Poems from ‘Her Father’s Daughter’ by Nessa O’Mahony

Waiting Room

 
The rules for survival:
don’t catch an eye
on the first day,
look away
if their blank grief
grazes over you.
 
If still here the next,
permit a faint smile,
a nod to a fellow traveller.
But keep your space,
don’t approach
unless invited
and only then
with care.
 
Avoid those
with a story to tell,
a need to eat you alive
as they rave
about hands squeezed,
the twitch of a closed eye.
 
You can’t spare
a shred, a prayer;
it’s dog eat dog here.
The odds are too high,
if somebody has to die,
let the noose swing
elsewhere.
 

Deserted Village, Achill Island

 
in memory of my father
 
A gap between showers,
blue filtering half-light,
so we take our chances
on the slopes of Slievemore.
 
Those who’d called it home
knew about impermanence,
the reach of bog,
the gaping sockets of roofs.
 
Hap-hazarding lazy beds,
slip-slides of water
pouring down
the side of the mountain,
we settle for the track,
the safety of shale and quartz.
 
Sun wets white shards,
crystal lures us
as the track forks
to where a burnt-out digger
acts sentinel over oil slicks;
wind chimes music:
a plastic bottle
trapped by bog-lethe.
 
The quarry opens out,
slag-heaps improbably white,
as if someone had cleared snow
into neat piles,
or had scattered detergent
like there was no need tomorrow,
no white sheets to be spread out,
no single rose bud to be left
beside a hospital bed.
 

Notes for an exhibit

 
Spotfin Porcupine Fish, Cuba 1991,
D.J. O’Mahony, MI31.1992
 
It catches the eye:
half globe, half water-mine,
outrage suspended
in display case 781 Vertebrata Pisces
on the first floor landing.
 
When threatened, it doubles in size,
swallows air and water, bristles spines,
sends neurotoxins till each tip sizzles
with venom more potent than cyanide.
 
Still netted all the same,
(there is no armour against fate)
transformed to artefact,
presented in great state
to one who’d done some service.
 
What else need we know?
That it spent a year
atop a china cabinet,
caught dust, snagged cloth?
That it was the extra guest
at many a family party?
That, seeing it encased,
a grandson made an excited phone-call?
 
A six-inch black-type card
acknowledges the donor
of whom little is known;
his dates are found elsewhere.
 

Madam Butterfly at Beaumaris

 
Tonight I observe the old rituals,
run a warm bath, descend,
soak, sponge, massage each limb,
let the heat enter me.
After, I’m gentle when I rub myself down,
anoint with oil of cocoa butter,
finger-tip smooth cream in elbow folds,
around each breast, caress
the waist sloping to buttock rise.
I go to the window seat,
kimono loose-wrapped, hair unpinned.
All is readiness; Callas sings,
a red buoy light flashes my intentions to the Straits.
I wait for tomorrow
when you said you’d come.
 

Doorways

 
Your first shot,
me framed in the door
of my grandmother’s house
in Garbally.
 
Our first stay,
and it feels strange when
I’m trusted with the key,
with instructions
on how to keep the fire lit.
 
You mention
Granny’s house
and it sounds alien
on your lips;
she was dead years
before I met you.
 
But she always predicted
the old sock would find
the old shoe
 
eventually.
 

Role reversal

 
after Eavan Boland
 
There will come a time, mother,
when the transformed spring opens up
and the charioteer holds out a hand;
he might have my father’s face, might not;
his gestures might be gentle or rough
as he eases you into a space made ready
and shows you the pomegranate.
And you will take the seed and eat,
willingly perhaps, not caring
that every bargain has its cost,
or will your hand be stayed
by the sun’s ray on your face?
I will not have time to catch up,
to forestall the nine long days,
the nine long nights of wandering.
And I’ll have no deal to strike;
no backward glance, no waiting
for the seasons to turn back to me.
 
These poems are © Nessa O’Mahony from Her Father’s Daughter  (Salmon Poetry)
 
untitled

NessaNessa O’Mahony was born in Dublin and lives in Rathfarnham where she works as a freelance teacher and writer. She won the National Women’s Poetry Competition in 1997 and was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Prize and Hennessy Literature Awards. She was awarded an Arts Council of Ireland literature bursary in 2004 and 2011. She has published four books of poetry – Bar Talk, appeared (1999), Trapping a Ghost (2005) and In Sight of Home (2009). Her Father’s Daughter was published by Salmon in September 2014. She completed a PhD in Creative Writing in 2006 and teaches creative writing for the Open University. She is a regular course facilitator at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin.
Poems from ‘Her Father’s Daughter’ by Nessa O’Mahony

There will always be singing; an appreciation of Doris Lessing

 

Author and Poet Doris Lessing
Author and Poet Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Fable

When I look back I seem to remember singing.
Yet it was always silent in that long warm room.

Impenetrable, those walls , we thought,
Dark with ancient shields. The light
Shone on the head of a girl or young limbs
Spread carelessly. And the low voices
Rose in the silence and were lost as in water.

Fable is © Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing (1919-2013) was  a novelist, poet, and sci-fi writer. This appreciation of Doris Lessing was first published on the Women Writers, Women’s Books Site  in 2013 with thanks to Anora McGaha, and to Barbara Bos who live edited the piece at the time of writing. Thanks to Olivia Guest at Jonathan Clowes Ltd who has allowed me carry Poems by Doris Lessing here at Poethead.


When a person of great age dies, there are many responses about the richness of their life and how we have been blessed by their presence for so long in our world. Yet for me there was and is profound sorrow at the loss to us of Doris Lessing Nobel Laureate, author, philosopher and poet. I do not delude myself that my sorrow is one of intimate connection to her, a whole generation of women writers have that connection to her voice.

My connection to Doris Lessing’s writing began in my twenties when I first read The Golden Notebook, I read almost all her work after that. I am unsure of where the gut tear occurred with my reaction to her work, but here was a writer who did things that I admired. It was difficult to locate her effect on me, but I knew it and recognised it as important to my writing.

Living in Dublin city, I often retreat to a small house in Mayo, where my now deceased friend, Michael McMullin, a philosopher and jungian, had retained a library. His Doris Lessings were collected on the top shelf of his library, alongside some images of Chartres Cathedral, and his Yeats collection. Like Lessing he had attained a great age and had a voracious thirst for knowledge, he was born in Ceylon in 1916.

Michael’s assidious collecting of Doris Lessing was winsome, and he often referred to her. His nomadism had taken him from Ceylon, to Cambridge, to escape from Hitler’s invasion of Paris, to Finland, to Canada, and at the end his life, a hillside In the North-West of Ireland. I did not meet Doris Lessing, but I had met in Michael that intellectual and questing spirit that seems to inflame the diasporist writer. It can only be described as a great and humble presence, their being present to everyone who he/she encounters all the time.

Doris Lessing’s death brought back my own recent loss with a punch. I saw the rumours of her death emerging from early Sunday morning and waited to hear if it were true. My decision to go ahead and link the Lessing poems was an urgent need to show people that there was more to her output, although it is sadly unavailable.

Two years ago while re-reading Lessing in the Mayo library awaiting a death, the Lessing poetry began to make me a bit more than curious. On returning to the city, I thought to do some searches of her writing, as I was aware that she like Ted Hughes, had elements of Sufism in her writing. I was aware that she had written poetry but couldn’t find much. The place to look for the mythological, esoteric, and philosophical mind of the writer is in their poetic output. Poetry is the revelatory act of participation in the world.

Doris Lessing had written a small collection Fourteen Poems in 1959, published by The Scorpion Press, and she had contributed to the Inpopa Anthology (2002). Her poetry isn’t available online. The Scorpion Press Archive is housed at the McFarlin Library (Special Collections) at the University of Tulsa.

Alison Greenlee, Librarian at the McFarlin Special Collections Library located for me a copy of the book in my Alma Mater, University College Dublin. I made an appointment to go in as soon as I could and transcribed a selection of the poems for myself. The next step was to contact Jonathan Clowes Ltd, who are Doris Lessing’s agents.

Olivia Guest at Jonathan Clowes Ltd, Doris Lessing’s Literary Agents, worked on my behalf to bring Doris Lessing’s poetry back online. We corresponded initially by letter and I procured a temporary 12 month licence to add Lessing to my index of women poets. I wanted her to be recognised for her entire body of work and not alone the novels. After the initial permissions to carry the Lessing poetry were given, the first letter went awol and had to be re-issued, I put them up and shared them regularly across multiple social media platforms including FB, Twitter, Salon.

I wrote about the poems on Open Salon. There were 3,000 hits on the poetry over the two blogs. People contacted me to say that they wanted to read the books, that they had no idea that she was a poet, and that they were heartened to see a woman poet of great age appearing on their computer screens, as there is often a problem with having older women visible in the media.

The following year, I sent Olivia Guest a synopsis of the reaction to Doris Lessing’s poetry and we agreed to extend the licence for another 12 months. She was surprised that the reaction to lessing’s poetry had been so widespread and curious. I sent her screenshots of the data and emails regarding the works.

This year of 2013, I again contacted Olivia and reminded her that my licence to carry the poetry was about due to end and that it gave me great sorrow to take the poems off my index, people were always looking for them, they accounted for a lot of searches for women writers, alongside Dorothy L. Sayers and Nelly Sachs.

last week I received an email that made me sadder. Doris Lessing had little confidence in her poetry and her agents were happy to allow me keep them indefinitely because they did not see the possibility of a re-issue.

This is the email that Olivia Guest sent me recently,

Dear Christine

We’d be delighted for you to host the poems for longer especially if you’re getting such good reactions. Doris Lessing was never very keen on her poetry and didn’t think it was any good so I doubt we will see a re-issue but at least this way, they are available in an alternative form.

Many thanks and best wishes

Olivia

The Megaliths Series, by Ann Madden (Irish Artist)
The Megaliths Series, by Ann Madden (Irish Artist)

I wondered then if Doris Lessing knew over these years that I had the poems and that they had caused such a reaction on the Poethead ? I still do not know if she did. Last week I announced on Poethead that I would be retaining the poems for sometime, and that I had received the above letter, blogged it in absolute delight, because it is a small but profound part of her writing jigsaw and it allows us to call her a poet.

To a mind like Lessing’s, death is a transformation and not an ending. Yesterday, after I decided to honour her writing and look again at the story of the poems, I closed up my blog for the day and took a walk with my daughter. When I got home, I saw that there were upward of a thousand hits on the Lessing letters, articles, posts and poems.

Today there is a similar amount building up. People want to know that questing intellect and they are searching. If I could say one thing to Doris Lessing, it would be that her poetry is the source and cause of joy and many, many people feel her loss in this world.

RIP Doris May Lessing (1919-2013)

 

Note: November 2014: Since the time of writing this piece in 2013, the stats for the Lessings posts have changed.

  • Open Salon, An Appreciation of Doris Lessing- 2360 views
  • Poethead Posts On Doris Lessing  – 2184 Views , 1319 Views, and 4673 views

MeControlXXLUserTileChristine Murray is a City and Guilds qualified stone-cutter. Her poetry is published in a variety of print and online publications. Her poem for three voices, Lament, was performed at the Béal Festival in 2012. Her Chapbook Three Red Things was published by Smithereens Press in June 2013. A collection Cycles was published by Lapwing Press in September 2013. A dark tale The Blind (Poetry) was published by Oneiros Books in  October 2013. Since time of writing this appreciation She (Oneiros Books) and Signature (Bone Orchard Press) were published in 2014.

 

 

 

There will always be singing; an appreciation of Doris Lessing

‘The Corner House’ and other poems by Victoria Kennefick

(I don’t know how to spell) Meningioma

 
I float down icy corridors.
My face slips, blurs on skirting boards.
Plastic tiles suck my shoes.
 
In the GA Ward,
the flickering mouth of television
hisses at blankness.
 
An igloo of brains, snow blocks on pillows;
my eyes cast out to look for you.
The German lady asks me for water.
 
She’s never seen you here, she says.
She’s got a tumour, a hail stone in her head,
frozen on an x-ray in the hall.
 
In the waiting room, sweat sneaks out my armpits,
from behind bare knees, freezes like a smile.
Sun flaunts its limbs along the wall –
 
my body perves to lie with it, the mad yellow.
You do not come; I go out double-doors –
anti-bacterial soap melts in my hands.
 
Sun gropes my body back to skin
in the hospital garden.
You are not here but you are warm.
 
My hands are yours, palms up.
The bulbs, the bulbs are polyps too,
they have split open in the soil
 
and there are daffodils.
 

Iron Dragon

 
Mother at the ironing board, washing foams at her feet,
shirts to be steamed into submission.
She pulls one out, stretches its striped skin across the board,
licks her lips, tuts at talk-show drone.
 
A cat purrs against the glass outside, the window full of it,
beyond dark green leaves mantle my mother.
She shimmies the iron into hard to reach places.
In small gaps I think I see where sea turns into air.
 
The iron’s fat plastic body conceals its metal tongue,
pointed with holes, like buds for tasting.
It licks all the wrinkles out,
wraps its long, thin tail around us.
 
At his every-day ring she runs, the beast hot on his shirt.
I reach up; disturbed, the creature’s breath scalds.
At my scream she drops the phone,
her slap on my thigh, we both cry.
 
I touch the burn later; it’s flat, scaly,
like dragon skin.
 

The Corner House

 
Lemonade bottles tinkle in crates,
tiny glass babies kept in drawers;
skulled once by your small gullet
after a day on your uncle’s farm –
a packet of fig-rolls for lunch.
 
Now, push the cap off the bar.
Should anyone open the door,
light would land with a shock
on bouncy floors, splitting ceilings,
flight of the stairs towards sky.
 
Go back, first to the special orders
of bottled stout, golf on the TV,
Paddy Daly’s three ice-cubes in a Paddy;
your father sneaking pints of lemonade,
(before diabetes)
  the colour red.
 
Go back further, your cousin’s underage den,
fairy lights, cider, Blue Jean Country Queens.
Before that? The granny flat,
the curved bridge of her back,
white hair, a surrender to black.
 
To pig’s ears wilted over the pot
overhearing your father’s stories
of shoeless feet, neighbours eating swill,
fires out early, rosaries after dances;
his father making the church gates.
 
Drink up
  (the lemonade is flat and stale).
 
Sneak out
  (this place isn’t yours anymore).
 

Ballycotton Pier

 
Bright lemon day makes our eyes water,
Dad takes us to the pier to fish.
I don’t know where he found the rods &
without really showing us how, we cast off
into silty sea where humpback rocks congregate.
 
I don’t want to catch anything,
imagine something slimy will take the bait.
A tug; Dad shouts instructions, I reel in the line.
The fish’s mouth plucked above the surface
blows desperate kisses into air.
 
Tangled, the dogfish pants, smacks
the swell, swims around itself.
Dad says it’s not worth it, so we cut &
snap – the fish escapes back into black.
We watch it go, white-bellied, bitter & hooked.
 
At dinner, I squeeze a segment over fish
I will not eat, squint my eyes at splattering juice.
The hook in my heart judders, it is all at sea,
we will both carry it, piercing,
into ever deeper water.
 

A Decade

 
Our father is dead, I don’t know where he art,
but my uncle lies in a pale coffin, across the bay window.
We decide they’re both golfing in Heaven, having pints of Murphy’s stout.
My aunt, a Daughter of Charity, leads us in the Rosary;
our lips follow, words jumble out of order, watched children, falling.
Hail Mary (my middle name) ‘Holy Mary,’ my aunt says:
once the little girl who giggled during prayers, scolded, told the ground
would swallow her up. And it will, glory be to God, while my sister’s baby son,
named after my father, is here staring with new blue eyes,
learning how to say the Rosary, so he will be prepared.
 

Afterwards

 
‘At dances they twirled her, an upside-down umbrella,
the night greased-down-shiny, couples plastered
onto the side of pint glasses multiplying at the bar.
 
She stood next to a tall boy for the National Anthem.
He had the smell of petrol, a lift home so;
headlights of his car searched ditches for a kiss.
 
At the white gate, talk of the pictures,
sound of a door closing; gravel crackling underfoot.
She sat on this step under the window, looked out to sea.
 
Black water touched the sky’s soft velveteen.
She breathed in, then out; felt all at once
all at one with the air of everything.
 
Tears pearled her face, drops on a china cup.
She was of the fine make, bone-fine.
If you asked why she was weeping, she couldn’t say.’
 
I cry when my mother tries to explain her mother,
stars spin above us, frozen bodies miles off.
This is the last night we will sit on her step.
 
Through the open window, still hanging in the wardrobe,
her dresses listen, old pennies sleeping in their pockets,
their collars starched, skirts pressed and ready for dancing.
 
A Decade, Afterwards, Ballycotton Pier, The Corner House, Iron Dragon, and (I don’t know how to spell) Meningioma are © Victoria Kennefick


Victoria Kennefick’s chapbook, White Whale, won the Munster Literature Fool for Poetry Competition 2014. It was launched as part of the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2015. A collection of her poems was shortlisted for the prestigious Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2014 judged by Forward Prize winner, Emily Berry. She has also been shortlisted for 2014 Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award. In 2013 she won the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Bridport and Gregory O’Donoghue Prizes. She was selected to read as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2013 and at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival Emerging Writers Reading in February 2014. Her work has been published in The Stinging Fly, Southword, Abridged,The Weary Blues, Malpais Review, The Irish Examiner and Wordlegs. She was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in 2007 and completed her PhD in Literature at University College Cork in 2009. Originally from Shanagarry, Co. Cork, she now lives and works in Kerry. A member of the Listowel Writers’ Week committee and co-coordinator of its New Writers’ Salon, she also chairs the recently established Kerry Women Writers’ Network . She is the recipient of both a Cill Rialaig /Listowel Writers’ Week Residency Award and a Bursary from Kerry County Council this year.
‘The Corner House’ and other poems by Victoria Kennefick

‘The Irish in Britain’ by Sarah Clancy

The Irish in Britain

 
Had I lived I would be fifteen now
scrawling your name on my copy-book
as some listless teacher droned,
we made our own spells our own rules
you and I painted circle ‘A’s
on canvas bags with Tippex,
and later in my bedroom I would make
you sniff it so we could channel
some imagined high and discuss
all the things that anarchism isn’t
those were the only times
you ever came close to barefaced
to some great reveal.
 
We sang Billy Bragg songs
and grasped at something bigger,
something we hoped we could fit in
I held your hand while we marched
against apartheid as if it hadn’t
anything to do with us, but the sixth years
called you faggot and gave you
a lack-lustre kicking even their own hearts
weren’t in it still and all something
in you sickened and we were lost
to ignorance and ecstasy
and the worst you had to offer to yourself
we were lost to poppers,
to the summers in London
you spent sucking off bricklayers:
desultorily fucking.
 
You came home at the dark end
of your glue and aerosol dream
with a starry plough tattoo, as if some
or other republic waited here for you
had I lived I’d be forty now
but comrade you were never
coming with me –
more’s the pity.
 
The Irish in Britain is © Sarah Clancy

downloadSarah Clancy has been shortlisted for several poetry prizes including the Listowel Collection of Poetry Competition and the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Her first book of poetry,Stacey and the Mechanical Bull, was published by Lapwing Press Belfast in December 2010 and a further selection of her work was published in June 2011 by Doire Press. Her poems have been published in Revival Poetry Journal, The Stony Thursday Book, The Poetry Bus, Irish Left Review and in translation in Cuadrivio Magazine (Mexico). She was the runner up in the North Beach Nights Grand Slam Series 2010 and was the winner of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature Grand Slam 2011. She has read her work widely at events such as Cúirt and as a featured reader at the Over the Edge reading series in Galway, the Temple House Festival, Testify, Electric Picnic, Ó Bheal and at the Irish Writers’ Centre, she was an invited guest at the 2011 Vilenica Festival of Literature in Slovenia and in Spring 2012 her poem “I Crept Out” received second prize in the Ballymaloe International Poetry Competition.Sarah Clancy’s Collection Thanks For Nothing, Hippies was published April 2012 by Salmon Poetry.

‘The Irish in Britain’ by Sarah Clancy

A Celebration of Irish Women Poets on Bloomsday 2014

Eleanor Hooker

The Fall

 
Oh she bared her soul alright; it fell from a star cloud
Reigned by Canis Major. They knew it was authentic,
It whimpered like an unknown set loose inside a crowd
Of urban predators: fierce curs and savage sceptics
That roamed in packs. A few select gave shelter in
The telling, clad the naked soul in their protection,
Made suspect bargains to house her in a harlequin
that masked and silenced looked like her, even wore her skin.
But being undressed is like an honest thought, it cannot
Lie with dogs; it is the thing in itself, nothing more.
The truth is beastly but does not wag the tale. No, that
Is the subplot tellers invent when they call her whore.
And though her flesh is marked by canines, they strain to blame
Her first fall; judging original sin her true shame.

 
The Fall is © Eleanor Hooker

.
First published in The Shadow Owner’s Companion, February 2012

eleEleanor Hooker’s debut collection of poems The Shadow Owner’s Companion, published by the Dedalus Press in February 2012, has been shortlisted for the Mountains to Sea dlr Strong/Shine award for best first collection in 2012. Her poem A Rite won the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland competition in June 2013.
 
Her poetry has been published in The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, The SHOp, Agenda, POEM: International English Language Quarterly, Southword (forthcoming), CanCan, Wordlegs, And Other Poems, ink sweat and tears (forthcoming).
 
She is a founder member and Programme Curator for the Dromineer Literary Festival. She is a helm and Press Officer for Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat.

Fiona Bolger

cure poem for the lovelorn

 
a woman sits alone
her eyes are on the swan feathers
dropped by the moon upon the sea
 
she sees no-one on the horizon
but who can walk on water
dance on down
 
by day she weaves her stinging sadness
into nettle shirts, by night she waits
for her lover – the one who needs
 
to wear those painful clothes
to be fully human again
no longer trapped
 
on a cold moon
dropping feathers
on the sea
 
Cure Poems are © Fióna Bolger

fb5Fiona Bolger’s work has appeared in Headspace, Southword, The Brown Critique, Can Can, Boyne Berries, Poetry Bus, The Chattahoochee Review, Bare Hands Poetry Anthology and others. Her poems first appeared in print on placards tied to lamp posts (UpStart 2011 General Election Campaign). They’ve also been on coffee cups (The Ash Sessions). Her grimoire, The Geometry of Love between the Elements, was published by Poetry Bus Press. She is of Dublin and Chennai and is a member of Dublin Writers’ Forum and Airfield Writers.

Mary Noonan

The Card

 
What goes by the name of love is banishment,
with now and then a postcard from the homeland.
– Samuel Beckett, First Love
 
I’m looking for a card,
one that holds the oriole
on the black pear tree –
will it be brazen or sweet,
junebug or whippoorwill,
Tupelo or Baton Rouge?
I drape myself in maps,
drift in colours and signs,
sleep on my seven books
of owls, frogs, alligators.
 
I want a card that quickens
codes, spills the secrets
of words, sends letters flying.
We used to name things,
now we travel the lines
past ghost-shack and scrub,
sun-bothered lizards skittering
under creosote and cocotillo.
 
This card must distil the frenzy
of the firefly as it waltzes
with its own blazing corpse.
 
The Card is © Mary Noonan

mnMary Noonan lives in Cork. Her poems have been published in The Dark Horse, The North, Poetry Review, Poetry London, The Threepenny Review, Cyphers, The Stinging Fly, Wasafiri and Best of Irish Poetry 2010. She won the Listowel Poetry Collection Prize in 2010. Her first collection – The Fado House (Dedalus Press, 2012) – was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for a First Collection (2013) and the Strong/Shine Award (2013).

Máire Mhac an tSaoi

Ceathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin

 
I
 
Ach a mbead gafa as an líon so –
Is nár lige Dia gur fada san –
B’fhéidir go bhfónfaidh cuimhneamh
Ar a bhfuaireas de shuaimhneas id bhaclainn
 
Nuair a bheidh arm o chumas guíochtaint,
Comaoine is éiteacht Aifrinn,
Cé déarfaidh ansan nach cuí dhom
Ar ‘shonsa is arm o shon féin achaine?
 
Ach comhairle idir dhá linn duit,
Ná téir ródhílis in achrann,
Mar go bhfuilimse meáite ar scaoileadh
Pé cuibhreann a snaidhmfear eadrainn.
 
II
 
Beagbheann ar amhras daoine,
Beagbheann ar chros na sagart,
Ar gach ní ach bheith sínte
Idir tú agus falla –
 
Neamhshuim liom fuacht na hoíche,
Neamhshuim liom scríb is fearthainn,
Sa domhan cúng rúin teolaí seo
Ná téann thar fhaobhar na leapan –
 
Ar a bhfuil romhainn ní smaoinfeam,
Ar a bhfuil déanta cheana,
Linne an uain, a chroí istigh,
Is mairfidh sí go maidin.
 
III
 
Achar bliana atáim
Ag luí farat id chlúid,
Deacair anois a rá
Cad leis a raibh mo shúil!
 
Ghabhais de chosaibh i gcion
A tugadh go fial ar dtúis,
Gan aithint féin féd throigh
Fulaing na feola a bhrúigh!
 
Is fós tá an creat umhal
Ar mhaithe le seanagheallúint,
Ach ó thost cantain an chroí
Tránn áthas an phléisiúir.
 
IV
 
Tá naí an éada ag deol mo chíchse
Is mé ag tál air de ló is d’oíche;
An garlach gránna ag cur na bhfiacal,
Is de nimh a ghreama mo chuisle líonta.
 
A ghrá, ná maireadh an trú beag eadrainn,
Is a fholláine, shláine a bhí ár n-aithne;
Barántas cnis a chloígh lem chneas airsin,
Is séala láimhe a raibh gach cead aici.
 
Féach nach meáite mé ar chion a shéanadh,
Cé gur sháigh an t-amhras go doimhin a phréa’chas;
Ar lair dheá-tharraic ná déan éigean,
Is díolfaidh sí an comhar leat ina séasúr féinig.
 
V
 
Is éachtach an rud í an phian,
Mar chaitheann an cliabh,
Is ná tugann faoiseamh ná spás
Ná sánas de ló ná d’oíche’ –
 
An té atá i bpéin mar táim
Ní raibh uaigneach ná ina aonar riamh,
Ach ag iompar cuileachtan de shíor
Mar bhean gin féna coim.
 
VI
 
‘Ní chodlaím istoíche’ –
Beag an rá, ach an bhfionnfar choíche
Ar shúile oscailte
Ualach na hoíche?
 
VII
 
Fada liom anocht!
Do bhí ann oíche
Nárbh fhada faratsa –
Dá leomhfainn cuimhneamh.
 
Go deimhin níor dheacair san.
An ród a d’fhillfinn –
Dá mba cheadaithe
Tréis aithrí ann.
 
Luí chun suilt
Is éirí chun aoibhnis
Siúd ba cheachtadh dhúinn –
Dá bhfaigheann dul siar air.
 
Cathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin from, Margadh na Saoire. Dublin: Sairseal agus Dill, 1956, 1971.
 
Mary Hogan’s quatrains
 
I
 
O to be disentangled from this net –
And may God not let that be long –
Perhaps the memory will help
Of all the ease I had in your arms.
 
When I shall have the ability to pray,
Take communion and hear Mass,
Who will say then that it is not seemly
To intercede on yours and on my behalf?
 
But meanwhile my advice to you,
Don’t get too firmly enmeshed,
For I am determined to let loose
Whatever bond between us is tied.
 
II
 
I care little for people’s suspicions,
I care little for priests’ prohibitions,
For anything save to lie stretched
Between you and the wall –
 
I am indifferent to the night’s cold,
I am indifferent to the squall or rain,
When in this warm narrow secret world
Which does not go beyond the edge of the bed –
 
We shall not contemplate what lies before us,
What has already been done,
Time is on our side, my dearest,
And it will last til morning.
 
III
 
For the space of a year I have been
Lying with you in your embrace,
Hard to say now
What I was hoping for!
 
You trampled on love,
That was freely given at first,
Unaware of the suffering
Of the flesh you crushed under foot.
 
And yet the flesh is willing
For the sake of an old familiar pledge,
But since the heart’s singing has ceased
The joy of pleasure ebbs.
 
IV
 
The child of jealousy is sucking my breast,
While I nurse it day and night;
The ugly brat is cutting teeth,
My veins throb with the venom of its bite.
 
My love, may the little wretch not remain between us,
Seeing how healthy and full was our knowledge of each other;
It was a skin warranty that kept us together,
And a seal of hand that knew no bounds.
 
See how I am not determined to deny love,
Though doubt has plunged its roots deep;
Do not force a willing mare,
And she will recompense you in her own season.
 
V
 
Pain is a powerful thing,
How it consumes the breast,
It gives no respite day or night,
It gives no peace or rest –
 
Anyone who feels pain like me,
Has never been lonely or alone,
But is ever bearing company
Like a pregnant woman, in her womb.
 
VI
 
‘I do not sleep at night’ –
Of no account, but will we ever know
With open eyes
The burden of the night?
 
VII
 
Tonight seems never-ending!
There was once such a night
Which with you was not long –
Dare I call to mind.
 
That would not be hard, for sure,
The road on which I would return –
If it were permitted
After repentance.
 
Lying down for joy
And rising to pleasure
That is what we practised –
If only I could return to it.
 
Translation by James Gleasure.
 
Cathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin from, Margadh na Saoire. Dublin: Sairseal agus Dill, 1956, 1971.

maireMáire Mhac an tSaoi (born 4 April 1922) is one of the most acclaimed and respected Irish language scholars, poets, writers and academics of modern literature in Irish. Along with Seán Ó Ríordáin and Máirtín Ó Direáin she is, in the words of Louis de Paor, ‘one of a trinity of poets who revolutionised Irish language poetry in the 1940s and 50s. (Wiki)

Deborah Watkins

Missing

 
Hour by hour you lie hidden under forest light
as it rises and falls dimly through the trees.
Year by year you slip a few more degrees
into the earth while you wait and yet
your ending clings, like the lingering sound of an old tune.
 
Each season breeds cool abeyance –
wood sorrel drifts ivory white
while chard green ivy creeps.
Dog roses run wild. They root in your place,
parade their disdain but your bones
 
remain constant and strong – poised
silent cymbals in the theatre’s gloam –
they wait for the musician to stand,
take them in his arms and ring
out a crash of sound that cries
 
I’m here, I’m here!
 
Missing is © Deborah Watkins

Profile picDeborah Watkins is a painter and a writer who also worked for many years making decorative ceramics. She grew up in Dublin and studied craft design at the National College of Art and Design. Deborah moved to Connemara in 1991 where she now lives with her three young daughters and her husband Gavin Lavelle, who is also an artist. They run the family business together in Clifden – The Lavelle Art Gallery which showcases painting and sculpture by local and nationally renowned artists.
Deborah began to paint more or less full time in 2008. She writes a blog about her painting processes and the natural landscape in Connemara, which reached the final of the 2012 Irish Blog Awards. Deborah began writing poetry in 2013 and she attends a poetry workshop run by Galway poet and essayist Kevin Higgins. Two of her poems have been published in Skylight 47, the Galway poetry newspaper, one in the forthcoming Summer issue. Deborah is also a feature writer in her local newspaper the Connemara Journal

Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Recovery Room, Maternity Ward

 
(for Savita Halappanavar)
 
The procedure complete,
I awaken
alone, weak beneath starched sheets.
As the hospital sleeps, my fingers fumble
over the sutured scar, a jagged map
of mourning stitched into my skin —
empty without and empty within.
Beyond these white curtains,
stars shine bright as Diwali
in a cold night sky.
Someday, within these walls,
I will hear my baby cry.
Cradling my hollowed womb,
I trace this new wound and weep.
The only sound I hear now is the fading retreat
of a doctor’s footsteps, echoing my heartbeat.
 
Recovery Room, Maternity Ward is © Doireann Ní Ghríofa

doireann
Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s poems have appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally. Her Irish language collections Résheoid and Dúlasair are both published by Coiscéim. The Arts Council of Ireland has twice awarded her literature bursaries (2011 and 2013). In 2012, she was a winner of Wigtown Gaelic poetry contest— the Scottish National Poetry Prize. Her short collection of poems in English Ouroboros was recently longlisted for The Venture Award (UK).
A Celebration of Irish Women Poets on Bloomsday 2014