only we call them
beautiful. Only we call them frail.
 
4.
 
Ornamental, which adorns, which complements
as though we ourselves are not real, as though we only reflect
what is real… because we unfold, because we reveal,
because our bodies are the flowers which weather,
emerging each spring in spite of elements or desire.
We bear what is necessary— beauty being secondary,
beauty being cultivated, prized, heralded. But the blossom
is not the center; coiled roots reach what is essential,
what sustains. Harvested, we bloom again.
Unwanted, we bloom until that season has past.
Spent, what is sewn from us continues the world.
 
The Last Childbearing Years is © Lindsey Bellosa

6pi9hQn6_400x400Lindsey Bellosa lives in Syracuse, NY. She has an MA in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway and has poems published in both Irish and American journals: most recently The Comstock Review, The Galway Review, Poethead, Flutter Poetry Journal, Emerge Literary Journal and The Cortland Review. Her first full length collection was recently longlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize.
 
“Birth Partner” and other poems by Lindsey Bellosa
“The Last Childbearing Years” by Lindsey Bellosa