“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.

“Market Prayer” and other poems by Annemarie Ní Churreáin

Laundry

 
Here in the Indian foothills,
I share a house with a man from Greece
 
who speaks no English perfectly,
disappears for days on a motorbike,
 
leaves his laundry on the low make-shift line,
grieving an absent sun.
 
Side by side they hang: his shirt, my summer dress
as if they know each other well
 
and when he returns, smelling of engine oil,
monsoon, rolled brown cigarettes,
 
we have no formal language,
to share our separate joy.
 
Drip-drip on the balcony,
a queer, white pool gathers below.
 
He holds at a sleeve, looks to sky.
I open my palm for signs of rain.
 

Market Prayer

 
It is the scent of hanging fruit
more than roots pulled
from lines of parallel dirt
that lingers
after all that has happened.
I touch a pyramid of lemons
and everything is new again.
I pick one, and close my hand around it
as if to test these immutable seeds
glowing in my darkness.
For what, I do not know.
Pomona of Orchards, please:
like the finder of a planet
seeing for the first time
an otherness, I am afraid
the life I dream exists.
 

Protest

 
One cut and the hair worn since childhood
fell upon the floor
dead soft.
 
A spear-thistle;
her new, bald skull
refused order.
 
She belonged to heather
and in tail-streams
cupping frogs,
 
delighting
in the small, green pulse of life
between palms,
 
not here:
at the dark centre of reunions, separations,
starved of air.
 
This was a protest of love, against love
demanding
sun, rain, wilderness.
 
From a finger, she slid a band
placed it underfoot,
pressed down
 
until the stone
made the sound of a gold chestnut
cracking open.
 

The Scandal

 
The villagers did not unite
in outrage
but instead, they set about their days as usual,
posting letters, buying fruit, forming queues in the bank after lunchtime.
 
They said little
but within that little lay much;
little was a gated field in which something extraordinary was buried.
 
They held to their inner selves
resilient
in emergencies of projected light.
 
And yet,
over time, there happened a slow retreat from joyousness;
a packing away of the Emperor’s new clothes, for good.
 
Only the giant oaks
would live to remember imagination.
 

End of Girlhood

 
The first time
a tree called me by name,
I was thirteen and only spoke a weave of ordinary tongues.
 
It started with a leaf and next,
a mist came down from the hills, beating a lone skin drum,
looking for me.
 
Scarlet pimpernels dropped hints
that could not be ignored:
no red is innocent.
 
Badger trails called me aside for a word.
Come underground, they said,
see what we are made of.
 
Market Prayer and other poems are © Annemarie Ni Churreáin

Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a poet and writer from Donegal, Ireland. She has been awarded literary fellowships from Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany), Jack Kerouac House (Orlando) and Hawthornden Castle (Scotland). In 2016, Annemarie was the recipient of a Next Generation Artists Award from the Arts Council of Ireland. In Autumn 2017, Annemarie’s debut collection ‘BLOODROOT’ is being launched by Doire Press, Galway. For more information, click here.

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“Eavan Boland: Inside History” Edited by Nessa O’Mahony and Siobhan Campbell

EAVAN BOLAND
INSIDE HISTORY

(Arlen House, 2016)
download-1

Eavan Boland: Inside History, a new volume of essays and poems in response to the work of the internationally-renowned Irish poet, will be published by Arlen House on 1 December 2016. Edited by poets Siobhan Campbell and Nessa O’Mahony, Eavan Boland: Inside History is a reappraisal of Boland’s influence as a poet and critic in the 21st century and is the first major commissioned collection of essays to be published on Boland.

The volume includes critical essays on, and creative responses to, her work by leading writers, thinkers and scholars in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US and reappraises Boland’s influence as a poet and critic for the 21st century. The fresh and diverse approaches provide a new frame for a critical engagement which crosses continental and aesthetic boundaries. The book therefore repositions Boland scholarship with a focus on the most important aspect: the poems themselves.

Contributions include a foreword by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, as well as essays by Jody Allen Randolph, Patricia Boyle Haberstroh, Siobhan Campbell, Lucy Collins, Gerald Dawe, Péter Dolmányos, Thomas McCarthy, Nigel McLoughlin, Christine Murray, Nessa O’Mahony, Gerard Smyth, Colm Tóibín and Eamonn Wall. There are also poems from Dermot Bolger, Moya Cannon, Katie Donovan, Thomas Kinsella, Michael Longley, Paula Meehan, John Montague, Sinead Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Eileán Ní Chuilleanáin, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Jean O’Brien and Nessa O’Mahony. The volume concludes with A Poet’s Dublin, a reissuing of the conversation that took place between Eavan Boland and Paula Meehan on the occasion of her 70th birthday in 2014.

Eavan Boland worked as an editor with Arlen House in the 1970s and 1980s and did extraordinary work in developing new Irish writing and broadening the boundaries of Irish literature. We are pleased to publish this collection on her work,” said publisher Alan Hayes.

As editors, we’ve been delighted to be part of the conversation that this volume has begun,” said Siobhan Campbell. “It’s been a privilege and an honour to work on this collection particularly as both Nessa and I feel poetically in Eavan Boland’s debt, as do so many of our contemporaries.”

Eavan Boland: Inside History is published on 1 December 2016. It will be launched at Poetry Ireland, 11 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, on Thursday 15 December 2016 at 6.30 with special guests Eavan Boland and Mary Robinson.

978–1–85132–140–7, 368 pages, paperback, €25
978–1–85132–150–6, limited edition numbered and signed hardback, €55

ARLEN HOUSE LTD, 42 Grange Abbey Road, Baldoyle, Dublin 13.
Phone: 086 8360236: Email: arlenhouse@gmail.com

“Colour” and Other Poems by Paul Casey

Colour

for T.S.Eliot and after fourteen poets

The purple stole away from the skins of plums
Everywhere we turned became a maze of colour
I protect you with an indigo coloured whisper
You curve the ends of my black and white day
Coffee brown, is mole, dying leaves, dry earth
But smell led me here, the smell of yellow
The blue, white and red stripes of exotic confusion
Moving over the green gravel of a formal grave

I wet my lips and a blackbird flies out of my mouth
Faces in the front row, silvered in screenlight, focus
I thought everyone knew what was meant by sugar-paper blue
Tyrian dyes and flax and peacock plumes
Gold and yellow where the clouds crack and break away
Anemone-blue mountains outlined against the pearl-grey morning

Colour was first published in Live Encounters

Fishapod out of Watercolour

The Spring sea arrives
in flailing sage,
clutches lime-white soles
with the early hunger of sand.

Seeping, air-bound,
caught on the cusp
of an inner eclipse
I turn to olive water.

Nothing can be at rest
beneath this marble ichor
moon of all things opaque
and aquamarine.

In stone-pale, heaving waves
tik-taa-lik struggle
to reach the shore
– to shift an ageing jade spell

for the sea to cast wide
her turquoise daydreams
helpless crashing raging

at the thirsty white sun,
the untempered one
as ocean sighs find all

that crawl from her murky womb
to stand and gaze uncertain
at ice slowly gleaming teal

or a fern vapour of dream.

– first published in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

An Béal Corcra

Delightful aftertaste
this river
of kingly colour
Ocular delight
this stream
of purpoesy
vein-aortic mix
of spirit liquid

as even
evolved vampires
overdose
on blends
of rich-thick
contradiction,
of unravelled
breaths expired

even as
seasoned muses
pilgrim-seasoned muses
each leave a trail
of purple dripping
from tongue and teeth
a new harvest
of mystery

and even as
starved poets sip
the mountain manna
purple poem wine,
dream-drunk poets
pulse-deafened
descend purply
their seasoned lips

– first published in the chapbook It’s Not all Bad (Heaventree Press, 2009)

Blue Roses

for Rosie

And then there are uncertain nights
when she blushes a sudden lavender
as I first remember, or darkens to a violet sleep.
Sometimes, she shimmers from the tranquil deep
of a burgundy world, dreaming and I
witness her water to a pale coral dawn

I’ve seen her shine as light as pear
tethered still and clear by the anchors
of warm mid-morning daydreams,
turn sepal green as if petal less
or glow amber as the fallen leaves
from a bouquet of autumn operas.
And on each blue moon, without fail
fold into the calm of origami white.

Usually my rose is a full flaming-red
cardinal weekend in a time made
only of roses. Is a wild flowering
rambler, a climber, a rosebush of scarlet
matadors, urging the shy and tormented
to dance in the showers of abundant daily joy.

If on certain days I could breathe
for her, roses of only breath,
they would each live as blessed
as a momentary labour of thorn-less blood
a singly purposed mist of quartz,
two thousand tender dozens per day
all shed before her footsteps and dewed,
tinted finely, with the scent of blue roses.

– first published in The Stony Thursday Book and then in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

In the Shade

ash green lakes
aquamarine memory
beryl tears
cambium skin
celadon mist
chartreuse touch
clover-sprung harp
copper green temper
coral turquoise tongue
emerald green heart
fern green sleep
forest green winter
grass green bed
gravel-green lullabies
grey-green wink
hawthorn essence
hazel green gaze
island green iris
jade green mouth
lime green aura
marble green poitín lips
midnight shade of green
mint green sight
moss green sex
myrtle green palms
olive green age
opal green seas
pea green ire
peacock-green visions
pine green bones
reed green waters
sage green fires
sap green toes
seaweed green thighs
spring green dawn
Tara green rain
tea green calm
teal sorrow-pools
thyme green dusk
viridian storms

– first published in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

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Colour & other poems are © Paul Casey

Pic: Shane Vaughan
Image: Shane Vaughan (2016)

Paul Casey was born in Cork, Ireland in 1968. His poetry collections are home more or less (Cliffs of Moher, Salmon Poetry, 2012); and Virtual Tides (Salmon Poetry, 2015). His chapbook of longer poems is It’s Not all Bad (Coventry, Heaventree Press, 2009)

In October 2010 his poetry-film The Lammas Hireling, after the poem by Ian Duhig, premièred at the Zebra poetry-film festival in Berlin and has been screened at StanZa in Edinburgh and Sadho in New Delhi.

He grew up in various stages between Ireland, Zambia and South Africa, working mostly in film, multimedia and teaching. He lectured screen writing at the Nelson Mandela University, where he convened the greater Port Elizabeth Poetry Competition in three languages and four age groups.

He is the founder and organiser of the Ó Bhéal reading series in Cork, where he lives. (Source: Irish Writers Online)

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Audio and Film Poetry by Paul Casey:

“Bookmarking The Oasis” and other poems by K. Srilata

Things I didn’t know I loved

(after Nazim Hikmet)

I didn’t know I loved windows so much
but I do – enough to wrestle
someone to the ground over them,
so light can, once again, flood my eyes.

I didn’t know I loved bare feet so much,
or walking away on them to wherever point,
my heart slung over my shoulder
like a sheep-skin bag.

I didn’t know I loved small islands of quiet
in the middle of the day,
but I do – they feel like old friends.

I didn’t know I loved the idea
of night descending like a tired bird
or birds flying in and out of rooms and poems
but I do.

I didn’t know I loved so many things.
Only now that I have read Hikmet,
am I setting them free,
one by one.

from Bookmarking the Oasis(Poetrywala, 2015)

Looking for Light, Sunbirds

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.
(Hafiz of Shiraz)

Looking for light,
sunbirds hop
on hopeful, spindly legs.
I am no different.
The same distaste of darkness,
and, at dusk, the same torment
of light fading.

Often, the only light to be had,
is desperate and feeble,
too deep to access,
my body, a manhole from which
I must rescue that one sweet ray

or remain, forever, bereft.

from Bookmarking the Oasis (Poetrywala, 2015)

Bookmarking the Oasis

I
That spring, I started placing
my poems into printed pages
.

Bookmarks of dream-hope,
they grow into slender, green leaves,
their pores closed,
place-holding,
in readiness for summer afternoons,
the promise of an oasis within.

II
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said
,

inking itself green
in leaf-vein
and human heart.

III

I have been working for years
on a four line poem
about the life of a leaf;
I think it might come out right this winter.

Winter
and the only leaves to be found
are the ones
hibernating
inside books of poetry.

IV

In the fall, the black bear
carries leaves into the darkness
.

I follow
                     the trail
To the centre.

Note: The lines/phrases in italics are drawn from David Morley, Songs of Papusza (Section I), (Philip Larkin, The Trees (Section II), Derek Mahon, The Mayo Tao (Section III), and Mary Oliver, Some Questions You Might Ask (Section IV).

from Bookmarking the Oasis (Poetrywala, 2015)

What I Would Like is to be a Victorian Man of Letters

What I would like is to be a Victorian man of letters
and retire to my study when seized by that particular need
to be solitary and aloof.
I have dreamt of this for years.
Female and non-Victorian though I am, I can see it all.
It is crystal clear, and oh! so delicious:
that desk – neat, rectangular, coffee brown,
its drawers deep and seductive,
holding secret things from another age,
a moleskin notebook,
a cup of tea,
a swivel chair with a pipe somewhere at hand
and a bookcase – except with my kind of books,
lots of Jane Austen and some Emily Dickinson for those long cold nights.

No adolescent daughters abandoning dresses in contemptuous heaps,
no grubby sons, their dirty socks hidden like bombs under books,
no spouses, no mothers, nor mothers-in-law with urgent and important thoughts.

On crazy days crowded with adolescent daughters and grubby sons, spouses, mothers and mothers-in-law,
I dream short-burst dreams of that study, some of them so vivid they make me weep between chores.

Deadweight

I carry her around with me everywhere.
There’s no escape. It is as simple as that.
Her weight’s on my lap when I sit.
My live, rotting Siamese twin,
You are the one who looks out of my eyes each morning.
When the day is folded and put away, it is your eyes I reach for
so I can dream in them.

Do you remember?
It was your eyes I was using when we saw that female monkey,
dragging along her still-born infant.
Which one of them was the dead one?
“Such love, I am told, is common, in the monkey world,” you said, too quickly.

Such love.
Such love.
It hung in the air between us,
heavier than a rock,
more dangerous than a loaded gun.

Bookmarking The Oasis” and other poems is copyright K. Srilata

국제K.SrilataA Professor of English at IIT Madras, K.Srilata has four collections of poems: Bookmarking the Oasis, Writing Octopus, Arriving Shortly and Seablue Child. Her novel, Table for Four, long listed for the Man Asian literary prize, was published by Penguin, India. She co-edited the anthology Rapids of a Great River: The Penguin Book of Tamil Poetry (Penguin/Viking), Short Fiction from South India (OUP) and The Other Half of the Coconut: Women Writing Self-Respect History (Zubaan). Her short fiction and poetry have been featured in The BloodAxe Anthology of Indian Poets, The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry by Indians, and Wasafiri. Srilata was a writer-in-residence at the University of Stirling, at Sangam house and at the Yeonhui Art Space in Seoul. She is currently co-convening a trans-national poetry initiative.