‘Sylvia Plath You are Dead’ and other poems by Elaine Feeney

Charles Bukowski is my Dad

 
He stands with me in the
best-dressed-lady-line,
holding open my pearl lace
umbrella to the
ravaging Galway rain.
 
He calls me up on
blue Mondays and gives me
whiskey on bold Fridays.
 
He fills up my father-space
He fills up my mind-space
He fills up my hot-water bottle
 
His advice fills up my cheer
and revives my rotted liver,
 
but that’s a small price to pay
because Bukowski’s my Dad.
 
He’s my feather pillow
and my guitar string.
 
He’s my soccer coach and sex therapist
 
He paints my nails
pepperminty green and sings
 
raindrops keep falling on my head
on wicked trips to the racetrack.
But that’s a small price to
because Bukowski’s my dad.
 

Biteens

 
Little biteens of people, pieces all over the raven pavements and sprayed on the cracked gutters, bits of them strewn on the carpeted lanes, and propped against wheeley bins like the carcasses of bored butlers, bits of them.
 
Biteens of people, shards of anoraks and faded canvas shopping bags, sloven splinters of their teeth, angles of jawlines where jaws used to sit, pieces of people, god help them, dead to rush hour, dead.
 
Silver wisps of greasy dandruffy dead hair.
 
Dead waiting at the bus stop dead waiting at the counter top dead waiting at the social shop dead waiting at the hospital drop dead waiting at the morgue spot.
 
Putting biteens of sharred shoulders to the wind,
their half bodies and eaten bones.
 
The blush-blown look of the cretins, blown out of our way down alleys in corpo houses on free bus spins on acid on nebulisers on tea on glue and sugar on lithium on valium on sadnesss and sorrow on beauty on faith.
 
Biteens of people, pieces of them, imagine it.
 
Light a candle or two.
 
For their mass cards and petitions, for their shopping bags for our lady and their prescriptions, for their mothers for their missing sons and for their saints.
 

Bog Fairies

 
The heather like
Pork belly cracked
Underneath my feet-
 
The horizon like
Nougat, melted
Its pastel line at the heath edge
Blue fading to white light.
 
We stacked rows of little
Houses for bog fairies –
Wet mulchy sods
Evaporating under our small palms.
 
Crucifixions of dry brittle crosses
Forming the skeleton-
My narrow ankles parallel to them.
 
Coarse and tough like the marrow of the soul,
Like the skeletons crucified under the peat.
 
The turf will come good
My father said
When the wind blows to dry it.
 
We dragged ten-ten-twenty bags
With the sulphury waft of cat piss,
Along a track dotted with deep black bogholes,
Then over a silver door, like a snail’s
Oily trail leaving a map for the moon,
And for bog fairies to dance in the mushy earth-
For us all to glisten in this late summer.
 
And behind the door
Once upon some time
Old women sat in black shawls
Bedding down Irregulars and putting kettles
On to boil for the labouring girls.
 
But I was gone.
 
I was gone at ten in my mind’s eye.
I was dragging Comrades from the Somme
I was pulling Concords in line with Swedish giants
I was skating on the lake in Central Park
I was crouched in the green at Sam’s Cross
I was touring Rubber-Soul at Hollywood Bowl
I was marching on Washington with John Lewis
I was in the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe,
He was squatting on my lap with his lens,
Swearing to Janis Joplin I could find her a shift,
Nothing is impossible when you blow like that girlfriend.
I sang Come As You are in Aberdeen with union converse,
Blue eye liner and mouse holes in my Connemara jumper.
 
I was anyone but me
I was anywhere but here
I was gone
 
We rushed to hurry before the summer light would fade
Because animals needed to be washed and fed
 
And turf needed to be stacked
And all the talk of our youth
Would be said
In whispers and secrets, or written on postage stamps
 
Because light was the ruler as it was closing in around us,
Beating us, like the dark on the workmen
Deep in the channel tunnel that night.
 
The black light killed the purple heather
Yet I danced on the crackle in the dust
I crackled on the dust in the heather
My dance on the heather turned to dust.

 

 

Pity the Mothers

 
Pity the mothers
who weathered their skin
to raise their sons to die.
 
Pity the routine,
the daily stretching table
ferociously making meet ends.
 
Pity the mothers who told
sons the world was tough and wild-
 
To have them sold out in the early hours
of mornings’ immutable stage
fresh and stung.
 
Brave the world
They should have said
Brave its bold beauty
Brave the world my brave sons
And be beautiful
Because fear is a choking kite string in a storm.
 
Fear is a punctuating dictator
 
Fear will drive you half insane
and there’s no spirit in half a cup of anything.
 
Fear will wake your sleep and damn your
first born nerves.
 
There is no fertility in fear
no function, no performance.
 
Be a kite
Be yellow
Be bold
Be mad
 
Don’t step at the edge of it
all and send your body half-way
forward to the sea-froth.
 
For there you will find the headwinds.
 
Pity the bags, shoes, boots,
hurls mothers left
by the door.
 
The endless soups and syrups
The forever effort
The long lasting kisses they left on young jaws
 
To send them to the world fearful
And then feared.
To send them to the world with pity
And then pitied.
 
Pity the mothers
with their strong
elbows worn from effort.
 
Struggling against headwinds-
 
sanding the grain
in the wrong direction.
 
Pity the mothers
Who weathered their skin
just to raise sons to die.
 

Sylvia Plath You Are Dead

 
Sylvia Plath you are dead.
Your tanned legs are dead.
 
Your smile is dead, and
Massachusetts will mourn her
 
Girl on lemonady days
on sunshiny days
 
She will mourn her on dark days
when screaming girls go mad
 
In maternity wards
and scream in domestic wards,
 
And cry handfuls of slathery salty water
in kitchens over ironing boards.
 
Sylvia Plath you are dead,
and girls try rubbing out stretched marks
 
on their olive silver skin, until they
bleed. Their tiny babies cry in the halls
 
until windows framed with candy
colours, fog over their minds, their aprons, their skirts
 
their college ways, where there were no lessons on
crying. Silvery Plath the moon howls at them
 
taunted by strong winds, out the garden paths
gusts blow heads off the ivy shoulders,
 
but heather keeps her low profile
her head down, smiling.
 

Mass

 
Mass will be said for no more bad language and gambling and wanking that the Athenry boys are doing, down the back of the castle, down the back of the couch, all the punching and hitting and groaning, moaning at the Turlough boys, the Clarinbridge boys, the boys from Killimordaly, down the back of the Presentation grounds.
 
There will be mass when you lose at the Galway Races
 and for the saving of your soul if you take the boat to Cheltenham.
 
There will be a mass for when the horse runs, and when the horse dies, and for the bookies who win and the punters who win,
 
and the bookies who lose and the punters who lose.
 
There will be mass for hare coursing and flask-filling.
 
There will be mass for your Inter Cert and your twenty-first,
 
There will be a filling-out-your-CAO-form mass.
 
Mass will be held in the morning before the exams, mass will be held in the evening for your bath.
 
There’ll be a special mass on Saturday afternoon for your Granny. There will be a mass for your Granny’s boils and aches and black lungs and ulcers and spots and diabetes and psychosis.
 
There’ll be a mass for the anointing of the bollix of the bull above in the field near the closh over the railway bridge.
 
Mass will be held before the College’s Junior B Hurling Final, it will be held for the Connaught Cup Junior A Regional Final in wizardry and sarcasm.
 
Mass will be held on top of the reek for the arrogant and meek, and the bishop will arrive by eurocopter. There will be a mass to get him up in one piece and back in one piece.
 
Masses will be held in the outhouse.
 
Mass will be held for the safe arrival of new lambs and the birthing of ass foals.
 
Mass will be held in your uncle’s sitting room but his neighbours will be envious and later stage a finer mass.
 
There will be a mass to find you a husband, and a few masses to pray he stays.
 
There will be a good intentions mass. Your intentions if they’re good will come true. Mass will be held for your weddings and wakes and when you wake up.
 
Mass will be held for the Muslim conversion.
 
Mass will be held for George Bush.
 
Mass will be held for the war on terror.
 
Mass will be held for black babies and yellow babies and the yellowy black babies.
 
Mass will not be held for red babies. They have upset Pope John Paul.
 
Mass will be held for your brother when he gets the meningitis from picking his nose. Mass will be held for your cousins when they stop going to mass.
 
Mass will be held for the harvest and the sun and the moon and a frost and a snow
 and for a healthy spring and red autumn, for a good wind and no wind, and for a good shower and a dry spell, and for the silage and the hay and the grass and the turf.
 
There will be a saving-of-the-turf day. There will be a saving-of-the-hay day. There will be
a saving-my-soul day.
 
There will a mass for the fishing fishermen.
 
There will be multiple masses for Mary around August when she did all the appearing.
 
There will be a good mass when the statue cries rusty tears. There will be a good mass and a great collection.
 
Mass will be held for the cloud people.
 
Mass will be held for apparitions and anniversaries and weddings and baptisms.
 
Mass will be held to church your sinned body after giving birth, there will be mass to wash your unclean feet.
 
Mass will be held for all your decisions so you don’t have to blame yourself.
 
There will be mass for the poor dead Clares.
There will be mass for the Black Protestants if Paisley allows it. Mass will be held for the De Valera’s and the Croke Park goers.
 
There will be a mass for the conversion of the Jews (and their collection).
 
There will be a mass for the communion class, there will be a mass for the no-name club non-drinkers. There will be a giving-up-smoking-the-Christian-way mass.
 
There will be a mass for the Christian Angels, only Christian ones.
 
There will be no mass for your freedom, but the air will be pea sweet and the sky will clear.
 
Mass will not be held for the souls of your gay sons.
 
Mass will not be held for victims, for cynics, anti-clerics, the song-and-dance makers, the antagonising atheists, the upsetting-the-apple-cart persons.
 
There will be no women’s mass.
 
There will be no mass solely by women for women. Your daughters will not hold mass.
There are strict rules for the masses.
 
The above poems are © Elaine Feeney and have been published by The Stinging Fly, Once Upon Reflection, and The Radio was Gospel (Salmon Poetry 2013)

photoElaine Feeney is considered a leading part of political contemporary Irish writers. She was educated in University College Galway, University College Cork and University of Limerick. Feeney has published three collections of poetry Indiscipline (2007), Where’s Katie? (2010, Salmon) and The Radio was Gospel (2013, Salmon) Her work has been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies. She is currently working on a novel.
 
“Elaine Feeney is the freshest, most engaging and certainly the most provocative female poet to come out of Ireland in the last decade. Her poem ” Mass”, is both gloriously funny, bitter-sweet in the astuteness of its observations and a brilliant, sly window into the Irish female Catholic experience. Her use of irony is delicious. Her comments on the human condition, which run throughout her lines, are in the tradition of Dean Swift and she rightfully takes her place alongside Eavan Boland and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill as a very, very important Irish voice.” Fionnuala Flanagan, California 2013 (Praise for The Radio was Gospel, 2013, Salmon)
 
“A choice collection of poetry, one not to be overlooked, 5 Stars” Midwest Book Review, USA, (Praise for Where’s Katie? 2010, Salmon Poetry).
 
Elaine Feeney saying Mass
‘Sylvia Plath You are Dead’ and other poems by Elaine Feeney

‘Popping Candy’ and other poems by Sarah O’Connor

Poemín

 
This poem
Will be
Exquisitely short
 
And
 
Dinkily dedicated
To you.
 

Popularity, Personified

 
Smugness was her scarf,
Inked pinkly, cerisely,
She stroked it smugly.
Smugness was her scarf.
 
Idleness was her chignon,
Gleaming, burnished, shiny
She fondled it idly.
Idleness was her chignon.
 
Cuteness was her weapon,
Trigger fingered, ready,
She cocked it cutely.
Cuteness was her weapon.
 
Blandness was her boyfriend,
Broad-shouldered, dreamy,
She loved blandly.
Blandness was her boyfriend.
 

For Heaney

 
The sorrow’s mine and yours.
It’s all of ours. We shake our heads.
Now, when we want words,
We will rifle and riffle
Through pages printed.
We will thumb-skim his volumes.
We will become accustomed,
And forget to mourn, as we do today,
For his bits of the world welded to
Bits of the meaning of the world.
With those new silvered weldings,
Hand-soldered together by him,
Scudding from him to us.
We will miss his missiles of insight.
 

Tír na nÓg

 
I saw Tír na nÓg
For the first time
Yesterday.
 
From the car, while driving
On the M8, before Thurles.
 
All the plants,
All the trees faced it,
Pulled to it.
 
I felt the pull myself.
The draw.
 
And the island?
A mossy green copse,
Saturated in spring green.
 
On this bright day,
A wisp of mist hung
 
There. Around.
The rounded island
Otherworldly.
 
Ah, the longing.
The longing for it lingers.
 

Offering

 
I would bring you white roses
And mysterious irises
And open sunflowers
If they would let me
 
I would bring you sweet port wine
And hoppy beers
And tiny dry Champagne bubbles
If they would let me
 
I would bring you blissful heat
And cooling showers
And misty hovering bridge fog
If they would let me
 
I would bring you woven blankets
And intriguing ceramics
And all the treasures of this New World
If they would let me
 
But they won’t let me
And I just can’t choose
The best offering for you
So my lines will have to suffice.
 
Please let my lines suffice.
 

Popping Candy

 
Your company is
Like popping candy
Fizzing in my head.
 
Your company is
Like deft acupuncture
Painlessly needling me.
 
You say something
So unexpectedly funny
That I almost snort.
 
How long does
Popping candy last?
Does anyone know?
 
Popping Candy and other poems published here are © Sarah O’Connor.

IMG_4751Sarah O’Connor is originally from Tipperary. She studied in UCC and Boston College, and she now lives in Dublin. She previously worked in publishing and now works in politics. She is 34. She is working on her first novel and on a collection of poetry. She has been published by Wordlegs and The Weary Blues.
 
Sarah O’Connor blogs at The Ghost Station & tweets at @theghoststation.
‘Popping Candy’ and other poems by Sarah O’Connor

‘Blackbird’ and other poems by Imogen Forster

Testudo

 
A bone-hard carapace,
a shell cast on a hot shore,
emptied by the labour
of leaving the nurturing
sea, scraping broad ribbons
up the sand’s glassy slope .
 
Gasping, digging a damp hole,
she lays round, sticky eggs,
a hundred leathery balls.
Then spent, noon-dried,
she dies, picked clean
by quick scavengers.
 
Her hatchlings flail
and scuttle towards
the sea, led by the
gazing moon, their plates
small patterned
purses, hardened
in the rich sea-soup
into a vaulted chamber
built to the blueprints
of this old architecture.
 
Published in Visual Verse
 

Blackbird

 
The blackbird sits, a smudge
in the prickly hedge, stooped,
wings and tail all downward.
 
I want to touch him, to feel
the quick, warm shape
in a cage of bare branches.
 
What does a bird fluffed
against the cold see
in his crouched stillness?
 
If I could grasp him by
his ashy back, hold his whole
breathing body in my hand
 
what would the soft bones
tell me, the barbed primaries
and the mite-infested down?
 
The bird stirs, and now
shows a bead, a pinhead eye,
a beak ripening to yellow.
 
Then the sudden thrust
out of the damp bush,
the perfect trajectory.
 
This was his first lesson,
the enactment of his ease.
 
Submitted to The Rialto Poetry competition, February 2015
 

Dancer, after Yinka Shonibare, ‘Girl Ballerina’

 
I am tailored, buttoned, piped,
the colonist’s clothes a tight fit
round my slim child’s waist.
Net and frills, my costume’s
a good girl’s best party dress.
But am I a welcome guest
or a blackface clown?
Headless, I say nothing.
I am a dancer’s body
in a pair of cotton shoes.
 
I am a sister to Marie, the wax
and bronze work of M Degas,
shiny, moulded on a frame
of pipes and paintbrushes.
Called monkey, Aztec,
a medical specimen,
the flower of depravity.
I am ten, to her fourteen, and so,
you could say, innocent.
 
My neat bodice of East India
Batiks is the bright stuff
of conquest, traded from
Batavia to Benin and now
spread across south London stalls.
My Brixton market wardrobe,
my new flags, my hopeful anthems.
 
Hands behind my back,
my finger resting on the trigger.
 
Submitted to Faber New Poets competition, January 2015

WP_20150116_19_52_26_ProImogen Forster is a freelance translator, mainly of art history, from French, Italian, Spanish and Catalan. She translated one of the French volumes for the new edition of Vincent van Gogh’s Letters published by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, in 2009. She has published poems on-line, and in a number of magazines.
‘Blackbird’ and other poems by Imogen Forster

‘The Mission’ by Rita Ann Higgins

The Mission

I think of the last time we met
on the prom in Galway.
A sunny day in May
you looked cool in those shades.
You looked taller somehow.
We talked for ages.
You told me about plans
for your mother’s sixtieth.
I felt lucky to have such a nephew.
Shades or no shades.

You hid your distress well, John.
None of it was evident that sunny day.
The day of good nephews.
A month later you went to Beachy Head.
WTF John.

I think of you
leaving your bundle
on top of Beachy Head.
Your belt coiled around your watch
your wallet with a photo of your daughter
your fire fighter’s ID card
your blood donor card
your bus ticket from Brighton.
Losers weepers.

Margaret, your Irish twin,
was on a holiday she didn’t want to go on.
She had been worried sick,
she had us all demented
saying you were going to do it.
Twins know things, Irish twins know more.
I was at a wedding in June
when some friends of yours called me outside.
‘It’s about John Diviney,’
and something about Beachy Head.

Later we went to the priest
he came down to Castle Park
to tell your mother.
She thought we were there to show her the wedding style.
I wouldn’t mind, John
but I had hired a dress for the wedding.
It was a deep blue.
It sailed when I walked.
Your mother was in a daze.
‘I dreamed of him on Thursday night,’ she said.
‘He went in and out of every room.
Himself and Shannon were laughing.’

We went to Eastbourne to bring you home.
Your mother to collect a son,
Margaret to collect a brother,
Caroline and Majella to collect a cousin.
Me to collect a nephew.
Five women on a mission.

Your mother couldn’t sleep,
she was smoking out the hotel window.
She saw the undertaker
collect your best suit from reception at six am.

Despite all the sadness
we had laughed a lot on the way over.
The girls nearly missing the flight
because they had to get food.
We laughed too at nothing at all.
Declan, another cousin of yours turned up
and chauffeured us around Eastbourne
and later to Heathrow.
Loosers weepers.

You had a photo in your wallet
of your daughter Katie.
I have a photo in my study
of the day we bumped into you
in King’s Cross, you and Katie.
Ye were going to some match or other.
What are the chances?
We were over to surprise Heather
on her thirtieth.

What are the chances of bumping into you now, John?
We weren’t laughing when we saw you in that coffin.
Your Irish twin ran outside and puked.
Your mother whispered things in your ear.
We started the prayers
it was a mumbo jumbo litany
We couldn’t remember how anything finished.
Hail Mary full of grace the lord is with thee…

On the way back
there was a bad storm.
We were at the airport for five hours.
Your mother kept going back out for a smoke.
Each time she went out we worried
that she’d never get back in.

You were in the hold,
in your new suit
your designer shirt
your best shoes.
We forgot your socks.
Losers weepers.

We arrived at Shannon
in the early hours.
The Divineys were there en masse.
So was Keith and Aidan.
We followed the hearse,
a night cortège.
‘At least we have him back,’
your mother said,
more than once.

After the funeral mass
your friends from the fire station
hoisted your coffin onto the fire brigade.
The army were there too.
It was a show stopper.
I never told you this, John
but I love a man in uniform.

I think of you
leaving your bundle
on top of Beachy Head.
Your belt coiled
around your watch
your wallet with a photo of Katie
your fire fighter’s ID card
your blood donor card
your bus ticket from Brighton.
Loosers weepers.

‘It’s about John Diviney,’
the coroner’s office said.
‘Some young people found his things.
His belt a loop around them.’
He flew without wings
off Beachy Head.
He landed at the bottom
his back against the wall
his eyes looking out to sea.

The Mission is © Rita Ann Higgins

Poet Rita Ann Higgins(1)Rita Ann Higgins was born in Galway. She has published ten collections of poetry, her most recent being Ireland is Changing Mother, (Bloodaxe 2011), a memoir in prose and poetry Hurting God (Salmon 2010). She is the author of six stage plays and one screen play. She has been awarded numerous prizes and awards, among others an honorary professorship. She is a member of Aosdána.
 
Rita Ann Higgins’s readings are legendary. Raucous, anarchic, witty and sympathetic, her poems chronicle the lives of the Irish dispossessed in ways that are both provocative and heart-warming. Her next collection Tongulish is due out in April 2016 from Bloodaxe.
‘The Mission’ by Rita Ann Higgins

‘Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree’ and other poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree

 
1.
 
I didn’t see my grandmother’s tree in Chile,
araucaria araucana,
though they grow tall there and are many.
I must have walked under them every day, tripped
over their seeds, but I didn’t think of her, oceans away,
standing in a square of green, raking leaves
around her monkey puzzle tree.
 
2.
 
For over a hundred years, that tree stood between
pruned rosebush and clipped hedge, a long shadow
moving over wet fields and stone walls.
As a girl, I clung to the trunk when we played hide and seek,
rough bark printing maps on my palms.
 
3.
 
In April gales, the tree sways. From the window,
my grandmother watches a chainsaw blade
spin the tree into a flight of splinters,
until only logs and sawdust are left.
In each neat wheel of wood, an eye opens,
ringed by lines of the past. The logs are split,
stacked, the tree turned into armfuls of firewood
which will rise as smoke to the sky,
a puzzle unravelled.
 

Frozen Food

 
In the frozen foods aisle, I think of him
when I shiver among shelves of green flecked
garlic breads and chunks of frozen fish.
I touch the cold door until my thumbs numb.
 
Strangers unpacked his body in a lab
and thawed his hand, watched long-frozen fingers
unfurl one by one, until his fist finally opened,
let go, and from his grasp rolled
a single sloe,
ice-black with a purple-blue waxy bloom.
 

Inside the sloe,
a blackthorn stone.
Inside the stone,
a seed.

 
Standing in the supermarket aisle,
I watch my breath freeze.
 

Museum

 
I am custodian of this exhibition of erasures, curator of loss.
I watch over pages of scribbles, deletions, obliterations,
in a museum that preserves not what is left, but what is lost.
 
Where arteries are unblocked, I keep the missing clots.
I collect all the lasered tattoos that let skin start again.
In this exhibition of erasures, I am curator of loss.
 
See the unraveled wool that was once a soldier’s socks,
shredded documents, untied shoestring
knots — my museum protects not what is left, but what is lost.
 
I keep deleted jpegs of strangers with eyes crossed,
and the circle of pale skin where you removed your wedding ring.
I recall all the names you ever forgot. I am curator of loss.
 
Here, the forgotten need for the flint and steel of a tinderbox,
and there, a barber’s pile of scissored hair. I attend
not what is left, but what is lost.
 
I keep shrapnel pulled from wounds where children were shot,
confession sins, abortions, wildflowers lost in cement.
I am custodian of erasures. I am curator of loss
in this museum that protects not what is left, but what is lost.
 
‘Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree’, ‘Museum’ and ‘Frozen Food’ are © Doireann Ní Ghríofa

DOIREANN b+wDoireann Ní Ghríofa is an award-winning bilingual poet, writing both in Irish and in English. Paula Meehan awarded her the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary 2014-2015. Her collections are Résheoid, Dúlasair (Coiscéim), A Hummingbird, your Heart (Smithereens Press) and Clasp (Dedalus Press). Her work is regularly broadcast on RTE Radio One. Doireann’s poems have previously appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally (in Canada, France, Mexico, USA, Scotland and England). Two of her poems are currently Pushcart Prize nominated.
.
www.doireannnighriofa.com & DoireannNiG
‘Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree’ and other poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa