“Detail” and other poems by Rachel Coventry

Detail

 
The world is full stretched,
and sick with possibility.
You find yourself in a gallery
ill with heat and standing.
Waiting for some man
to play his ridiculous hand.
So bored of art, but then
forced into wakefulness
by the feet of Diego Velazquez’
Cristo Crucificado. All suffering
now upon you and you
bear it because you have to.
 
First published in the Stony Thursday Book
 

Dispute

 
Latterly, my mother’s silent complaint,
the mute argument of her life
 
articulated itself inside her body
each unspoken tirade
 
eventually rendered in flesh
scratched into synapse
 
a foot plants itself on the stair, refuses
to move till she swears, come on
 
you fucker, drags it sulking
up one but then the other
 
stops and on it goes
the claim and counter claim
 
of an insidious dispute
that leads nowhere
 
First Published in the Honest Ulsterman
 

Beat

 
Systole
 
I am still haunting at the old addresses
oblivious to cosmetic improvements,
wandering pre-gentrified Stoke Newington
lost in a maze of grey council estates
still transfixed by reverberations
of tower blocks that have not yet
shivered to the ground
but still sweep acid house,
a lonely beam over
Hackney’s waste ground.
 
Diastole
 
Burning like the earth
at the Burmese border
the fans all noise no effect
Thai women, still as Buddhas,
me, western, huffing and bloated
wrestling with Christ on the floor,
really grasping at straws,
weaving pale meanings from gecko calls.
Maybe take succor in a different boy?
Some savage memory blazes momentarily
burns me clean. Give in finally. Breathe
 
First published The Poet’s Quest for God Anthology
 

What did I do to deserve you?

 
We exist so the universe
can experience loneliness
 
you may think if everything
is one, it will be content,
there will be no suffering
 
but you are wrong
if there is just one thing
there can be only be longing
with nothing to long for
 
so here we are, splinters
in the dark, no other purpose
but to break each other’s hearts.
 
First published in Poetry Ireland Review
 

As you sleep

 
I watch the flickering rhythm of skin
the pulse of the carotid artery
wonder and fear at its delicacy
and in reversal only lovers achieve
you are flesh and I am dream.
 
First published in Banshee

Rachel Coventry’s poetry has appeared in many journals including Poetry Ireland Review, The SHop, Cyphers, The Honest Ulsterman and The Stony Thursday Book. She was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2014. In 2016 she won the Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust Annual Poetry Competition and was short-listed for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. She is currently writing a PhD on Heidegger’s poetics at NUIG. Her debut collection is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry.

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

“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

“Alice and her Stilettoes” and other poems by Lorraine Carey

Alice and her Stilettoes

We always walked faster
past her little house on the brae.
Every so often she’d scuttle out and
snare us, clutching a plastic bag with
the highest heels, scuffed
and peeling, ready for the cobbler’s vice.

Her elfin face powdered,
her fuchsia mouth pursed,
the stain snaked onto her snaggled teeth,
crept over her lips.
She lay in wait,
behind net curtains that twitched.
Her ears hitched to the sound
of the school bus, stalling,
as we stepped off at Charlie Brown’s,
stinking of fags.

Once John got three pairs
of spine benders, for repair,
so she had a choice,
for Mass on Sunday.

Dressing Up

I crept the three steps to
your room, which smelt
of musty aged breath
and butterfly panic.
Sandwiched between the glass
and a chink in the net curtains,
a Red Admiral, whose
fluttering mirrored my
tiptoed approach.

I stumbled over slippers
to your jewellery box.
Fishing out pearls and the ruby ring,
that swam off my finger and dropped
back home into knotty chains and
clip-on earrings.
Brooches from another life
paid for, with dollars
to pin on collars of real fur.

Sparkles and hallmarks
piled up, a pyramid displaced
in this fisherman’s cottage.

You called me for lunch,
puffing upstairs, flapping by in a
flour cloud with your
dentures clapping in a slow applause,
making a tumble of your speech.
Waiting for the tart to cook,
bubbling under with
homegrown apples,
we sat impatient
as cinnamon, allspice and
cloves wafted in droves
from the scullery.

You promised a tomorrow slice
as the Ford Orion arrived
early with your daughter,
to take me home.

Dressing Up was first published in The Honest Ulsterman (October 2015)

This Time

He came back this time with hens,
returned with his swagger and
whiskey breath. Crisp, folded notes
 
released in rote from an arse pocket,
handed over the counter
without a scrap of guilt,
 
while she prayed the car wouldn’t stall
the red orb on the dash unheeded
and sat tearing skin from cuticles,
the bleed a warm release.
Taking rage out on her hands
 
that used to knit him Aran sweaters,
in earthy russet tones,
the chain stitch a secret from
a pattern she wouldn’t share.
 
They stayed in the shed, the hens,
with their downy necks of terracotta.
Plodding with their fearful eyes and
four pronged claws, their droppings dotted
the concrete floor as days whiled away,
egg laying, cackling, pecking for grain
 
until the day they each made a whimper
as their slit throats bled scarlet streams,
his free range dreams dying with them.

Intrusion

Two days after your burial,
we sifted through your stuff.
Thirty three years worth shifted
from that lonely flat, spilled from boxes,
placed in piles on the rug
where you loved to sleep.

The striped suitcase stood waiting in turn,
its worn zip, frayed from changing addresses.
It held a rackful of folded trousers,
neatly layered like missal prayers,
two sizes too small for your bloated stomach.
I inhaled, searching for your perfume in cardigan fibres.
I found the pretty compact with the rose
and the blusher brush that retained your scent,
dusted those apple cheeks
at a time when you cared.

I clicked that clasp, tried to grasp at memories.
Your thirty three years in plastic bags,
cases and cardboard storage,
a paper trifle in bin liners,
now wafery ash in the hearth’s grate.
Sorry for thumbing through your diary
the emptiness stark in white lined pages,
your slanted name in child-like scrawl
spoke pages of haunted, unwritten words.

Unopened post bound with elastic bands,
sat in my hands like despair.
My tears fell on your name, softly blurred
the letters bled into the next world,
where I want to believe you’ve gone.

Your late present

She came head first as I opened
like a slow flower on your birthday.
A moulded little head, topped with
black ash, remarked the midwife
peering between my legs
as my womb, her frenetic room
evicted her methodically
in 30 second spasms.

Squeezing her out into our existence
and my hungry arms,
as dawn fractured over a pithy horizon.
I stayed silent, gulping in clinical air
to expand the weary rungs of my laddered lungs,
My blocked nerves couldn’t fathom pain,
spiked on a graph and ebbed at random.
I didn’t scream or throw out expletives,
as she entered a sparkly Sunday at a quarter to six
denying me sleep.
My little girl with the mottled face and tiny fingers probing
was wiped, weighed, handed back to me.
The tendrils of placenta, already peeling away
and losing its hue of regal magenta.
This wonder, this sustenance
destined for the clinking bin with the garish sticker,
whilst I passed over our daughter
and my happy returns.

At the Baptism

At the font, the blessed water trickled down.
Raindrops off a kitten’s fur, tinkled notes
into the marbled basin.
The small pink head with its pulsating fontanelle,
cradled in the swell of outstretched hands
then retraced to the nook of his elbow.
The infant squirmed in ancient lace,
the robed Father gesticulated with grace,
this collector of confessions.

A sudden shower drowned out the ceremony,
cleansed the air.
Sun fractions sliced through the jewelled windows.
A rainbow arched overhead, as we shuffled in
pews with pads of blood red.
The burst foam, from split leather
bunched like partying warts.

Sunbeams shone on your suit
as she looked on, with emptiness
and an envy
worthy of penance.

Dressing Up was first published in The Honest Ulsterman (October 2015) and in Quail Bell edited by Christine Stoddard (September 2016)
Alice and her Stilettoes and other poems are © Lorraine Carey

Lorraine Carey from Donegal, now lives in Co.Kerry. Her work has been published / is forthcoming in the following journals; The Honest Ulsterman,  A New Ulster, Proletarian, Stanzas Limerick, Quail Bell, The Galway Review, Vine Leaves, Poetry Breakfast, Olentangy Review and Live Encounters. Her first collection of poetry will be published this summer.

“Alethiometer” and other poems by Eleanor Hooker

Alethiometer

for John & Fedelma Tierney
 
I have one marble only, glass-curled greens and blue.
It’s kept inside a golden globe with turquoise studs,
I swing it from a chain: my dowsing stone, my truth-seer.
Once it knocked against an ancient head, cracked it so its walnut core
Leaked sepia images of a being lived inside another time, another age,
Before the image replaced the real and the real was more than shadow.
 
Outside the cave I glassed the play of light and shadow,
And when my only marble fell from its golden globe onto a blue
Tiled ocean floor, I swam after. The ancient head, wise with age,
Told me he had too lost his, recalled the studs
Inside the coloured orb, their curled blues, their seedy core
His own two eyes: Learian days that left him sightless and a seer.
 
My ancient friend dismissed the lies of a mummer seer
Whose falsest claim is that to love someone is to dispossess him of his shadow,
To wipe out every trace of him. Is this not indeed a murderous future? Our core
Belief that we are sworn to good and not extremes is not illusory. Those blue-
Eyed boys in ivory towers profess there is no truth, no self, nothings real; the studs
That breed such suasive tales are only there to fill the storybooks of our age.
 
Along the furrows of my brow I found a little pebble, it seemed an age
Since I had lost my marble. This purple stone weighed but a fraction of a seer.
It rattles in the golden globe, its hollow ring dislodging all the turquoise studs.
In the desert of the real, we watched the sun expand and then contract my shadow.
The ancient head has none. Though he is dead, we still talk. When the moon is blue
And the sky is starry nights, we harvest all the fruits of happy thoughts and core
 
Them for their seeds. “Is all of speech deception, all meaning at its core
Inherently unsound?” I asked the wise old head. He’d reached an age,
He said, and no longer feared such things, was satisfied there were no blue-
Prints or master schemes, simple truths apply—it does not take a seer
To tell you that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. All of us are shadow-
Dancing but mustn’t let the darkness intercept the light. The mettle studs
 
He riveted to the heart of my resolve are turquoise studs
In reinforced solutions. I’ve made up two new moulds, hollowed out their core
For curled glass in colours of the universe, whose negatives in shadow
Graphs are images of beings lived inside another time, another age,
Before I was madder than unreason and he mapped inscape as a seer
And gladness had another view, before betrayal choked intentions blue.
 
Talk on this blue-green sphere sets the lens within our glass-eye studs,
Through which the seer sees us stumble through the worth of words, in that core
Bewitchment of every age that cannot tell the real from dancing shadow.
 
First published in WOW! Anthology 2011, and subsequently in The Shadow Owner’s Companion (2012)

Escape Route

 
You fix our ladder in the scorched earth,
watch as the crows crowd round us,
I hear their cautionary caw-caws, but cover
your ears against their thin black sermons.
 
And so we climb. Me. Then you.
 
Runged, we stroke each bird,
‘sedate and clerical’ –
one bestows a molted quill feather,
colour-run like oil-marked silk.
 
Is it an omen? You ask. Should we go back?
I don’t answer; I’m too busy holding up the sky.
 

New Year’s Eve / Old Year’s Day

 
We are the survivors
who wait by the barricade
for the slow countdown.
Some of our dead slip through,
stand beside us, unsteady, unclothed, low –
we cannot take them with us.
 
The cry goes up for cheer,
smile, they demand, be merry.
Fireworks tear the stars
from the moon, pock the night
with dissimulated Armageddon,
the awed throng pitches forward.
 
If not in groups then kinfolk
keep in hailing distance,
their calls, inmost, distinctive,
provisional. My Dad sees me first.
He’s changed; parchment against bone,
eyes gone the colour of vertigo.
 
I am a smashed pane
that lets the rained downpour in,
in to vacant tenure.
As the countdown begins
there’s a clamour for the barricade,
and this is where we’re obliged to live on.
 
“Escape Route” and “New Year’s Eve / Old Year’s Day” are © Eleanor Hooker

Eleanor Hooker in an Irish poet. Her second collection, A Tug of Blue (Dedalus Press) was published October 2016. In 2013 her debut, A Shadow Owner’s Companion was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine Award for Best First Irish collection from 2012. Her poems have been published in literary journals internationally including: Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, PN Review, Agenda and The Dark Mountain Project (forthcoming). Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart and Forward Prize.

She is featured poet in the winter 2017 New Hibernia Review, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota. She won the 2016 UK Bare Fiction Flash Fiction competition. Eleanor holds an MPhil (Distinction) in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin, an MA in Cultural History (Hons) University of Northumbria, a BA (Hons 1st), Open University. She is Programme Curator for Dromineer Literary Festival.

She is helm and Press Officer for Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat. She began her career as a nurse and midwife.

Eleanor’s website.

“Nightmare” and “The Fall” by Eleanor Hooker (Poethead)