“Prostrate” and other poems by Mary O’Connell

The First Cut is…

for Ifrah Ahmed
 
A fat red sun comes up above the trees.
Ngozi claps her hands, today’s the day
her gran will bring her to Shangazi,
her mother’s aunt.”You must be brave”, they tell
the eight-year-old, who loves to hop and skip
along the dirt-tracks where the lizards play.
 
They walk for miles, but she discovers tunda;
mangoes and papayas in gran’s cotton bag—
a special treat for this her special day.
gran’s hand tightens as she walks into the house.
The windows are all darkened and a fan
on the ceiling makes a whirring sound.
 
Then she sees a bed with shiny instruments
and pushes into gran to hide her face.
The old one sits into a wing-backed chair,
cradles Ngozi in her arms and speaks:
“It won’t take long, my love, just look away.”
A touch of steel, and then a scalding pain.
 
“Now you’ll be ready for your wedding day.”
she hears them shout, as they raise and place her
on the bed, lying on one side, both legs tied.
Tears burn her cheeks, her throat feels sore and dry.
She shivers in the heat and feels betrayed,
invaded by a mutilating blade.
 

Amaryllis Belladonna

 
Something rising from the earth invades my life,
flaunts shamelessly in my place of refuge.
For weeks it lay folded in its verdant sheath,
then slowly pushed out its raw obscenity.
Interlocking petals mimicked loudspeakers
that blazed out without warning,
a ‘triffid’ broadcasting calamity.
 
It stares me down, daring me to look
into its crimson gullet, falling into black.
Yellow stamen at its lip protrude
to mock me with a snide gap-toothed leer.
Why should a gifted pot-plant snarl my peace?
Could the seeds go back to adolescence
coming upon the secret bloom of blood?
 

Prostrate

 
The Muezzin’s cry
calls you out of sleep,
 
you wear a cloth
that cancels all your curves,
 
walk to the Mosque to find
your place behind the latticed screen,
 
supplicate heaven
to send no more distress,
 
the belts of gelignite
that rock the square,
 
the Prophet’s message twisted in the sand.
fragmented symbols rising in the sand.
 
Prostrate and other poems is © Mary O’Connell

Mary O’Connell has had poems published in Southword , Best of Irish Poetry 2008, and the Café Review, (Portland ME). She taught languages and English and now lives in Cork city. She also had some success reciting her work in Strokestown and Derry. She has been fortunate to have been mentored by Paddy Galvin and Greg O’Donoghue in a workshop at the Munster Literature Centre, and often writes about nature and classical mythology, as well as taking an ironic look at public figures and events. A regular at O Bhéal, she has twice been asked to read for visiting American students.

“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

“The Devil, Oblique Angles and Polka Dots” by Sue Cosgrave

The Devil, Oblique Angles and Polka Dots

For Grandmother

Your host shimmers
beyond the margin of this page
as my fingers tap-tap you from the dead.
 
It takes you a while to snap into focus.
 
You remind me
of a day when I was eight,
                      or ten, at most,
 
the day I got lost in the woods.
How I blubbered and wailed for you!
 
When you finally found me—
a snot and hiccup spewing fountain
– not pretty.
 
“What took you so long?”
 
It was strange how you appeared, seemingly out of nowhere;
haloed in spring beyond the green fog of young birches,
your sudden presence, not reassuring – not at first –
“why did you leave me?” I cried
 
all the while, you, unruffled, reproached me: “Shame on you. A big girl crying
like a baby. And for no reason at all. Don’t you know that God
is watching over you, Detushka?’
 
Aha! This is where I should invoke the DEVIL.
Yet, there is no need,
for he’s here, already, lurking.
in the detail, wearing

your best navy polka dot dress – what else –
the one you were buried in.
The one you had kept shrouded, when alive,
in a film of translucent tissue.
 
How well I recall the day:
me, six years old and agog
 
for the morbid. For hadn’t you whispered to me:
“I’ll tell you a secret – something you should know
for when I’m dead.”
Of course I was disappointed! A DRESS? IS THAT ALL? Polka dots!
What the devil! I should have / could have exclaimed, but sure,
at that age I didn’t know any better.
 
But no, it is you, not the devil I see hovering just there,
where my eye does not dare
appearing to me as you did that day in the woods:
light streaming over your left shoulder, oblique, aimless—
the light, of course,
not the shoulder, for the shoulder, even lopsided,
 
knew where it was heading.
 
Heaven was always your destination,
              as I knew only too well.
And I knew, equally well, there was no place for me
 
astride a puffy cloud my nose buried in your soft breast
gleaning comfort from your old woman smell.
 
No.
 
My place was in the woods. Kneeling on a bed
of prickly pine needles.
 
Of course I hated that icon of yours;
that dead-eyed, flat-faced Madonna
and her miniature child simpering at me in his nakedness
when all I wanted to do was sleep
while you, awake at the crack of dawn, genuflecting
 
to them,
praying all the while:
 
I hasten to Thee,
O Master, Lover of mankind, and by Thy loving-kindness I strive
to do Thy work

 
… and oh, how you worked!
digging the permafrost. Building His canal,
the one that went nowhere.
 

GLORY, GLORY THE REVOLUTION!

 
and I pray to Thee: Help me, O God, at all times
 
Did he ever!
But, perhaps He did, at that.
What is it they say about God and burdens? He did help,
after a fashion:
by the time I was born, your once dainty feet,
He had magic-ed to the size of a man’s,
and your delicate hands to that of shovels.
 
and deliver me, O God, from every worldly evil thing
and every impulse of the Devil       OHO, HERE WE COME

TO THE CRUX OF IT:
WE CAN NEVER ESCAPE THE DEVIL.
 
Yes, I fed him tasty morsels to do my bidding – unknowingly –
I believe.
 
I made him promises,
offered him rewards,
without knowing I was doing any such thing. Like the time I cut
my Barbie’s hair for him
(he liked her shorn of course, her eyes, hence, more visibly dead).
 
You see; the Devil was honest that way. And a good teacher too:
no more worship for me at the altar of Barbie! That’s why
when your icon fell off its perch
 
I knew IT WAS HIS DOING!
 
So what if it was my rubber ball that hit the shelf where the icon rested,
Madonna and Child no longer serene above the ever-burning flame?
 
Sure,
even the Devil needs a helping hand.

The Devil, Oblique Angles and Polka Dots is © Sue Cosgrave
Sue Cosgrave was born in Russia and spent her formative years in the United States, in Iraq and in Finland. After travelling extensively in Asia and the Americas, she worked in various parts of Africa before settling in Ireland. Her work, drawing on many cultural traditions, appeared in the Cork Literary Review, The Five Word Anthology, Can Can, Abridged, The Bone Orchard and The Irish Examiner among others. She featured as a guest reader at various events both in Ireland and the UK. Sue has a Masters in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and is currently working on a trilogy set in Iraq as well as a poetry and a short story collection. In 2016 she was finalist for the Wisehouse International Poetry Award