“The Devil, Oblique Angles and Polka Dots” by Sue Cosgrave

The Devil, Oblique Angles and Polka Dots

For Grandmother

Your host shimmers
beyond the margin of this page
as my fingers tap-tap you from the dead.
 
It takes you a while to snap into focus.
 
You remind me
of a day when I was eight,
                      or ten, at most,
 
the day I got lost in the woods.
How I blubbered and wailed for you!
 
When you finally found me—
a snot and hiccup spewing fountain
– not pretty.
 
“What took you so long?”
 
It was strange how you appeared, seemingly out of nowhere;
haloed in spring beyond the green fog of young birches,
your sudden presence, not reassuring – not at first –
“why did you leave me?” I cried
 
all the while, you, unruffled, reproached me: “Shame on you. A big girl crying
like a baby. And for no reason at all. Don’t you know that God
is watching over you, Detushka?’
 
Aha! This is where I should invoke the DEVIL.
Yet, there is no need,
for he’s here, already, lurking.
in the detail, wearing

your best navy polka dot dress – what else –
the one you were buried in.
The one you had kept shrouded, when alive,
in a film of translucent tissue.
 
How well I recall the day:
me, six years old and agog
 
for the morbid. For hadn’t you whispered to me:
“I’ll tell you a secret – something you should know
for when I’m dead.”
Of course I was disappointed! A DRESS? IS THAT ALL? Polka dots!
What the devil! I should have / could have exclaimed, but sure,
at that age I didn’t know any better.
 
But no, it is you, not the devil I see hovering just there,
where my eye does not dare
appearing to me as you did that day in the woods:
light streaming over your left shoulder, oblique, aimless—
the light, of course,
not the shoulder, for the shoulder, even lopsided,
 
knew where it was heading.
 
Heaven was always your destination,
              as I knew only too well.
And I knew, equally well, there was no place for me
 
astride a puffy cloud my nose buried in your soft breast
gleaning comfort from your old woman smell.
 
No.
 
My place was in the woods. Kneeling on a bed
of prickly pine needles.
 
Of course I hated that icon of yours;
that dead-eyed, flat-faced Madonna
and her miniature child simpering at me in his nakedness
when all I wanted to do was sleep
while you, awake at the crack of dawn, genuflecting
 
to them,
praying all the while:
 
I hasten to Thee,
O Master, Lover of mankind, and by Thy loving-kindness I strive
to do Thy work

 
… and oh, how you worked!
digging the permafrost. Building His canal,
the one that went nowhere.
 

GLORY, GLORY THE REVOLUTION!

 
and I pray to Thee: Help me, O God, at all times
 
Did he ever!
But, perhaps He did, at that.
What is it they say about God and burdens? He did help,
after a fashion:
by the time I was born, your once dainty feet,
He had magic-ed to the size of a man’s,
and your delicate hands to that of shovels.
 
and deliver me, O God, from every worldly evil thing
and every impulse of the Devil       OHO, HERE WE COME

TO THE CRUX OF IT:
WE CAN NEVER ESCAPE THE DEVIL.
 
Yes, I fed him tasty morsels to do my bidding – unknowingly –
I believe.
 
I made him promises,
offered him rewards,
without knowing I was doing any such thing. Like the time I cut
my Barbie’s hair for him
(he liked her shorn of course, her eyes, hence, more visibly dead).
 
You see; the Devil was honest that way. And a good teacher too:
no more worship for me at the altar of Barbie! That’s why
when your icon fell off its perch
 
I knew IT WAS HIS DOING!
 
So what if it was my rubber ball that hit the shelf where the icon rested,
Madonna and Child no longer serene above the ever-burning flame?
 
Sure,
even the Devil needs a helping hand.

The Devil, Oblique Angles and Polka Dots is © Sue Cosgrave
Sue Cosgrave was born in Russia and spent her formative years in the United States, in Iraq and in Finland. After travelling extensively in Asia and the Americas, she worked in various parts of Africa before settling in Ireland. Her work, drawing on many cultural traditions, appeared in the Cork Literary Review, The Five Word Anthology, Can Can, Abridged, The Bone Orchard and The Irish Examiner among others. She featured as a guest reader at various events both in Ireland and the UK. Sue has a Masters in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and is currently working on a trilogy set in Iraq as well as a poetry and a short story collection. In 2016 she was finalist for the Wisehouse International Poetry Award

“Sunflower” by Susan Millar DuMars

Sunflower

In Memory of the 796 infants and children who died at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

 
I dream a face as rounded as a girl’s
and then the petals bright like sunlit hair –
I dream a sunflower unafraid to touch
my shadowed skin, the nourishment of air.
 
Bury all the children underground
far from harm, sheltered by the dirt.
Stunted seeds, tucked in muck-dark beds.
Safe from you, safe from me, safe from hurt.
 
© Susan Millar DuMars

untitledSusan Millar DuMars has published three poetry collections with Salmon Poetry, the most recent of which, Bone Fire, appeared in April, 2016. She also published a book of short stories, Lights in the Distance, with Doire Press in 2010. Her work has appeared in publications in the US and Europe and in several anthologies, including The Best of Irish Poetry 2010. She has read from her work in the US, Europe and Australia. Born in Philadelphia, Susan lives in Galway, Ireland, where she and her husband Kevin Higgins have coordinated the Over the Edge readings series since 2003. She is the editor of the 2013 anthology Over the Edge: The First Ten Years.

“Magic Bullet” and other poems by Rus Khomutoff

 

Untitled

for Andre Breton
 
Nostalgic sentiments and new wave nocturnes
intersecting in a normal chaos of life
an hourglass of neglected affinities
idols of saturated phenomena
night of filth, night of flowers
the aporia of revelation
 

Magic Bullet

(for Tristan Tzara)
 
 Smell of death
smell of life of embrace
a medicine of moments
semiquavers and sundial conductors
of the postspectacle
deposits of legitimacy left behind
sortilege of the divine decree
words in blood like flowers
 

Grand Hotel Abyss

 
 Selenophilia of our being
the obscuring of the queen
vexed in your hollow divine
incipience of the notable nonesuch
like fragrant paperwhites in the
corner of the transcendental frame
pleasure ground of annulled pretext
in hysterically real daymares
everyday extraordinary
grand hotel abyss
 

Masque of the minutes

for Adam Lovasz
 
 Masque of the minutes
like a red psychotonic cry
agnosia of the just interloper
scarlet bellowing of the deep end
excisions on vacuous origins
temporal flight of the elemental route
 

Hygge

 
 A sense of timelessness surrounds her
mistress of malfunction
platinum god afterbirth
countdown to zero
inferior rhyme over the threshold
redux and progression
 
Magic Bullet and other poems are © Rus Khomutoff.

dsc07827My name is Rus Khomutoff and I am a neo surrealist poet in Brooklyn, NY. My poetry has appeared in Erbacce, Uut Poetry and Burning House Press.Last year I published an ebook called Immaculate Days. I am also on twitter:

“The Suitcase” and other poems by Breda Spaight

Her Cross

 
When I drink, it is always 1967.
The dog lies still on the frozen grass, white blades bowed
under blinking crystals; the chain
from its neck to the conifer muddied and knotted
like a root from which it draws life.
I remember it as a pup, like all the pups
my father ever brought home when drunk,
the milky smell of its vigorous body, fonts of sorrow
in sloe-black irises.
What do we have here? What is this?
He produces the pup from his inside coat pocket
carefully as a birth, his face at its most wounded:
he could cry, vomit, or even laugh, the pup held high
like a boyhood memory beyond his reach
yet as close as yesterday,
alcohol collapsing time like time in a fairy tale.
I am tired of my father; we’re all tired of him –
a continuous season of storm upon storm,
calm only the calm of the eye.
And so the pup ends up tied to a tree, savage;
the half-moon it inhabits no larger than ours, grass worn
down like chewed fingernails, the verge jagged
as the amber outline of piss stains
on the bed-wetter’s sheets.
To give my father his due, he never slaughters a dog
that hasn’t first bitten him. He stands with a pitchfork at the edge
of Rex-Prince-Spot’s sphere of mud,
goading – a flagellant coveting his own blood,
scourging his sin, craving a cure
stronger than drink to kill
another tomorrow;
our mother’s mouth red as a cut, Christ, not in front of . . .!
Lassie
blares all around us in the kitchen.

 
Runner up in the iYeats International Poetry Competition (2016).
 

The Suitcase

 
By now, I’m a collector of secrets.
I seek mute corners,
sift dream from the half-remembered,
meaning from the half-known –
staccato night whispers in the kitchen,
the long silence. Bone-white elbow tip, all that’s seen of my father’s
arm under my mother’s skirt in the orchard that sunny day, her toes
clenching grass, the shudder in her voice, nettle-sting shock
ripping between my legs.
I move silently against the scent of their bedroom,
against white light soaked from sheets
stretched skin-tight, the black suitcase
beneath the bed; the lining, blood-red as blood, dotted with dot-size,
white stars, carnival in scale,
my mother’s old dresses – blues, greens, pinks, black & white stripes, vital
shades in a magician’s trick.
I covet them,
as though knowing the burn of a man’s hand
on a body that looms in me, one I recognise in slim, belted shapes
I drag from her raw self, a girl who flirted, jived,
her dress the flared bloom of a foxglove, her core signalling its want for
me in her womb,
not knowing that in giving me life, I will seize everything
from her
time after time.
 
Winner of the Boyle Arts Festival Poetry Competition 2016
 

Bacon

 
I still see her fold in half, one leg ballerina-
raised for balance as she bows into the wooden
barrel for next day’s flitch of bacon.
 
My brother wears his cowboy suit – black hat,
leatherette waistcoat with fringes across
the chest; his gun holster buckle the Lone Star.
 
Meat steeps in a bowl of water overnight.
Salt liquefies, spume rises and floats while
she sleeps in a house of thunder, moths’ furred
 
bodies pattering the whore-red glow of
the sacred heart lamp on the kitchen
window, The Virginian’s gun under his pillow.
 
She slices bacon with her loneliness, the air
marbled various auras of sad – dawn, midnight,
August, the long years of her love like
 
starlight’s colossal dying, John Wayne
at the kitchen door, I’m the sheriff ‘round here.
Hands in the air, an’ nobody gets hurt.
 
First published in Communion 2015 (Aus)
 

That Man

 
Mental asylum – my first big words, motherese
for sad man and my mother drinking
tea at the front wall, on summer Tuesdays.
 
Her voice cords with his, words sung
in each other’s face, spun out film noir
mumbles, something late-night, Ingrid Bergman;
sudden silence like the abrupt black
of a blank television screen on a couple kissing,
frisson between her and Father
amid the kitchen smell of second-day stew,
squandered flesh.
 
On those heat hazed afternoons, chestnut horses
in Madden’s furlong field tongue each other’s
withers, neck, flank,
 
tail-swish, swish,
wind among pampas, swish,
across steppe –
 
two mugs in the sink,
teardrop tea stains.
 
First published in Orbis 2015
 

Safe Period

 
After her third child, X marks the forbidden
days, and my mother sleeps in my bed, sour
in her heat,
summer Sunday odour of seaside, odd nights
when she’s suddenly
beside me, gasping,
hiding underwear beneath the pillow
after wiping herself, rosaries murmuring
through damp fingers in birdsong dawn,
prayer and seed coursing
to her very womb, the Our Father,
Hail Mary mumbled to the inner chant –
I hope I’ve escaped,
this time.

Days when the house is a chorus
to her strain; doors bang, pots clatter:
she loathes her nature,
not sex, but holding him, his whispered doubts
pleasure to her heart, a fault before Christ
the redeemer, the child a curse, mishaps buried like pups
in dung heaps.
They avoid each other
in the evenings, the Please and Thank you
of strangers, air crackling, the ferocity of
unspent sex worrying every cell, bodies
hunched over chairs, his voice leading hers in the Rosary,
all of us clustered,
as though the last people on a wreck,
the round haunches of them both,
the flesh of her
rippling like any animal that runs.
 
First published in Banshee 2016
 

Final Cut

 
The clash of shovel against stone
carries from the haggard through the open
kitchen window, where my mother and I
watch television. Alone,
we take the men’s seats
beside the cream and black range, scent
of baked bread seeps from the oven.
 
Alone, we are women. She, forty-five,
seven months gone, and I, menstruating,
a Leaving Cert student, the first of my kind
from bog-ignorant Ireland.
 
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is on. With her career,
apartment, and, apparently, no man,
she is sheer pornography –
arousing rebellion and regret between us,
the fault line that of last comely maiden
and first material girl.
 
I’ve not slit a hen’s neck, my legs flecked
with hot blood, a rite eclipsed when I stepped
onto the free school bus, unembellished by my mother’s world –
bar the memory of her knife-hand
pulling the faithful cut,
a violinist drawing the final note.
 
First published in Skylight 47 2015
 

bredas-photo-010Breda Spaight is a poet and novelist from Ireland. Her poems are published widely in Ireland and abroad, including The SHOp, Burning Bush 2, Banshee, Orbis, Envoi, Atticus Review (US), Communion (AUS),The Ofi Press, and others. She is the 2016 winner of the Boyle Arts Festival Poetry Competition, and runner up in the iYeats International Poetry Prize.

“Just as the blackbird strikes up his clear note” by C. Murray

dead hearts, dead dreams, dead days of ecstasy,
Can you not live again ?

 
Nay, for me never dead.
 
(Constance Markievicz, Easter Week 1917)
At each day’s dawn,
they came to tell me
they came to tell me
that they would be shot.
 
I heard the cracking and
I knew my birds had flown.
Willie Pearse, a carver in stone,
shot, his body melted into lime quickly.
 
I do not know if it was the birds,
that chaos of gulls and crows that
told me they killed James, but then
the screeching stopped.
 
And that silence, that silence
before the cracking violence
and they came to tell me,
and they came to tell me.
 
As a child I knew how,
Beyond the lamp’s circuit,
Lay the shadow of the
Shadow of this darkness,

 
They did not come to see me off.
I stood, and I waited for the order
to be carried out.
They came to whisper their deaths,
 
no one came for me. I waited,
listening for their songs,
some symbol of their escape
but none came –
 
I saw Paddy leave through a side gate,
his face clear blown away.
His poor head bowed and I knew
that he too was gone,
 
Just as the blackbird strikes up his clear note
 
I saw them injured, tied into chairs.
The soldiers’ guns cocked, ready
no person need tell me, for the birds told me.
 
Waiting with an arctic kiss
In the well of the staircase,
Ready to drape the bed with visions
No eyelids can vanquish.

 
The guards whisper their morning blasphemies.
They came to tell me in their proud uniforms,
with their hearts all bloodied, a bloody page.
They melted into the sun, melted through the bars.
 
Days and days of ravening silences,
and their coming with their songs and their laments.
They came to tell me they were dead
and I was not, and I was.
 
I waited for it to stop.
I waited for them to come to me
with a bit of paper, the order,
the priest, maybe.
No-one came.
 
And I saw looking up at my
patch of sky and wondered
why I was not killed,
why I was not let die ?
 
They came to sing to me with their warm feathers,
their sheaves of nesting,
 
Now I am a tower of darkness,
whose windows, opening inward,
stare down upon tidal thoughts.
And in this responsive bell,

 
they came to sing to me,
soft bosomed, purring and burring.
Their young cracking out of eggs
stunned and begging for sun.
 
They came to tell me,
but before I could make out their words,
I saw them evaporate through the metal grilles,
the shrieking of the carrion crows rises up and above the Liffey
 
carrying with it their red blood to tell to the river.
I would know without a word the shrieking of their carrion fear,
 
I did not have to see their iron riddled,
metal punctured hearts to know that their
own sweet ghosts had found the gate.
I sat, I knelt for days of violence and woe,
 
Hollowed by the silence of the eyes,
The mind swings its clapper.
And life resolves into relationships
Of cadence and dissonance.

 
And round, with each pace I make,
I feel the terror of their eyes upon me
and my heart speaks that I live, yet I live.
 
I grieve that they were carried off under warm
sun-warmed wings. Red robed, those flitting birds
out of metal and blood emergent.
 
They came to sing,
they came to mock,
and to lament.
 
They came to tell me that they are dead,
and they came to tell me that they are dead.
 
They came to tell me as they left this realm,
comrades, brothers, I know that you have left
and not one of you tucked me beneath
your endless sunlit wing.
 
I know the meaning of fear, it is solitude.
 
As a child I knew how, beyond the lamp’s circuit, lay the shadow
of the shadow of this darkness,
my tower of darkness, my griefs whirl round it
as the sea gyrates round the grey rocks, the green.
 
Miles away the sea calls me lashing its tumults,
carrying those soaring birds in its streams and eddies,
they call those that are found again,
that none may flounder at the eyries.
 

And oh !

dead hearts, dead dreams, dead days of ecstasy,
 
Can you not live again ?

 

Nay, for me never dead.

Now I am a tower of Darkness

by Freda Laughton

As a child I knew how,
Beyond the lamp’s circuit,
Lay the shadow of the shadow
Of this darkness,

Waiting with an arctic kiss
In the well of the staircase,
Ready to drape the bed with visions
No eyelids can vanquish.

Now I am a tower of darkness,
whose windows, opening inward,
stare down upon tidal thoughts.
And in this responsive bell,

Hollowed by the silence of the eyes,
The mind swings its clapper.
And life resolves into relationships
Of cadence and dissonance.

From A Transitory House; a suite of poems performed at Ó Bheal based on Freda Laughton’s Now I am a Tower of Darkness (2016) & first published in 1916 – 2016: An Anthology of Reactions, Editors, John Liddy & Dominic Taylor (Limerick Writers Centre, 2016)