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“Since She Did That” and other poems by E.D. Hickey

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I rub, and RUB my eyes;
Ferocious;
Don’t,
Don’t, sweetheart.

Then the plane tips toward the cool thick Irish sea
So that I can face it
Gaze into it
From my seat.
Home!

Clouds bubble over the razor wings
The light jumps into my tired gaze.
Home!

 

Steel

There must be steel in women
Who say no.
I am made of utter fudge
Compelled, somehow, to reply and smile
And be grateful for the fleeting interest.

This is exactly the kind of thing
A better me
Would never do.

 

August

I have never been so hollow
I will never be so hollow
I just felt so hollow
When I refused to fix it
When you left that city a day too early
When you cried to your mother on the phone
She doesn’t even know me
I wish I could tell her I was sorry.

 

Stucco

I want to build
I want to – I need to restructure
Gut my foundations
Cut into the old black brick below me
Throw it out onto the road –

Let the neighbours have a look.
Let the dust cough up until
The air is easier to breathe.

All I can do
Is cover with stucco.

 

Since She Did That

Since she did that
We can’t walk through rivers the same way,
You know?
Hand in hand?
Guessing for the soft shells and pebbles
And hoping not to cross sharp rock.

Since she did that
I don’t reach for her if I slip on the sloppy moss
I don’t shriek her name, laughing, while I crash underwater
I don’t grasp at her as we splash to the other side

We just cross it
Together, and smiling, don’t worry –
But we cross it
Alone.

 

2am

Why do I turn inside out and back again
And then!
Back AGAIN!
AT TWO AM!
Reading messages you last checked
In 2017.

Since She Did That and other poems are © E.D. Hickey

E.D. Hickey is twenty-four and living and studying law in Dublin. She most recently spent half a year in Vienna, Austria working for the United Nations and graduated from UCD Law with Philosophy in 2017. While at university she recorded, edited and produced a feminist discussion-panel podcast called Pink Void (episodes available on Soundcloud) with two friends.

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“Viksdalen” and other poems by Fiona Smith

Shell shock

 
He built his laftehus in the old way,
As it should be done, using cured wood,
Beam on tremendous beam, an X joint
With interlocking notches at the seam.
 
Sweating over plans, permits, rights of way.
Helicopter drops in snow, cajoling
The bureaucrats, architects, authorities.
His wife, to just let him get on with it.
 
A truffle hog, he sniffed out each stick, churn
Implement, coaxing farmers, dealers,
Collectors to part with their cherished pieces
For him to enshrine in his sacred wooden space.
 
In the hard work it took to fell trees, drag them,
Haul them across the forest, dig foundations,
And shape the beams, he buried some memories.
Then he nailed a few more into the walls.
 
You can hear him up there still, pottering, fussing
By the woodpile, stacking tins of condensed milk,
Cod roe from Svolvær, provisions to last him
Until he is forced to cede to a new generation.
 
Already they come, screwing up his systems,
Logging their jaunts in his cloth-bound cabin book.
The shrieks of their blueberry-trampling children
Irk him as he reads his National Geographic.
 
Alone at night, calm from the cold earth seeps
Up through the well-crafted floorboards,
Contrives to soothe his shell-shocked sleep,
In the one place where he could find peace.
 
Only the pine marten, the snowy owls, the rut
Of elks to disturb him, at dawn mist clears slowly
As goats file past the stone steps to his door.
Outside, fjord and sky, ready to do his bidding.
 
Poetry Ireland Review (No 122, 2017)
 

Treacle

 
Tunnelling through treacle, trying to place –
To remember – a flat in Dublin,
In Baggot Street (or was it Portobello?)
On a June evening when we were young.
 
A room with a cracked ceiling in the flat
Of a friend, someone you knew in Harold’s Cross
Or somewhere around that part of the city
It was a balmy night and I saw the stars
 
From the open window of that dim room.
How could that have been possible?
With all the city lights reflected in the sky
Above that space, with its cistern crooning.
 
Nothing else sang. There were no nightingales.
No square below. But we had the stars.
We didn’t dwell on them, being young
Was enough for us on a June night.
 
You went out for fags. We all smoked then,
Finding a place that was open until 2 am,
Long before all-night petrol stations,
Back in half an hour to that crooked couch.
 
There was a fruit bowl on the kitchen table
With nothing in it. Apart from one rotting core.
There must have been a drip, the failing drone
Of a fly trapped somewhere in that flat.
 
It may have been near the Bleeding Horse,
Or The Barge. The crash of beer bottles,
Shouts, jeers, the crack of a broken nose,
Engines running into the jitters of dawn.
 
(Crannog Magazine)
 

Viksdalen

 
The deer caught in the headlights
On one late, last November evening,
The river running on as we stare
at the old television set reflect the fire
from the stove crackling against the cold.
 
The dusty surfaces we were never to disturb.
Instead, we sit draped, shrouded in silence
until an unexpected neighbour calls in with lefse.
Arriving by bicycle from the farm on the hill.
Warrior-like, hardy. She is the last of the Mohicans.
 
Rising at five to make dough for the long day’s
bread, sprinkling sugar on the unleavened treat.
She won’t change her habits until they carry
her down to be buried in the same graveyard
where your forebears lie. Isak, Magnus and Signe.
 
I am homesick for Viksdalen, sick for a home
That ever was and never will be my own.
 
(Hennessy New Irish Writing, 2014)
 

Vera

 
Up on the roof of the house,
Perched, or is it mending
The thatch before nightfall?
A step ladder against the gable.
 
Man or woman, it’s hard to say.
In a crow’s anorak, the cap a black beak.
It hardly matters now, much less to her,
She is gone beyond all that.
 
She’d wring a starling’s neck as quick
As she’d look at it – and often did –
Her beasts of cats trailing mangled
Trophies to her open door.
 
They found her outside one hard day
As darkness gathered at Leebitton
A heart attack – at eighty-six –
Emptying a hundredweight of coal.
 
“You can’t pick and choose,” she told me.
A flutter of the gap between hopes
And days at yarn and loom, holding out
Amid the cold stones above the sound.
 
I never did find out what she meant.
Promises breached, a lover lost, vicious talk
At town meetings, fences trampled down,
A much-cherished dog poisoned.
 
(Templar Poetry anthology Skein, 2014)
 

Travellers of the North

 
The hidden, hunted faces of the Sami,
Ripped from the blood warmth of the flames.
Their tools, their knives taken, their magic
Turned monochrome, flash-frozen to frame.
Scattered in the ash of black Novembers,
Their bones, their reindeer, their myths.
Unfolded in tapestries of colour
In lilted plumes of yoik – their lament.
Caught again as the light and dark etches
Upon the bare Kautokeino steppes.
Beautiful wild travellers of the North,
You’re crazy, you drink, and you fight.
Your spells, secret knowledge and sorcery
Waft still in the drifts of Arctic night.

 


 
Viksdalen and other poems are © Fiona Smith

Fiona Smith won the poetry section of the 2012 Over the Edge New Writer of the Year competition. She was elected to read as an emerging poet at Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2013. She has had poetry published in Poetry Ireland Review Southword, Crannog, Hennessy New Irish Writing, The Galway Review, the Templar Poetry anthology Skein and Poetry Ireland Review (No.122).

The North, Issue 61 (January 2019)

Into the Light Blown Dark: Working with Freda Laughton’s ‘Now I am a Tower of Darkness’

 

Now I am a Tower of Darkness

 
As a child I knew
How, beyond the lamp’s circuit,
Lay the shadow of the shadow
Of this darkness,
 
Waiting with an arctic kiss
In the well of the staircase,
Ready to drape the bed with visions
No eyelids can vanquish.
 
 Now I am a Tower of Darkness by Freda Laughton from A Transitory House (Jonathan Cape, 1945).
 

Freda Laughton produced one book of poetry, A Transitory House (Jonathan Cape, 1945). At the time of the book’s publication, Freda Laughton would have been 38 years old. Laughton’s chosen sphere was the female intimate, and within this context she was an expressionist of some ability. Her work presaged that of Eavan Boland and of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. There is a certain fragility and darkness in Laughton’s expression which imbues it with shadow. Her art was masterful, not least in the poem In a Transitory Beauty,
 
Maternal the shell
Cradling the embryo bird,
A transitory house,
Fashioned for brief security,
Of purposeful fragility,
A beauty built to be broken.
 
In a Transitory Beauty by Freda Laughton, from A Transitory House (Jonathan Cape, 1945).
 

There is a surviving photograph of Freda Laughton, it shows the poet in three-quarter profile, she has applied fresh lipstick for the camera’s gaze, she looks content and somewhat wry. We begin to see the confident poet who had found her muse, collated a collection and was an essayist and reviewer for The Bell Magazine. These are some of the facts of her professional life that we know. Poetry is a revelatory act of participation in the world, yet unfortunately for us, Freda Laughton’s work was let slip from view. I deeply regret that I was not exposed to her work in college, or as part of my later reading and studies.

 
Read more at The North, Issue 61
Freda Laughton’s poetry on this site

The North, Issue 61 was guest-edited by Nessa O’Mahony and Jane Clarke.

“A Guide to Feel-Good Doom” and other poems by Lisa Ardill

Dimples

I am the wind that sighs at night
through your bedroom window
making your lovely hairs take flight.

They rest against your cheek like affectionate little arms,
and cling to your freckled flesh,
its rosy flush their one dimpled source of life.

Those could be my arms, holding fast to that imperfect reservoir
into which I slip further each moment,
sliding towards that gentle dip at the centre of your smooth skin.

there is one on each side,
To kidnap both mind and matter.

The day I tumble into that tiny pool of love
I will drown.
and then I will float
in your falling tears that follow me down

whether those of sadness or joy, I will never know
but either will hold me captive.

Colourful Language

your words are like flowers that come alive in a cold spring
shooting from the ground with a gentleness
that encumbers a hidden force

they unearth their surroundings
and mask others with their wondrous scent
but sometimes
their beauty is only soil deep

the meaning tucked away between those pretty petals,
which sometimes are secretly colourful little blades.
they cause my heart to tremble and wither
as though it were a snowdrop made of glass,
and it will shatter.

A guide to feel-good doom

Drowning in the waves of your hair
Would be a holy passing.
To flail and clutch at your neck
As breath deserts and eyes bulge
Would be a reluctant grasp at life.

Smothering in the scent of your skin,
Choking on that poisonous perfume,
Would be the sweetest doom
And the most caressing of killers.

Falling into the deep valley crested by your thighs
Would be a lovely tumble to a dark future,
Where the pearly gates or the flames of Hell
Are the freckles on your nose.

Sleeping forever by your side
Would be a peaceful slumber.
So inflict yourself upon me
Until the Reaper hugs us both.

J

Two spots of grass
and a carpet of autumn leaves on top.
A little haven of sunshine
where beautiful thoughts grow like crops.

Smile basking in rays
that brighten my mind.
In a forest of towering trees,
the only one I could climb.

Hands reflect heart
a touch from both makes me whole,
when your laugh lights up a room
it never forgets my soul.

Crude strokes of my fingers on your face,
where worlds tease their tips.
They drag me further in each time,
and soon, happily, I will slip.

Meeting Maker

I had the chance to meet Maker;
I fought it, I tried to.

Their eyes grove wounds in my back,
Shaped rivers in my cheeks,
Reaching towards me with the menace of an obligatory offer.

Their ritual crowded them into masses,
Into shadowy shapes
That I was scared of.
The beat of their drum to the beat of my shrinking heart,
Their grotesque form devouring its feeble fight.

It stopped–
It silenced–

Maker, satisfied and quenched,
Went on Maker’s way.

Whole

If you try to fix it–
Well, I’d rather you didn’t.
It’s nice and impenetrable now, you see,

There is no key.
Not even a door to house one.
In fact, nothing will be housed by it ever again
Shards and fragments cannot be used to build a house or a home,
Its fractured shell should simply be left alone.

Oh, its fearsome, I swear!
Blood red like the mouth of a tiger
And twice as vicious when provoked

It is no longer vulnerable,
But if you want to try and approach it,
Best beware of its tendency to snap.

My heart is a lone soul
And we don’t need you to make us whole.

A Guide to Feel-Good Doom and other poems are © Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill is a twenty-something-year-old woman with a passion for feminism, human rights, neuroscience, literature and film (roughly in that order!). She writes poems and prose to entertain herself, cheer herself up on gloomy days, and keep the spark for creative writing in my brain alight.

“The Unfinished Poem” and other poems by Caroline Johnstone

The Unfinished Poem

The house his mind once called its home
Has gaping roofs, and paint-cracked eaves,
Of forget-me-not blues
The frosted brittle skeletons of history and wit served now
As a porridge of forgetfulness, faint echoes haunt
Sweet gentle kisses of remembrance
Dementia’s wraiths roam shadowed emptied rooms,
Herald long laments for lonely roads where memories float
In space yet give no hope, no sense of place.
As Alice keeps on falling down the rabbit-holes of grief
The curtains close on last acts interrupted.
Observers weep at unfinished poems.

1771 – The American Wake

(published by The Galway Review)

My firstborn child declared his independence,
Said he would choose to live, not die, by drought that stalked us all,
Or drown by workhouse shame.

The death knell rang. America had called, cried freedom, hope.
He left our land, was pushed by fear, by poverty that gnawed his soul,
And pulled by hope, and images of greener lands than these.

While on the hill, the landlord nodded, raised the rents
And watched our young ones leave forever, while theirs stayed safe and full
Behind closed doors in yon big houses.

The winds of fear and loss drowned out the tears we cried at wakes,
Where we drank health and wealth to you, drank in your face;
No graves to visit; still, the keening echoes in my ears.

That final day; that darkest morning, as you had hope held high in rags,
We walked with friends who carried heavy sighs, as I would carry now
Two worlds on shoulders, and lead in my heart.

You walked the gangplank, bravely bridged the old and new,
Stood tall and waved, your long farewell that carried over waves,
And left me, as birds forsake their nest, on empty shores, bereft.

February East Winds

Salt and pepper snowflakes
On hair, eyes, lips,
Eurus delivers last-gasp drama.
Frosted fingers breathe
Heartless, fierce red dawns
That slice through jackets,
Blow harsh winds bringing
Cries of Arctic terns
Huddled together for warmth

Tea and Sympathy

He left her fearful, lonely.
Tea and sympathy
No sweetener to
Her furious grief.

Ghosts brushed past her;
Wrapped grey fog
Around her heart;
Buried it in thorns.

She wakened, wrote her pain
In journals, powerful poems;
First aid to a broken heart,
First chapter of her new life.


Afterwards
 
She 
Zipped		 her lips
With 	fine stitches;
The silent needle	 scarred.
 
She buried it 		deep
In the pocket 		of her handbag,
Stayed 		in her gilded cage
 
With a 		silent bird’s rage;
Her plumage 		a masterpiece
Masking 		her shame.

The Unfinished Poem and other poems are © Caroline Johnstone

Caroline Johnstone is originally from Northern Ireland, now living in Ayrshire. Since 2014, she has been telling stories through her poetry, writing mainly on philosophical, political and life experience themes. She has been published in The Galway Review, Positively Scottish, The Scottish Book Trust, Belfast Life, the Burningwood Literary Journal, HCE Review, in The Snapdragon Journal, The Dove Tales Anthology, The Bangor Literary Journal and the latest Federation of Writers (Scotland) anthology Landfall. She was also shortlisted for Tales in the Forest, the Imprint Festival, and by People Not Borders.

She’s taken part in The Big Renga, a month-long collaborative poem, and was interviewed by Sara Cox on BBC Radio 2 about this. She is a Scottish Poetry Library Ambassador, a member of the Federation of Writers (Scotland), has been interviewed by children and parents in Dubai at a poetry workshop there, helps with the social media for the cross-community group Women Aloud NI, is part of the FreshAyr initiative and their poetry events, and she runs The Moving On Poetry Group weekly in Kilmarnock.