Anora Mansour is a graduate of the University of Oxford. She lives between Oxford and Dublin. She has been published in a collection of Jazz Poems, various online sites, and has her own published collection of poetry and blog. She is African-American and Irish.
Oh Night, Oh Calm and Mythical Night, Have you not seen the moon? How bright! ‘Tis not the sun but the twilight, To the earth holding tight.
How soothing! Cool and warm in winter’s night, Calling it the noon, ‘‘tis all right’’ See the stars twinkling at height, A moth gently flying around a streetlight.
The trees singing in a soft breeze, And their shadows dancing in sweet harmony, Tomorrow night all trees shall freeze, But tonight listen to the crickets humming their lullaby in melody.
Monster in Your House
Hold on to the curtains tight, Pull down the bruised red blind, Here it comes in the night, You say it is not right. But someone has got the blight, Blue unseeing eyes that turn white, Let enter nor shine no light. Smiling, stuck in oblivion in fright.
Will it all end in demise, Or will you finally escape tonight, You and your child?
Stranded on an island
Stranded on an island
-all alone I was,
Lonely I seemed
-brief would’ve been
Hidden by the mist,
-no one I saw.
Mist so thick
-suffocated I was,
Looking at the skies
-nothing but a blur,
And by the night never-ending
-blinded I was,
When I looked at the sea,
I wished to escape,
For comfort from the rain,
I thought once and again,
When every step would hurt,
When every breath would kill,
Tell me you, who are free,
Would you not make the same mistake I did?
Would you not just jump and swim away?
And when I was too far away,
The fog had lifted,
And the shadows no longer existed,
Had I only, little longer waited,
I’d have seen the weeping willows cry,
A cry full of pain and sorrow,
Because on the island I no longer exist.
I took them away one by one It started with one and ended with none They warned me to stop But I listened not I hid that which wasn’t there with pitch black Hoping I won’t get their stare When I looked at the mirror I would see, not those that were missing but those still standing They said that my chances would one day, run out they will never come back I tried over and over Giving it my all But I kept on going And when I’d remove my mask I would see, how much worse I had become.
You sit opposite me, on a broken stool, smiling with your teeth. Rain drips from the ceiling, seeps into table cracks, running onto jeans. You speak in trauma, in childhood, in breathy laughs, in old love. I show my teeth. You take up more space than me. Your voice eats me, drinks me, you put your hand on my knee and kiss me. I don’t talk, I let you talk all the time.
I stand in the kitchen, staring at the window. It has swelling eyes and tangled hair and clothes from yesterday. The colour drains from my cheeks. Washes down the sink. Your voice appears behind me. It’s bigger, bigger than me. Screams over dishes at the bottom of the sink. I show my teeth. You drink me with a straw, eat me raw fill my mouth, hands and stories. I don’t talk, I let you talk all the time.
I sit on your bed in the black. The moon shines in from the window and the bright spills all over me. A crack runs down the middle of things; The bed, the floor, the handle of the door; you slammed it so hard it came free. The colour drains from my cheeks. How did I end up here? How did I end up here? I show my teeth. From the hall you scream, you’re a fucking child. I lie on my back and sleep. I don’t talk, I let you talk all the time.
What Do You Dream of?
You still dream of me, baby? I dream that you are holding a sheet to me, and I cannot breathe. So real, that when I wake I feel as though I have died, I have died. You still dream of me, baby? I dream of arms outstretched, reaching for yours, folded to your chest. In these, I lose all over again. You still dream of me, baby? I dream of every bad thing you said to me. They’re written on my eyelids & they come in screams. Your voice like a mocking angel sings me from sleep. But you still dream of me, baby?
If I Weren’t Afraid
This time, I’ll say yes. I’ll fall back into your arms, crawl beneath the bedsheets, they’ll still be warm. This time, I’ll say yes. I’ll sip the coffee again, watch our films again, won’t be afraid of music anymore. This time, I’ll say yes. I’ll stop the silence, talk for hours, say I love you without it being such a chore. This time, I’ll say yes. I’ll walk back into the room, return my hand into yours & grip it tightly, as if it had never left. This time, I’ll say yes.
Smear lipstick with glitter & tousle hair strands Show bravery when letting go of roller coaster handlebars & hot palms Bask in the sun’s warmth without burning Receive love & neglect hurting Lick wounds & heal scars Explore the intricacies of bars & the arbitrary folk that fill them on a Monday nights Comfort my tendons as they have tendencies to shuffle & laugh when faced with respect Prepare for the cease of self-discovery And my anguish that shall chase its fingertips Empathise when my skin becomes tenuous Crumples like newspaper Eyes heavy with tales that reside on finger pressed lips In them, remember our time And say that you’re glad You grew up with me.
Holding up signs
Kiss me in the living room lay me on your bed At the end you will cry. Walk me through the garden consume until you’re sick At the end you will cry. Let me take away the sorrow I’ll swallow it whole At the end you will cry. Write my name on the walls love me like a plaything At the end you will cry. Fight me, hurt me Spit me down the sink contort me into a child’s nightmare At the end you will cry.
In a year
Cut cake for lost jobs and mangled hearts for beds that sink in the middle spilt wine and smoking inside for sleeping on the bedroom floor grasping her arm because She didn’t want to be alone she never wants to be alone cheers to new hair & tattoos that profess the emotions I cannot lather on my tongue to sleeping cold next to her blow out candles for one, two, three days spent inside not talking or eating but relentlessly thinking about what she said and how she meant it celebrate a year gone by
Not a cup of tea, a pint or just ‘meet me’ because I want to wait awkward at a counter beside you with the steam spluttering, the espresso machine knocking and our overdressed elbows almost touching.
I want to sit opposite you at a small table that can never be small enough, absorbing the heat of your hidden knees and then eyes when I catch you watching me lick the froth off my lips.
I want us to be both fiddling with our round white cups, thumbing the holes that make the handles, intense with conversation while idling our fingers around and around those curves.
I want to be alone with you in a clamorous place where no one will notice what’s not being said, that’s why I say safely, meet me for coffee, instead of suggesting something else.
Winner of the Poetry Ireland Butlers Café competition 2017
You visit my room, punctually as if it’s an appointment and I’m never quite ready after waiting for days. Time isn’t the same here, like being very far away from the earth then landing to find everything’s changed, everyone gone. Anyway, you come to my room and we sit on the single bed which doubles as couch, chair and table, share food off a tray made pretty with a scarf on which I lay saucers holding olive oil, zaatar, bread for dipping and on the one large plate I own, arrange orange segments in a rainbow over pomegranate jewels, and although these are sour and dry to the tongue here, you say you love them, crunch enthusiastically, laugh at anything. We laugh a lot spluttering through the trench between us.
This room is temporary, for six weeks then twelve, then Christmas, and now it’s a year and soon it will be two. Things accumulate. A kettle, an electric steamer, stacks of bowls, cling film. I store food in the chest of drawers, crouch at the mirror and offer you seeds, demonstrate how they open: place between your front teeth, vertically, like this, and pop. Sunflowers. The taste of sun.
Sometimes I don’t leave my room for days, pick from the drawer, dried fruit, crackers, tahini. No one misses me or calls and it’s better inside, alone, than enduring the queue and noise. Then you visit.
It’s been forever since I spoke so struggle with the words, your language, my voice. I apologise, and you laugh because I’m only waking up and this is our appointed time but shrug everyone here is always late, and I explain that this is because we have nothing to wake up for, no time to keep, just cycles of light and dark that creep up on the window punctuated by meals, if you remember to walk down to the feeding area.
We gossip about the other residents, you encourage me to speak with so-and-so, they’re really nice, you think all the people here are nice, now you’ve learnt how to say hello and compliment their beautiful children, wishing us all to be friends and I have to ask are you friends with everyone you know?
Then time is up. So soon? I won’t beg but implore you, stay, another tea, more bread, different fruit, anything but see: you are leaving, because you always leave. You have to be somewhere else. You have somewhere else you can be.
Smiling, kissing your cheeks, one – two – three I lock the door in your face. Space is empty. I take the dishes to the toilet, wash up in the tiny bathroom sink, straighten my covers, put away the tray, hide the mirror behind the scarf and open the window just enough to almost feel that I must be breathing.
This was the last look at the land, here where they stood in the wind and waited, looking down the bog impatient for a plume of steam blooming along the narrow-gauge track,
for the doors to open and shut them in, on the way to the junction with the big city line, they say they’ll be back and don’t know yet it’s a lie,
waiting, pacing, lifting cases, hoarding in their eyes the light off the lake, the way the trees sway, and all the softness of hills, birds and sky,
carrying their cargo inside; the entirety of life, who they are, into the trembling train and away, far across seas, roads and cities, into new lives, old age, and death.
For many, here was the last place they left, waiting on this platform for change to come, some giddy, some grieving, leaving home.
First published The Irish Times New Irish Writing, ed. Ciarán Carty
We have blocked the line with caravans, a Mercedes bus with the door come off and a trailer draped in blanket with a child’s rainbow-coloured tunnel inside it.
A pink plastic house sits on the track and a rotting pile of wood long left to slime, a car parks there on and off.
Further along we sit around the firepit made of a tractor wheel and on nights like the solstice look up at the stars and the rocketing sparks
feeling the ghost of a train roaring right through us.
First published Crannóg, ed. NUIG masters programme
I say now how I thought about you over the last nineteen years because I did
but I never looked, didn’t ask around the doorways and methadone queues if anyone had seen a bouncy laughing long-haired guy, my friend
didn’t even pick up the phone to my ex, who might have known – though thought of it the odd time holidaying on our old streets see your shadow in a corner or think I do then justify maybe it had been too long since you smiled for that description to still be true –
so when the revelation slaps in the smoking zone behind the band that in fact it’s been ten years and I didn’t even know
you haunt me all weekend with your grin the smile under your hair is crushing the clouds and I swallow down concrete tears slowing past every comatose man with a cup wedged resiliently upright in his hand
but is it because though I did often wonder how and where you were I never actually bothered to find out?
First published The Poet’s Republic, ed. Neil Young
My daughter is in a ditch Talking to herself Preparing for war
When friends can come over They’ll climb the ladder I’ve left Stretched up the gable end
Lob the dog’s balls as bombs Defend themselves With this ancient shield
Just unearthed, made years ago For another child She scrapes it clean
Is that OK? she asks Thinking clearly I might Want it for myself
Crouched on a camping mat A silver tongue Lolling from the hedge
My youngest child is kept safe From the road by tiny Leaves like green snowflakes
The trunk of a birch tree Listens to her dark Imagination
She’s at her best In isolation Making all these plans