“The Bellmouth” and other poems by Gráinne Tobin

Internal Exile

 
It was all too much. He took to his bed,
and stayed there for ten years,
begetting, however, several more children.
She carried trays up and down the stairs
and he lay hidden, staring out to sea.
At night he watched the lighthouse
winking through his shuttered window.
All the money was gone. It didn’t matter.
They picked a living from their children’s labour
at this salty edge of earth, where
there was always fishing, chickens,
a smallholding of sorts, some barter.
 
What got him up and dressed at last was this.
One afternoon from under his eiderdown
he gazed beyond the glass panes, as the waves
framed by floral curtains, silently rose,
and gulped his two sons in their boat –
corpses never found, skiff washed ashore in pieces,
the coastal searches just as futile
as that warm sanctuary where the need
to witness woke him in the end.
 
From The Nervous Flyer’s Companion
 

Happy Days in Sunny Newcastle

 
The air’s washed now,
last night’s sad leavings
swept up and away.
Van drivers park outside the bakery
with fried eggs held in breakfast soda farls.
 
Arcades of slot machines
lie berthed between streams
that slip downhill to a tideline flagged with pebbles,
faded wood, wrecked loot, rubber gloves, broken glass
abraded to droplets by the tumbling waves.
 
The daily walker on his coatless course
between youth and age,
observing wading birds and children’s games.
 
Up for a trip, out for a drive,
dandering down the promenade.
 
Loudhailer hymns, crusaders’ tracts
warn of strange temptations
offered to ice-cream lickers, candy-floss lovers.
 
In the chip-shops’ wake the street
opens to the sea
which is the reason for everything,
shingle bank,
shops and houses,
foundations sunk in marsh,
confined by a shadowed arm
where mountains lift out of the water,
growing darkness like moss
over the forest where the young
roost with beer and campfires.
 
Heron pacing the harbour at twilight
stiff-collared in clerical grey,
squinting at coloured lights
edging the bay.
 
Far out, the lighthouse signalling,
Good – night
chil – dren.
 
From The Nervous Flyer’s Companion
 

What Did You Say?

 
Asda, Downpatrick
 
While the till extrudes my coiled receipt
I’m making small talk for the checkout man
penned in his hatch by the conveyor belt.
 
Getting busy now? is all I’m asking,
but he responds The building is sinking
into the marshes
as if the two of us

 
are conspirators with codes and passwords,
exchanging news of dangers met or planned.
He smiles, he nods, he shrugs, he sweeps
 
a hand towards the dipping car-park
in a gesture from an opera’s revelation,
to the orange barriers and repair signs
 
shoring up the ground of all our commerce
against stirrings of the earth in peaty reed-beds.
Under the paving, the beach. Under the tarmac, the bog.
 

Counting Children

 
The little boy is counting in clear-voiced German
eucalyptus cones that drop, pock pock,
on the café tables by the coach trip basilica,
as up and down the half-mile staircase
to the hilltop chapel with its cold-drink stall and cats,
every child that passed was counting,
in the languages of Europe,
how many steps.
 
An idle afternoon is stored, recessive,
a hundred aromatic seed-bells saved in a bag.
Picking the crayfish off his plate for a puppet,
speaking its words, snapping its claws for his dad,
he lays down love in his bones like calcium.
 
From Banjaxed
 

The Bellmouth

 
Silent Valley Reservoir, Kilkeel
 
Come on, we’ll take a spin up to the valley,
cross the sentry’s palm with silver
at red gates in Water Commission walls,
admire mown lawns and plaques on benches,
tread new tarmac to the bellmouth –
time a spillaway that swallows all.
 
Here, around the whirlpool of partition,
when engineering was godliness,
and the doctrine of the city was the purity of its water,
they walled the heather slopes with granite blocks,
trimmed the plughole of the reservoir
in Protestant-looking burnt-blue brick,
smoothed to the curve of a brass-band horn,
a vortex fed by reeling mountain streams.
 
Granite, laid on puddled clay
by giants whose folk-tale graves lie deep
in stony fields, who drank their tea
from sooty cans, ate their cold hard porridge sliced,
worked the hills for a boss with a voice like rifle fire.
I smell blood, one said, stopped halfway
in the overflow tunnel when the hooter
sounded a fatal fall. Stone men
who wore starched shirts to dances
in the recreation hall, watched Chaplin
at the valley picture house, grown men
who’d give a push-up to schoolgirls
climbing the Mourne Wall in polished shoes,
dropping down to leave the mountain roughness
to walk the road to Mass in Attical –
 
girls of twelve who fastened wood-shavings
as ringlets in their hair,
whose uncle, one quiet Sunday,
lowered them from the derrick
down the hole half-dug for the dam,
standing in a metal bucket, up to their necks,
to look out on a hundred feet of dark,
at grit and water leaking between cast-iron plates
that lined the trench and held the walls apart –
 
living with Bignian in front of them and Pov-rty behind,
spelt out in scree on the slope of Pig Mountain.
 

 

A Deconsecrated Furniture Showroom

 
Fultons Fine Furnishings

The glass hall’s empty except for a sellotaped notice
to show the pilgrim to the upstairs cafe,
where a waitress tells me
the place was shut down months ago,
and we say the words to each other –
receivership, jobs, recession,
antiphon, call and response.

The restaurant will continue to trade
in spite of the recklessness of their banking partners
and their agents.

The Private Dining Room’s a locked royal chapel,
and the nave a funnel of celestial light
within the shadowy void
as the escalator carries you upwards,
a ladder of souls,
to vacant room-sets, side-chapels,
frescoes, marble and parquet altars
sealed off with swags of tape.
Shaded lanterns burn on their chains
as in Toledo of the captives

and the faithful still meet for conversation,
broccoli bake and apple tart,
in their breaks from the industrial estate,
retail park, car dealership, warehouses,
hospital wards across the roundabout.

The Bell Mouth & other poems are © Grainne Tobin
 

Gráinne Tobin grew up in Armagh and lives in Newcastle, Co Down with her husband. She taught for many years, in further and adult education and in Shimna Integrated College. She is interested in keeping poetry open to its audience, including people without long years of schooling.
Her books are Banjaxed and The Nervous Flyer’s Companion (Summer Palace Press) and a third collection is due soon from Arlen House. She was a founder-member of the Word of Mouth Poetry Collective, which met monthly for 25 years in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast, and she contributed to Word of Mouth (Blackstaff Press) which was translated into Russian, and to the Russian-English parallel text anthology of members’ translations from five St Petersburg women poets, When the Neva Rushes Backwards (Lagan Press).
Some of her poems are available in online archives, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Troubles Archive and the Poetry Ireland archive. Some have been exhibited in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, the Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast and Derry’s Central Library. One was made into a sculpture and is on permanent display in Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick.
She has had poems in anthologies – The Stony Thursday Book, Aesthetica Creative Writing, Washing Windows, On the Grass When I Arrive, Something About Home – in magazines such as Abridged, Poetry Ireland, The Dickens, Mslexia, Irish Feminist Review, Boyne Berries, Skylight 47, Crannog, Banshee, Acumen, North West Words, Ulla’s Nib, Fortnight, the South Bank Magazine, and also online, in Four X Four and on a website for psychotherapists. She has won the Down Arts, Mourne Observer and Segora poetry prizes and has been listed in competitions.

The Spring 2017 issue of Compose Journal is live

Our Spring 2017 issue features an interview with Margo Orlando Littell and an excerpt from her debut novel, Each Vagabond by Name;  poetry by Laura Donnelly, Brian Simoneau, Chris Murray, Tanya Fadem, Sergio A. Ortiz, John Grey, Lita Kurth, and Gail DiMaggio; creative nonfiction by Noriko Nakada, Marion Agnew, Kevin Bray, Telaina Eriksen, Jim Krosschell, and Wendy Fontaine; fiction by Andrew Boden, Darci Schummer, Liesl Nunns, Laura Citino, and Beth Sherman; and artwork by Ana Prundaru, Fabrice Poussin, and Brian Michael Barbeito.

See more at: http://composejournal.com/issues/spring-2017/#sthash.hmFQpFvl.dpuf
 
Thanks to Suzannah Windsor and Andres Rojas for including two poems from my book (work in progress)  at this link

“Consumed” and other poems by Gillian Hamill

Clarity

 
So still
It had to
Come to the fore

I could feel
The tears drop
And drip down
On to my leg
Fully-formed droplets
I could count rain

In the still
Stilled mind forge chatter
The sadness had nowhere to go
But out.

Canal Walk Home

What is it
About the power
of the water
To heal hurts

Three lads sit on the boardwalk
They hardly look like delicate sorts.
And yet they gaze out
Contemplate
The rushing rippling mottles of the
Undulating lake
Can soothe souls.

Car lights are reflected in
Striking streaks, always dappling
Buzzy thrill of
Modern pyrotechnics
In the most basic of
Science laws.

Edged by banking sycamore leaves
I took one and put it in my pocket
To describe it better.
The smell of its earthy salt and bark
Present.
And the bare elegance
Of stripped black branches
Spearing themselves into the night air
Soldered into the genesis
Of life
And yes they are
Wild quiet.

A little further on
There’s a piece of street art says
Only the river runs free
And maybe that’s the attraction
Of this portal into liberty.

And then to gaze down the row
Through Camden Street from Portobello
The multi-potted chimney tops
Sophisticated lego bricks
Pricked by the Edwardian arc
Of ornate street lights.

The red car lights more dense
The further in you go
Speeding up into
A crescendo
Of urban adrenalin
As if in a movie
And the cameras were moving in
Drawing you in
Crackle.

Crackle
Quick, quick slow
Travelling
Boom
in.

For all your talk
Of dalliances with the dark
Don’t you know that they are
One and the same.

The splendour of the curvature of the
veins in a leaf’s skin
Echoed with variations
Of trickled threads of gold.
Are as a naked woman’s
Crystallised spine
Waiting for your touch
Nymph and nature
They are one and the same.

But purity
Glorying in freedom
In liberated breeze
There is no need for
Shame.

Consumed

My soul is saddening.
Keening.
And crying out to the wolves.

Take me away. No answer.
Take me away. Louder
Take me away. Hysterical.

But while geographically there were many places she could have gone to.
In reality there was no place left to go.

His flinty eyes of malice recognised this.
And licking his lips. Charged.
Devoured.
Through sinew and synapse chomped.
No morsel left to be spat out.

Only her emptiness lingered
He could not wrap his jaws around
What did not exist.

That seething chasm of nothingness
Expanding
Every second, every minute, every hour, every day.
Swallowing all hope in its midst
And mainlining the remaining smulch into veins of her ill-begotten offspring.

Why, the wolves of course.
Ravenous little critters.

Engorged breasts of black milk
Mewling malevolence howled.
But madre macerated could not answer with a kiss.
Consumed by her own despair.
Literally.

The Last Day

 
Trails
Of entrails.
Gluttonous fat deals
Dripping hot sumptuous on molten train rails.
Mangy dog heels
To whine on his recline on a bed of nails
Hammered by slippery electric eels
And now pedal fast boy on your wheels
See glorious concrete hardened by steels
Wash, wash, wash, but grit you shit under your fingernails
Why, this is what you wanted as the bell peals.
Zap-ting, zap-ting, ting-ting-ting-ting go your microwave meals.
Greasing up your desperate bid to burn on among writers of great tales
But selfie, self loathing, self loving mastery, your progress is as slow as a snail’s
And soon, the filmy transcribe of time, your dignity steals
They say that love heals
But I don’t give a damn, I just want all the feelz.
Sewed into a corner by the bloodied strands – trails of entrails
The mighty man kneels

Before God
And Prays.

Consumed and other poems are Gilliam Hamill.

Originally from the village of Eglinton in Derry, Gillian Hamill has lived in Dublin for the past 12 years (intermingled with stints in Galway, Waterford and Nice). She has a BA in English Studies from Trinity College, Dublin and a MA in Journalism from NUI Galway. She is currently the editor of trade publication, ShelfLife magazine and has acted in a number of theatre productions. Gillian started writing poetry in late 2014.
 ⊗ Gillian’s Website

Song To Sequana (Burgundy, 100 BC) and other poems by Tim Miller

SONG TO NEHALENNIA (NETHERLANDS, AD 200)

 
Lady, here are offering for all those
whose business has to do with ships
the ones from here to Albion & back
and the prow you always lean upon;
 
Lady, here are offerings for all those
whose business is with the worked earth
the ones with and herbs and flowers
and all the fruits piled upon your lap;
 
Lady, here are offerings for all those
who have ceased with commerce and died
our sons in the sea and our fathers in the ground
and the Dark World’s dog always as your side;
 
Lady, here are fresh loaves from all those
that have desired your altar and temple and shrine
the ones who follow your miles to the water
theirs and our mothers the long background of you.
 

LOOKING FOR NERTHUS (AD 100)

for Jenny
 
The priest senses a new weight in the wagon
and it’s driven by boat to the mainland
and wheeled with rejoicing from place to place:
 
the pulling cows are feted and a new
festival for the goddess is founded,
food and thanks for the draped wagon, and all
 
weapons of war hidden from her presence.
When she’s had her fill of adoration
she’s returned to her island and her lake
 
where she’s washed among familiar confines
of grove and temple and shore, where she’s bathed
along with wagon and hangings and wheels:
 
the image of a woman washed with lake
water and carried like the chariot
does the sun, or like the buried wagons
 
do the dead, bronze sun and horse and wheels:
not the first woman drawn so and not the
last goddess, someone preceding her perhaps,
 
only the wheels and the wagon and the
woman remembered, pulled by this or that
animal, woman of some or other name,
 
this or that grove or lake, this or that land
or island all for her, a mystery,
since the slaves who bathed her are drowned in the lake
 
for their knowing but necessary touch,
for the dire but brilliant revelation
that with everything they give, the gods are hard.
 

SONG TO SEQUANA (BURGUNDY, 100 BC)

 
Source of the Seine, shrine and woman of the spring
sanctuary to water’s sudden appearance
doorway to underground and old elsewhere
place to abide and feel close to the dead
close to some culmination of the landscape
—elsewhere a grove, elsewhere a rock, elsewhere
a single venerable tree, and here a spring—
draped lady in your boat, diadem on your head,
I bring a bronze body for my brother
I bring a wooden leg for my neighbor
I bring a stone head for my own ailment
so that by such illustrations you might
make the bodies of your pilgrims whole again.
 

SONG TO SULIS (BATH, 100 BC)

 
Before the Romans arrived
there was only the water,
warm, coming up from the ground,
goddess of the deepest earth
as well as eye of the sun,
copious mother needing
no buildings or mosaics
but only pious bodies,
maybe a thrown offering,
bits of bronze or just some words
at the water’s edge or immersed,
reassurance during war
or relief at plenitude,
pilgrims all from a long way
stunned to be on this same ground
as their great distant mother
and her hands of warm water.
 
 ⊗ Cuween Chambered Cairn & other poems by Tim Miller

⊕ Bone Antler Stone (Museum Pieces) by Tim Miller
r

Tim Miller’s most recent book is the long narrative poem, To the House of the Sun (S4N Books). His novel Bearing the Names of Many is forthcoming from Pelekinesis, and he also write about poetry, history and religion at http://www.wordandsilence.com.

“St Christina’s Gut” and other poems (series) by Clare McCotter

Saint Teresa’s Heart

 
Claiming it a charism too diamond for the dark
they hung her heart out to dry in a glass globe.
Scraped and chafed with a life story

the walls of its chambers reverberate still.
A girl calling out to another, scratches
gold swallows and nival lilies on woodwork

none can unravel. A mystic with inquisitorial
breath brimming the nape of her neck
etches on stone: he has no body but my own

immaculate and shining in fields of barley
this flesh has flown. A nun crossing
night’s cedar soul, writes on an acre of snow:

O my sisters this I left, leaving only entrails
filled with stars and garnets. An old woman
contemplating a wide geranium sky

pencils in its margins: morning has come
all is light and all are inexorably pierced
peregrine and moons circling earth’s fine tilth.
 
Saint Teresa’s Heart published Abridged 0-39 (March 2015), p. 12.
(Revised since publication)
 

Saint Christina’s Gut

 
Of all the trees my favourite
this sea green turning silver pine
roosting me among the stars
the strength of its scent
sapping the stench
of their flesh and their gold.

Hunched on the top branch
I am a sparrowhawk
female of the species
larger by far than any male.
Today I have fed well
on the prey he could not take.

I, my own cartographer
up here with my book of maps
comping high contours
in charcoal chords.
Under this cape my dewy breasts
swollen with lapis lazuli.

Out at the end of a birch twig
I am an ortolan bunting
my song winding
its way past the sun
a thousand pin pricks of light
bursting from seeds in my craw.

No holy anorexic I gorge
on the tufted heads of thistles
in the lavender fields
in fields of millet
vittles needed navigating night
on my long journey south.

High among incensed rafters
I am a pigeon sunk on the hoops
of my nacreous skirts.
This scavenged gut
a neap tide warm and lapping
the edges of magenta feet.

Saint Christina’s Gut published Abridged 0-37 (July 2014), p. 44.

Saint Joan’s Mirror

 
Pouring over her
like amethysts and water
the voices
tell how she glowed
white and gold
walking with night’s dead
in doublet and hose.

Whispering we know
breast buds bruise
plaits hiss, mirrors sicken
they slip away
in snowdrifting petals
leaving her luminous
in the garden of almonds.

She will put the Dauphin
on the throne
rise the fleur-de-lys
over Orleans
and in male attire still be
their astral child
inviolable in the last pond of sky.
 
Saint Joan’s Mirror published Crannóg 41 (Spring 2016), p. 51.
 

Mary Magdalene’s Foot

 
Pilgrims kiss
the window in this silver shoe
seeking a blessing or cure
from flesh once witched
by the beauty
of a road travelled
with Mary of Bethany and Salomé.

A wanderer then
casting my sandals off before entering
the fields of the forest
the footprint
left beside morning’s stone
a weathered intaglio
washed with wild hyssop and water.

And washing others
on the shores of the black harp sea
I was the starry diviner
the myrrh bearer
in eastern light
my insouciant sapphire heart
freer than any in Samaria or Judea.

Some stormy season
this small window will shatter
returning me
to the holy ground
my fingertips swimming out
to the pines and hawks
my sole firm on the dark mineral earth.

Mary Magdalene’s Foot published A New Ulster 39 (Dec 2015), pp. 15/6.
(Revised substantially since publication)

Julian’s Eyes

 
All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well
Julian of Norwich

She did not drink dark cups from the sores
of the dying, feed the destitute
or found an order. Bernini did not trace

the arc her spine, sculpt her sigh or tease out
the sweetness of her fiery entrails.
In a stormy seaport she saw, that is all.

The remaining years in an anchorite’s cell
spent sounding the depth of her vision
till touching the loveliness of its nacreous floor

she wrote: do not accuse yourself of sin
behovely, it lanterns the stones of your wrath
and of this be sure wrath has no breath

but your own. The father no entity only place
where winds stir the high green grain
and a mare swims across a lake’s sunstone face.

Julian’s Eyes published The Galway Review (January 29 2016).
(Revised since publication)
 

Mechthild’s Tongue

 
Lord, you are my lover, my longing, my flowing stream, my sun, and I am your reflection
Mechthild of Magdeburg

Though they think
the bright wick burning in my dark cave
unfit to proclaim the word

still will I speak
because for you, Lord
I have wept in the school of the night

with you tasted mint
and wild sorrel in the mouths of stones.
I have touched rock

drank wine and wild honey
gulped jasper from the face of the sun.
And other than the bird

divining blue, the fish
breathing aquamarine, I cannot be.
My name written

always outside their book
a Beguine sans rule or vow, cursing
the cathedral clergy

who withholding holy office
withheld little
the night a wounded deer moaned

beside the spring
that is myself and kneeling there to drink
drank molten light.

Mechtild’s Tongue published The Galway Review (January 29 2016).
(Revised since publication)
 

Our Lady of Częstochowa

 
Not one to meet on a dodgy side street
Częstochowa is a hard looking case
round the block more times
than she cares to recall
some claim her canvas a tabletop
painted by Luke the Evangelist.
Carried in a blanket
over wintered fields and lakes
to a village shrine.
Placed there to guide and guard
every man woman child
golden grains and heavy horses
their dancing flocks of white strokes.

Not ones for faffing around
the Hussites hit the ground running
shedding icon blood to sap self
laying low sanctum and soul.
With two deep scars
gullying face eye to jaw
slashing swordsmen
thought her well and truly done for.
Fooled by mossy breasts
and robes of iris fleur-de-lys
they could never have guessed
how well the bitch on the shelf
could handle herself.
Czarny Matka The Black Madonna
Queen of the Heavens
Mother of Earth, Star of the Sea
Hodegetria She Who Shows the Way.

Her right hand pointing at her son.
His straight back at her.
 
Our Lady of Częstochowa published The SHOp 46 & 47 (Autumn 2014)
p. 46.

Clare McCotter

Clare McCotter’s haiku, tanka and haibun have been published in many parts of the world. She won the IHS Dóchas Ireland Haiku Award 2010 and 2011. In 2013 she won The British Tanka Award. She also judged the British Haiku Award 2011 and 2012. She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on Belfast born Beatrice Grimshaw’s travel writing and fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Abridged, Boyne Berries, The Cannon’s Mouth, Crannóg, Cyphers, Decanto, Envoi, The Galway Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Iota, Irish Feminist Review, The Leaf Book Anthology 2008, The Linnet’s Wings, The Moth Magazine, A New Ulster, Panning For Poems, The Poetry Bus (forthcoming), Poetry24, Reflexion, Revival, The SHOp, The Stinging Fly, and The Stony Thursday Book. Black Horse Running, her first collection of haiku, tanka and haibun, was published in 2012. Home is Kilrea, County Derry.

Disarticulation and other poems by Clare McCotter