Category Archives: Gardening

“Self Portrait as She Wolf” and other poems by Breda Wall Ryan

Self Portrait as She Wolf

You sheer away from the warm,
many-tailed beast,
spurn the communal dream.
Beyond the shelter of pine and fir
you lope across open ground
where cold scalds your lungs,
feel a soft-nosed bullet’s kiss,
lick the salt wound clean,
almost drown in a starry bog,
but break through its dark mirror,
meet your reflection
in a boutique window on a city street
among mannequins in ersatz furs,
the last of your kind,
or the first.
Only look back once,
for a silhouette, a hungry scent.
There is still time to re-trace your spoor,
answer the tribal howl. Your throat opens
on one long, swooped syllable,
almost a word.

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

(Katsushika Hokusai. The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, woodcut c.1820.)
In the dark my fisherman shapes
me, his girl-diver, to his wants,
tastes his dream-geisha,
inked teeth in her reddened moue,
face nightingale-shit bright,
hair a lacquered bowl, camellia-oiled.
I slip from his shingle-hard grip,
sink in the dark undersea with octopi.
I dream Hokusai dreaming me,
a frisson as his paper-thin blade pares
deep into woodblock, each of us
picturing jet hair undone,
strands fish-oil glazed root to tip,
a reef-knotted waist-long cascade.
Two days have passed since I bathed;
my breasts are sweat-pearled,
ripe with aromas of fruit de mer,
My tentacled one unfurls, his touch
exquisite as the brush of electric eels,
his glossy fingerings on my nape
supple as young pine shoots.
The artist’s chisel probes
again and again, sliver by fine sliver
till at last I am dreamed
heartwood, printed in India ink.
He hand-tints my skin
while I dream his mouth-filling tongue,
my dream of a thousand years
in colours fleet as this floating world
no fisherman comes near.

Woman of the Atlantic Seaboard

You might meet her anywhere on the coast:
at Moher she is Rosmari, she walks the high cliffs
away from the busses and tour guides,
her face turned towards the west, sea in her hair;
or at Renvyle where a white carved stone
remembers the unbaptised, as Maighdean Mara,
she keeps vigil where the sea stole
their bones from the shore.
Call her Atlantia, she who waits in the lee
of the sea wall at Vigo for the boats to come in.
She looks deep into fishermen’s eyes,
as if eyes can give back what they’ve seen,
a waterlogged husband, brother’s shin bone,
a son’s lobster-trap ribcage to carry home
in a pocket of her yellow oilskin.
Enough for a burial.
She is Marinella on Cabo Espichel, Morwenna
in. Among wild women who comb
blueberry barrens in she is Maris,
her fingers long as the sea’s ninth wave,
stained from plucking sharp fruit in sea fog.
Find her on shore where ponies
ride out the surf. Take her home,
give her the stranger’s place at the hearth:
she won’t stay. Inland, she adds salt to her bath,
boils potatoes in seawater down to a salt crust.
Feed her dilisk and Carrigeen moss; she can’t help
but return to the waves, to kelp and ozone.
She is Muirghein, born of the sea, the sea
salts her blood. Or call her Thalassa, mother
of Kelpies, Selkies, fin-flippered sea-mammals,
neoprene-skinned fish-hunters, creatures of the tide.
All lost to her. the seafarer’s daughter,
sister, mother, wife; on a widow’s walk in ,
scanning the horizon for a floater or a boat.
Meet her on the brink of the ocean, alone, winter
seas in her eyes. Call her by any of her names:
she will turn from you, to the blue nor’wester,
shake brined beads from her hair. She will wait
for her drownlings forever, standing in the salt rain.
(from Céide Fields)

The Inkling

To the last Neolithic farm woman of Céide Fields
That first time it breathed a sigh on your neck,
why did you brush it aside?
You should have taken it into your head.
There was still time to build it a shrine,
offer crowberry prayers and top-of-the-milk.
White breath hung over the cattle-pens.
You carried on felling and burning,
spread baskets of kelp and sand on the land.
The inkling shivered your spine.
Did it come from the ocean?
It lurked in the mizzle, blackened the haws,
wormed down to your worrybone.
Years have gone by. The cradles lie empty.
Summer is wetter than winter. Rain
drenches the land. It quenches the sky.
Your sleán breaks the earth’s skin,
you drive the blade deep with your foot.
Bogwater wells from the wound.
Grass lies down in the fields and drowns,
cattle bawl their hunger pains.
There is only one child in the house.
You can’t shake the inkling,
it niggles, raises the back of your hair,
sly and fat as a tick.
Barley decays in the ground.
The cow is near dry. You must choose
between calf and child.
It is out of your hands.

The Snow Woman

She was a blow-in then,
the snow a wordless paper sheet,
her footprints the first blunt penstrokes
with everything still to write:
spring planting, barley sheaves,
a bitter crop of stones and chaneys
at the turn of the year.
Windblown crows dropped in
through holes punched in the sky,
gossiped year after year.
She wrote children,
they built the scarecrow in the field.
Now she’s a native,
the graveyard peopled with some of her own:
a greyed husband planted these two years,
a girl half-grown,
the rest of her children flown
a thousand miles as the crow
flies from the snow-blind fields,
silent hills shoulder her close,
crows call her name from tall trees.
She has carried the scarecrow into the house.

Self Portrait as a She Wolf‘ and other poems published here are © Breda Wall Ryan

Breda-852 (Colour) (1)Breda Wall Ryan grew up on a farm in Co Waterford and now lives in Co. Wicklow. She has a B.A. in English and Spanish from UCC; a Post-graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and an M.Phil. in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Trinity College, Dublin. Her awarded fiction has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2006-7 and The New Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction. Her poems have been published widely in journals in Ireland and internationally, including Skylight 47, Ink Sweat and Tears, Deep Water Literary Journal, And Other Poems, Fish Anthology, Mslexia, The Ofi Press, Orbis, Magma and The Rialto. Her first collection, In a Hare’s Eye, was published by Doire Press in 2015. A Pushcart and Forward nominee, she has won several prizes, most recently the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, 2015.

‘The Goose Tree’ by Moyra Donaldson

The Goose Tree

‘There are likewise here many birds called barnacles,
which nature produces in a wonderful manner, out of
her ordinary course.’
-Topographia Hibernia,
Gerald of Wales

There are certain trees
whereon shells grow,
tending to russet.
Each shell contains
a little living creature;
like the first line
of a poem, a thing
like a lace of silk
delicately woven,
one end of which
is fastened to the shell,
and which at the other
feeds into the belly
of a rude mass,
that in time comes
to the shape and form
of a bird. When the bird
is perfectly grown,
the shell begins to gape.
First lace, then legs,
then all comes forth
until the goose hangs
only by the beak.
A short space after,
at full maturity,
it falls into the sea,
where it gathers feathers.
Those that fall
onto the land perish
and become nothing.
A blank page.

The Goose Tree is © Moyra Donaldson, from The Goose Tree (Liberties Press, 2014)

download (2)
Moyra Donaldson
The Goose Tree
Liberties Press 2014
54 pages.Cover design by Karen Vaughan

download (3)Moyra Donaldson was born and brought up in Co Down and has been described as one of the country’s most distinctive and accomplished writers. She has published four previous collections, Snakeskin Stilettos (1998), Beneath The Ice (2001),The Horse’s Nest (2006) and Miracle Fruit (2010). Her poetry has won a number of awards, including the Allingham Award, the National Women’s Poetry Competition and the Cuirt New Writing Award. She has received four awards from the Arts Council NI, most recently, the Artist Career Enhancement Award.
(from Liberties Press)

may bell

may bell

not a rook to maycaw its mockery
seats are pulled up to the maybell statuary
starling swipes up at a yellow tree
laburnum is poison it sings
yellow fish are stitched into a tree
tacked into the leaf and flower
the flowerpod
the seed –
maybe all three:
root, bloom, and seed
are stitched in.


seed slopes,
slews in
the crystal pool
its flesh blooms to an effort at tone
former desiccate, it corals the milk
sucking in meat
from water’s distress
and living nonetheless–
winding in its silver thread
beneath brine of flesh frond
 and secret too


draw in the silver thread beneath brine of flesh frond
shut in cold
shut in light
a silica scar
a stone embed
lit in rock
deep cut in
it forms a bird
graven arched
this place is unseamed


draw to the frayed lifethread the flame of it is subdued to a sense of lit
drawn-in too the seed sunk drowned in its slew of coral fibrous brine
threads separate underneath a shower of humus that in-bole-gathers
hammer and lead the gardener is raking rounds exposing the roots of
trees groved
trees grieved
sweetheart blossoms lie on wet ground bereft of their generations
there is only the marble of the statuary now fleshing its wounds so
seed will lie
seed will lie
may bell and cells form part of a dream sequence from The Blind (Oneiros Books, 2013). These sequences are © C. Murray.The book can be ordered online from Oneiros Books.


‘The Elm Of The Aeneid’ and ‘Spadework’ by Peter O’ Neill

The Elm of the Aeneid

After Virgil , Lines 282-295, Book VI
In the vast shadows of the Elm,
Under her ancient boughs where,
According to men dreams are allied to nightmare,
Intricately woven into every arrow-headed leaf,
There monstrous shapes and forms
Become crafted by the elements,
As beheld through the Light Trees,
Where everyone fashions for themselves
The proper demons which people their most
Specific exactitude; Just as Aeneas saw,
Him-self, those heady Chimera and which
He pursued with wrought steel,
On through the torturous waters of the
Tarterean Archeron, where the roads led.
This translation of The Elm of the Aeneid, After Virgil , Lines 282-295, Book VI is © Peter O’Neill



 In memoriam
Out in the allotment, thinking and digging,
And considering Heaney’s analogy
Of the opened field – Immense acreage
Of sovereignty to be found there
Emanating beneath the wood of his words,
Their clayey, and powderish substance.
And, pausing to take a breath, before I too
Rake up the skeletal remains of Baudelaire.
Field then as page, words as soil or clay;
Tossing the stones and weeds from the mind,
Into Hell’s ditch! The Norsemen and
Bog bodies, as with the spectral corpse of Croppies,
Figuring there, as in any archaeological site,
All with neurological accordance of mind.
Spadework, in Memoriam is © Peter O’Neill

elm of aeneidPeter O’ Neill’s debut collection Antiope  was published by Stonesthrow Poetry early this year, “certainly a voice to be reckoned with.” Wrote Dr Brigitte Le Juez (DCU). He has had poems published in The Galway Review, A New Ulster (5,8,12), The Scum Gentry, Abridged (29) New Town How (1) Danse Macabre Online Review (66, 70) The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology (8) among others. He has an honours degree in philosophy, just completed a Masters in Comparative Literature and he has just presented his first paper on Heraclitus in the works of Samuel Beckett at the annual Beckett and the ‘State’ of Ireland Conference at UCD.

Impress by Candi V. Auchterlonie

candiImpress by C.V Auchterlonie. Published Punk Hostage Press 2012


I see us
as if we’re not us at all
as if we’ve let our body suits already
slipped off and skinny dipped under some glass blown
one in /one out
we walk the same /we drown the same.’
 nest is © Candi V. Auchterlonie from Impress (Amazon)

Impress is Candi V. Auchterlonie’s second poetry collection, published by Punk Hostage Press 2012.

Candi V. Auchterlonie  is a woman of the landscape. She is a poet of the open vista and of the outdoors. One feels that the house and the hearth are an alien skin that somehow do not fit her. The house functions as doors and windows that lead to water and wide open spaces. There is an obsidian thread running as a deep cleft through and under her expression. She mines this vein revealing a controlled sure craftsmanship in her approach to poetic form.

Auchterlonie’s writing approach to her poetry is singular. Whilst she takes on themes of motherhood, alienation, beauty and violence, the aforementioned obsidian vein reveals a  linguistic nomadism inherent in her expression and it runs through the whole of Impress.  Sometimes the words she seeks to communicate the depth of her experience are lost to her pen. This does not give her pause, nor does it reveal a desperate clutch for the right image or symbol. In fact, Auchterlonie shows herself prepared to wait for her poetic imagery to develop.

Auchterlonie handles poetic series and inter-related themes with extreme care and she will extend them without losing control of the symbols she has assembled to voice her poetry. There are series of poems with interlinked themes throughout Impressterrarium, chambers, walnut, woman without a landscape, and ghost hands the ultimate poem of the collection are in series.

The pivotal part of Impress occurs in the series woman without a landscape:

woman without a landscape

it still startles her
the way old pain does.
she remembers it well, every hurt that tamed her
it hits her like a thousand paper cuts
to her fragile vellum skin.’
woman without a landscape is © Candi V. Auchterlonie

The tropes and symbols Auchterlonie has assembled for herself are dominated by water, rock, ocean, blue,and metallurgy. The home represented by the house sometimes feels imprisoning or unsafe in the poems of Impress :

terrarium 1.

should you remember
in retrospect
the gossamer, or
the ghostly silence
of her
the glass house in the hills
tiny crystal knobs over brass
secret kept,
unbroken stave, marble smooth
terrarium 1. is © Candi V. Auchterlonie

House is not a place of safety from storm and almost exists alone to provide metaphor or symbol. Houses have cellars and doorways that are like a magic kingdom into well-guarded memory


middle of the night storm
so very turbulent
that this house of mine
began to caw and creak like a flock/
like antique brass hinges flittering off like fairies.
the old house rattled right
down to its foundation.
I could hear its old belly aching
discomfort and some superficial seething pain.
3 am.
only to be woken
by the violent husbandry
of the shaking of my walls/my bed.
I began conversations
with the trees outside.
from rock-a-bye by Candi V. Auchterlonie
 Objects and Auchterlonie’s perception of them are made new when she observes her child in his world. In her poems about motherhood there is a tsunami of tenderness and of self- recognition, and of her own engagement with the small and miraculous world of her son.
 The experience of birthing reflects the sex that created the small boy  _whose silence /goldfish gasp _  are the poet’s own. The child in Impress is the keystone of the arch that supports her epic structure. He is  a window to the world and his visual language and gesture is a learning curve for the poet.

once upon a time ago

his tiny peach hands
distorted blur under lemon white
the glow of animate life
his, the digits of newness still
over worthless relics broken
ever storyless, he carefully cleans and collects them
from around the yard, ‘
from once upon a time ago by Candi V. Auchterlonie

Often there is a sense of total alienation from the domestic world, and that nomadism or will to unfold the world is of the utmost importance. Domestic ties and a tying to objects is secondary to unravelling a feeling of her place in the world.
 The importance of place and one’s relation to it through the observation and study of talismanic objects, natural objects which speak of mystery are always subject to the poet’s minute investigation, as if the huge is presently too much to handle. She holds in her own hands small symbols of the enormity of place, these are shards of wonder and not remnants or leavings from. There is a questing curiousity about Auchterlonie which bodes well for her future work , as it is allied with a subtle craftsmanship in her approach to form.
 Alienation from is a still evolving in Auchterlonie’s forms and tropes. Stone (or crystals) / the walnut/ water, and sub-total immersion provide useful tools for a sense of powerlessness or littleness in the utter vastness of nature.

That  thread of obsidian running through the book which belies the poet’s statement of beauty as encompassing all and everything. There is a determined desire to find her place in a world which is hers – an almost childlike beligerence and desirousness to make sense of it all. This may be a linguistic disconnectedness, a nomadic inherence , or an endless wanting that is eternally restless. Restive even.

feast of figs

ravens are rare here
I find when I fumble stumble across one
should I be so lucky
I fall onto my knees searching for
the stars, Corvus!
I think of the greeks and Babylonians
the hydras tail, the raven and adad
the story of apollo’s raven
and the feast of figs, the punishment
of being stuck in the sky, thirsty for all time.
the cost was high, I recoil.
I immediately search for headstones
marble carved eyes
that’s where the stars live these days
onyx forms
perched and crooning over
named and muted pale stones
under storms of rusty steel wool.’
feast of figs is © Candi V. Auchterlonie