‘Leda Revised’ and other poems by Celeste Augé

Ode

More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoy’d…’

—JOHN KEATS, Ode on a Grecian Urn
 
You lie across my thighs as I write,
my bone-warming hot water bottle,
pure latex, guaranteed to delight the most
discriminating women, mottle their thighs
as they lie deep in their beds, pretending
this rubber sack of warm water
could never replace their lover.
 
The women of Ireland drive with you
across their laps, hand-knit covers
helping to keep you warm. More love,
the patterns passed down from
mothers and grandmothers, still enjoyed.
They knit covers for each new bottle,
battle the cold, inside and out.
 
Every woman remembers her first.
I was twelve, three hours after landing
in Ireland, in Granny’s front bedroom.
You are the best invention after
hot water on tap, and when old age hits
and you warm through rheumatism—
not period pains—I hope to bits
I will have more to hug than my hottle
(Granny’s word for hot water bottle).
 

Women Improve With the Years

 
after Yeats
 
I am worn out with diets—
those rain-worn, concrete goddesses
among the skinny streets.
All winter long I look at magazines
and try out each new fad
I find in each new book.
Pretending: I am a future beauty, too.
But I’m pleased with myself,
to have the power of all four limbs,
eyes that can read the headlines, a body
that has grown a baby, loved on a whim.
Women improve with the years;
I switch on the light, don’t mind
who sees my stretch marks. If we meet
at my burning age, watch out! I grow
ludic in the rain—a diet-worn, fleshy
goddess at play among the shops.
 

Leda Revised

 
There’re worse things than being fucked by a swan.
Try going in—a young woman, full of life—
to give birth to your firstborn—that perfect
fleshy egg. Sim-fizz-ee-otomy. I’ve learnt how to say it,
properly. A slice here, a slice there, my pelvis opens up.
The next day a young nurse teaches me to walk.
Instead of nursing my crying baby I had to learn
to walk again. A big egg, they said, much later. Too big.
Our Lady of Lourdes was worried that if they did one
they’d end up doing ten C-sections on me.
As if my husband wouldn’t keep his hands off me—
and not a condom allowed within these holy shores.
They must have pictured me pregnant for decades.
Like I could let him near me again. Pain too strong
to let me hold my baby, even. Waddling everywhere.
Fuckin Zeus. Him and his big shoulders.
 

Always Sligo Rovers

 
for Shea and Sam
 
The ancestors at Garavogue Villas
don’t care that we can’t pay the rent.
Their stone circle is still here, disguised
as a roundabout. Lichen covers the stones.
In the middle, the Blessed Virgin Mary—
in an all-white strip—protects the ancestors,
prays over them, right on the spot
where their bones used to lie.
Their 5,000-year-old tomb is gone.
Parked cars hide the touchline
where we used to play kerbs. Sometimes,
late at night, I pass Whitewash Mary,
always praying, always quiet,
that half smile playing around her lips,
her curves dimly lit by streetlights—
lone mother of the night—and I want
to kick the stray football to her, shout:
‘Get up to it, Mary, nod it back!’
 
At the Showgrounds, the mountains surround us,
ancestors everywhere—on Knocknarea,
Keelogboy, the Ballygawley Hills, Ben Bulben.
The sky is thick with ancestors—
there isn’t too far you can go in this town
without someone knowing what you’re up to.
Bohs are in with a chance but we’ve got Joseph Ndo
who brings a kind of stillness to every
pass of the ball, as though he’s surrounded
by a different type of air, the ancestors at his feet.
And sometimes when it’s a good night
in the Showgrounds and no one
has cursed the result, that same kind
of force field hovers right around the grounds,
around the signs for Tohers and Jako,
energy conjured up by the ancestors—
who else could it be?—watching over us.
 
A minute’s silence for the ancestors, for their protection,
everyone up on their feet, a minute’s silence for any help
the ancestors might give tonight, the night when
Rovers line out against Bohs, the night when Uncle S
brings his newly-fatherless nephew to see his first match
in the Showgrounds, when Googe brings his future wife
to see what she’s letting herself in for, when
Seamus brings his young son to the only place on earth
where he will be allowed to swear loudly
at each lost tackle, wrong penalty,
missed chance, the ancestors watching over them,
that blessed moment before the whistle blows,
a moment’s silence, please,

and we remember

our pasts, our people returned to us for tonight—
as though their spirits could come back to earth,
touch down right there on the pitch.
 

Friday

 
Today is Friday and I’m out of metaphors—
the wind howling though the trees outside
is just the wind that knocks down the wheelie bin
which is just a bin blown over that scatters
egg cartons, yoghurt pots and plastic bottles
over the gravel stones outside my house
that are simply stones (though a lot of them)
and my house is a house, rectangular,
white, four walls and a roof, nothing more.
This pen I hold writes only words—
blue words. As in the colour blue.
 
Somewhere else a five-year-old boy picks up
a fragment of a cluster bomb (where it might
be windy, too)—they aren’t metaphors either
(neither the boy nor the bomb).
My own son is with my neighbour,
(somewhere out there in a black Ford)
both of them flesh and bone, representing
themselves (their best and their worst selves).
I sit here and I mean nothing more than
woman sitting on a couch on a Friday afternoon
writing and waiting.
 

Gym Poem #1

 
Tracksuit
 
My muscles and tendons stitch along my bones
like a comfortable tracksuit that knows the shape of me,
my life, the limited shapes of the work I do.
 
These poems from Skip Diving (Salmon Poetry, 2014) are © Celeste Augé

Celeste Augé is the author of Skip Diving (Salmon Poetry, 2014), The Essential Guide to Flight (Salmon Poetry, 2009) and the collection of short stories Fireproof and Other Stories (Doire Press, 2012).

The World Literature Review said that “Celeste Augé’s poems are commendable for their care, deep thought, and intellectual ambition”, while the Anna Livia Review said that “Fireproof is a remarkably strong debut into the world of short stories and will begin to build what is undoubtedly going to be a strong readership for the author”.

Celeste’s poetry has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award and she received a Literature Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to write Skip Diving. In 2011, she won the Cúirt New Writing Prize for fiction. She lives in Connemara, in the West of Ireland.

‘the goldberg variations’ by Chris Murray

scene 1: the goldberg variations

 

a kiosk at the end of a dark train in an abandoned travelyard:
two shadowmen ravel orange round about their nothing much

the magician in his moth coat appears in a vaudeville flourish.
your piano balcony is high above the narrow stone street,

your piano plays the rescued Goldberg,
plays, and plays through its charred pages,

– their black edges.

it is the gothic quarter
men move in their coffins.

 their coffins are white with crosses on (red)
 their coffins are on narrow shelves of (stone)

aside an archivum (shades of gray):
    a shady tree
    an etched stone
    a skull and crossbones

Scene 2 : the goldberg variations

 
 
that indestructible piano!
the undestroyed Goldberg is playing (again)

wending its tones above a skatepark of bullet-glass

(the melody plays, yes).

I see that:
 the romans left their life-size eggs and urns below the city
 stitches pull and sting on the underside of my elbow (pain)

softening the blow here and here
there is no stitching (as again) there was no magician –

he is always the hanged man (stasis)
  or as you (may have) whispered, mercury
 

Scene 3: sphinx

 
 
cat properly addressed as ‘riddle’ is a sphinx,
toothed warm fur claw(ed)

nobly in-dreaming he (of heads ?)
or of mice maybe (and not silently)

lover (‘not’ properly addressed)
dreams too (elsewhere from here).

he dreams gold or red heads (emanant)
for their reddish auras are tumbrelled
he fingers red…

yes.

sphinx cat lies on my egyptian cottons,
I find the heads.

& my lover’s red
is a wish-tree

the goldberg variations are © Chris Murray and were first published in Poetry Bus Magazine.

‘modern art’ and other poems by Anamaría Crowe Serrano

the stress clinic

it’s ok	no one need know	only negligible
impending threat 	i’m going to leave you
   let healing happen
i’m turning left into the coffee shop	it’s easy 
	like this		one step	
                 one more
comforting to sit 
   even on seats slashed by spooks	

i can wait	learn patience is learnt on the edge
	other worlds where others wait
for the breath		something that “presents”
    a hiatus between one distress and 
the nest you’re reluctant to leave

it’s ok	the world is out there	still	the density
you love suspended in space	preparing 
the next problem for you to solve 	you’re good
at that		talented		
   are you ok?	me too 		it’s just 
the acid sprung on a tensile in my stomach

❧
at ulica Freta, 16 – before radium or polonium

the wood seeps into your bones
in a room that lives	as if its grain 
& whorls were part of your nervous
system – smooth	marrow – polished 

in your tea one lump, two	meticulous
the molecules contract till they disappear
  optical illusions have their own reality

billowing on the balcony	Poland
is diluted	Prussian Russian 
fission renames a people
  invents a purpose of its own

but you can shut it out	indomitable
in a room that soon is rubble while thunder
splits the summer	partitions your
future	gladioli everywhere 	alert
to your black dress	alive	your luggage
    waltzing in the street

(originally published in Can-Can #2)

❧



modern art

you’re slung 
   rigid
against the wall

boxed in the past

adroit
your mouth apes
bereft of tongue
hoping to emit
a word
a silence, even

something, anything
of the side-tracked route
you had to take
from primitive iron
lodged in some alpine nook
through ism, to prism
to plexiglass

you’re waiting - aren’t you
for me 
to gut you
get the warm feel
of your spasm
   when I tug
on the spinal cord

and watch you
crumple
to the ground
crimson
refusing to be pressed


❧

the stress clinic, at ulica Freta, 16 – before radium or polonium & modern art are © Anamaría Crowe Serrano. Read Jezebel & Taipei (PDF)

Anamaria Crowe Serrano-by RK at 7T

Anamaría Crowe Serrano is a poet and translator born in Ireland to an Irish father and a Spanish mother. She grew up bilingually, straddling cultures, rarely with her nose out of a book. Languages have always fascinated her to the extent that she has never stopped learning or improving her knowledge of them. She enjoys cross-cultural and cross-genre exchanges with artists and poets. Much of her work is the result of such collaborations. With a B.A. (Hons) in Spanish and French from Trinity College Dublin, Anamaría went on to do an M.A. in Translation Studies at Dublin City University. Since then, she has worked in localization (translating hardware and software from English to Spanish), has been a reader for the blind, and occasionally teaches Spanish. For over 15 years she has translated poetry from Spanish and Italian to English. Anamaría is the recipient of two awards from the Arts Council of Ireland to further her writing. Her translations have won many prizes abroad and her own poetry has been anthologised in Census (Seven Towers), Landing Places (Dedalus), Pomeriggio (Leconte) and other publicationsShe is currently Translations editor for Colony Journal: www.colony.ie.

‘Nocturne for Voices One and Two’ by Christine Murray

Nocturne for Voices One and Two

 
Voice 1
 
Sea pummels shore, wind and reed knock trees.
Winter trees’ wooded music is not green sapped
 
‘under the Greenwood tree.’
 
But yet, yet but,
and alone,
the moon is all ?
 
Voice 2
 
Moon is not all,
while the restive sea and you separate. Separated.
 
Silence,
quiet.
 
Quiet,
peace !
 
Voice 1
 
And sleep now ?
 
For,
The bird skims dark waters
The bird skims silver streams.
 
Stream encroaches on the bay,
Stream sieves the sand.
 
Voice 2
 
And sleep now ?
 
In silence
or peaceably.
 
The moon is all,
it lights a trail.
 
Voice 1
 
It is with the voice of longing that you speak,
Close your eyes that mock the moon.
 
Close your eyes that tremble on the reed,
Close your eyes that discern the wing.
 
Not distance,
not distance from.
 
Voice 2
Separated,
separating.
 
V1 /V2
 
We do not in our bodies meet.
 
Voice 2
The moon is all, it is an emptiness.
 
The moon is all,
The moon is all.
 
Voice 1
 
And sleep, and dream with ?
Or a wisp of memory to wake a nothing from cold sun,
 
What now, sleep ?
Nor grieve.
 
Voice 2

Quiet !
 
The soul whispers reed (…)
 
Soul troubles the wing
Soul gathers in the dewy
morning, and the heart it ties to.
 
Quiet !
 

Nocturne For Voices One and Two is © Christine Murray (Published in Outburst 15)

Outburst 15 Preamble by Dr. Arthur Broomfield.

.
The age of the triumph of the lowest common denominator is upon us, it seems from the RTE short list of Ireland’s best poetry of the past hundred years, and the so predictable winning choice, Seamus Heaney’s potato peeling sonnet from the ‘Clearances’ series in The Haw Lantern . The majority of the ten named poems indulge the national predisposition to wallow in the sentimental and the anti-intellectual, Derek Mahon’s ‘A Disused Shed in County Wexford’ being the notable exception, though this, we fear, will be misread by a people who shy from poetry that challenges the cerebral. Yeats’ ‘ Easter 1916’ a pre-Beckett poem that in its irreducible essence addresses the relationship of language to perception is included, we fear, as a sop to the vulgar Nationalist agenda that has long sought to hijack the outstanding work for ideological purposes. Eavan Boland, for too long side-lined by a Southern, guilt driven urge to doff the cap to the Northern Ireland block, has written poems that confront the lazy inclination to sentimentalize, but ‘Quarantine’ is not one of them. With a few exceptions the shortlist sits firmly into the death and potatoes tradition and struggles to escape the tired vocabulary of Catholic ritual and the bleeding heart victim. The list, of course, will be lauded by those with vested interests. It’s a bad day for poetry. The few who encourage innovation, those who struggle against the influence of the Heaney sycophants, has been dealt another cruel body blow.

                                                                                                                                                                       

Christine Murray
Christine Murray

Christine Murray   is a Dublin-born poet. Her chapbook, Three Red Things was published by Smithereens Press, Dublin (June 2013). A collection Cycles was published by Lapwing Press (2013). A dark tale The Blind  (Poetry) was published by Oneiros Books (2013). She  a book-length poem was published by Oneiros Books (2014). Signature a chapbook was published by Bone Orchard Press (2014).
Creative Commons License
Nocturne For Voice One and Two by Christine Murray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://poethead.wordpress.com.

Slán Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin

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It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin, Senior Lecturer of Early Irish (Sean-Ghaeilge), at the Centre for Irish Cultural Heritage at Maynooth University. Obituaries and remembrances are too formal a way to encapsulate the energies of the person who has passed away. What we may say about her on paper; on her authorship, her survivors, and her activities, pale in comparison to the ball of energy that she was. Muireann had a huge and warmly generous physical presence despite her tiny size. She was quite literally a ball of energy.
 
I first met Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin at the Four Courts, as one did during the campaigns that dominated the Celtic Tiger era. Protestors would be in and out of courts fighting on issues related to the complete destruction of any and all heritage laws by the Fianna Fáil Party who came up with new planning bills even as they tore down and scrapped institutions that were charged with the preservation of our natural and built heritage. News media would jostle to get near the government ministers who thought up new and ingenious ways to fast-track planning laws and ramming their tastelessness into property bubbles, bad housing, dublin satellites, and the ephemera of trash that can only be described as garbage politics. People like Muireann were almost criminalised for objecting to the fact that in the 13 years of political dominance by Fianna Fáil and it’s motley collection of political props, not one of them actually bothered to bring in a single heritage preservation bill. The media never asked why there were no heritage bills, they were busy selling houses for the government.
 
Muireann asked the awkward questions like why Dúchas was abolished by Martin Cullen TD, Why Bertie Ahern was so intent on a leadership that passed endless fast-track and Strategic Infrastructure Bills, and why successive Environment Ministers could not pass The Aarhus Convention into Irish law, they still haven’t. Why above all were we demolishing (‘Preservation by Record’) unique sites at Tara (39 sites were demolished) in the Gabhra Valley to allow for the M3 Toll Road. Decentralisation of protections like the OPW, and the defunding of existent preservation programmes were policies that ensured cheap housing and good profit to companies like the NRA (who also managed to take on the majority of archaeology programmes nationally) The media not alone did not trace these issues but they deliberately ignored or obfuscated them within a sugary silence that disallowed anything negative or challenging to emerge that might effect the status quo. There was no joining of dots, just a lot of quangoes and silence in the Tiger Era.
 
Despite this juggernaut of profiteering and short-termism, Muireann for the most part kept her temper and went into the courts, or she stood out on the Hill Of Tara in all weathers, or she waved orders into the faces of the Gardaí. She never cried in front of me but she witnessed a scarring and vicious tragedy that seems to encapsulate the appalling recklessness and greed of the Tiger Era. It was a devastation that was fuelled by greed and lack of education: bulldoze everything and make some cheap tract housing , extend the Dublin suburbs into Meath and while we are at it make a tidy little profit from unhooking all laws that preserve our unique heritage. Gombeenism is not the word for it.
 
Muireann’s gentler side emerged when she involved herself in cultural events like the Feis Teamhair where poets like Peter Fallon, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Susan McKeown and more came yearly to Tara to raise cultural voice and to sing their protest. It was probably at Feis Teamhair that I last saw her turn back toward someone who grabbed her arm and asked her a question or greeted her warmly.
 
We make public poets, great men and women who are imprisoned in the media glare. We want them to represent all that is good in Ireland, and we consign the irritating questioners to the margins. Muireann was an irritating questioner, a restless and enthusiastic spirit, a friend and colleague of great poets, she defended and embraced our literary and poetic heritage with all her health and drive.
 
She has not lived as long as those she opposed, but her name is inscribed in the history of Tara, a visual sign that people will battle great odds to illuminate truths that politicians and their wordless and grey supporters ignore. Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin has died a respected and feisty woman, unlike the liars she challenged daily and I will miss her big heart.
 
Tara Abú
 
Rest in Peace Muireann x
 
Christine Murray (published at The Bogman’s Cannon )