‘Mulcair’ and other poems by Amanda Bell

The beauty of the game

 
is lost on me when I watch you play.
I see the curve of your cheek,
the rounded base of your skull
– once a custom-fit for my palm –
and feel again the warm weight of your incipience.
 
No more walnut-snug in my armour
your head now bobs around the pitch
and air shrieks with the thwack of
plastic against wood,
against bone.
 
(first published by The Ofi Press)
 

Dark Days

 
i.m. Savita Halappanavar
 
Suspended at the end of Krishna Paksha,
the moon is a sickle
freeze-framed in the night sky.
 
The fireworks have been cancelled,
replaced by candles
and a vision of you
dancing on the cusp.
 
These are dark days
between Diwali and Advent,
waiting
 

for the moon to wax.

(first published by the Burning Bush 2)
 

Troglodytes

 
On visiting Lascaux cave for the 70th anniversary of its discovery
 
Inland, the road torcs into forest.
Among walnut trees, the house vibrates
with life: bees, hummingbird moths,
an infestation of squat black crickets.
They love the shade of cool clay tiles
and watch us sleep, eat, bathe, make love.
We sweep them out at night; they won’t jump –
just scuttle, and keep returning.
 
Deep in the lamplit chamber, shadows
in the knotted scaffolding, they watched
hands palpate the limestone for flanks, spines,
manes – and draw them into life.
And when the lamps guttered, they scurried
over aurochs, bison, the inverted horse,
till a dog arrived, with boys and lights,
and they were brushed aside:
not far, but out of sight,
waiting for night to fall.
 
(first published by The Clearing online)
 

The Darkness

 
In winter I awaken to the dread
of losing something indefinable,
and darkness stretches out around my bed.
 
September flips a trip switch in my head
and daily living seems less feasible;
in winter I awaken to the dread.
 
On All Souls’ Night I’d gladly hide instead
of letting on that I’m invincible,
as darkness stretches out around my bed.
 
By December, it’s as if the world were dead:
to fight the darkness seems unthinkable.
Each winter day I struggle with the dread.
 
I wish that I could hibernate instead
of coming to and feeling vulnerable
to darkness stretching out around my bed.
 
I try to think of shorter nights ahead
though springtime now seems inconceivable.
In winter I awaken to the dread
of darkness stretching out around my bed.
 
(shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Competition 2014, and appeared on their website)

Mulcair
Lacking the romance of source or sea, this river middle, sectioned out in beats,
is nonetheless a beaded string of stories, a rosary and elegy.
 
Teens of the 1980s swam in jeans –
our Riviera was the weir at Ballyclough,
where we clambered weedy rocks and dove from trees,
sloped off to smoke and throw sticks into the millstream –
each day at four the river water ran from brown to red.
 
The salmon steps were our jacuzzi, where Jacky Mull
was held under by the current, re-emerging blue
and slower. His life moved one beat down to the factory,
Ballyclough Meats – leaning over concrete walls we watched
him lugging piles of horse-guts – each day at four
the river water ran from brown to red.
 
Beneath the stone bridge lampreys shimmered, on the rocks –
we dislodged them
                                    with rod butts till they coiled round our wellies,
tumbled them onto the lawn at home.
                                                                        In the evenings
we sloughed off our dark silty clothing, forgetful
of our monstrous quarry, slowly writhing on the grass –

each day at four the river water ran from brown to red.
 

 
(first published by The Stinging Fly)
unnamed (2)Amanda Bell is a freelance editor living in Dublin. She completed a Masters in Poetry Studies in DCU in 2012, which proved a catalyst for her own writing, and since that time her work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Burning Bush 2, Crannóg, The Ofi Press Literary Magazine, Skylight 47, The Clearing online, and in haiku journals Presence, Blithe Spirit, shamrock, cattails, and haibun today. In 2014 her work was shortlisted for the Cúirt New Writing Prize and the Strokestown International Poetry Competition, and in 2015 she was shortlisted for the Fish Memoir Prize, and longlisted for the Rialto/RSPB Poetry Competition. Her critical writing has appeared in journals and essay collections. She has a research interest in ecocriticism, and particularly the work of Kathleen Jamie. She reviews regularly for Children’s Books Ireland’s publication Inis. Amanda is a member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group, and is editor of their forthcoming collection The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work.
‘Mulcair’ and other poems by Amanda Bell

‘Blackbird’ and other poems by Imogen Forster

Testudo

 
A bone-hard carapace,
a shell cast on a hot shore,
emptied by the labour
of leaving the nurturing
sea, scraping broad ribbons
up the sand’s glassy slope .
 
Gasping, digging a damp hole,
she lays round, sticky eggs,
a hundred leathery balls.
Then spent, noon-dried,
she dies, picked clean
by quick scavengers.
 
Her hatchlings flail
and scuttle towards
the sea, led by the
gazing moon, their plates
small patterned
purses, hardened
in the rich sea-soup
into a vaulted chamber
built to the blueprints
of this old architecture.
 
Published in Visual Verse
 

Blackbird

 
The blackbird sits, a smudge
in the prickly hedge, stooped,
wings and tail all downward.
 
I want to touch him, to feel
the quick, warm shape
in a cage of bare branches.
 
What does a bird fluffed
against the cold see
in his crouched stillness?
 
If I could grasp him by
his ashy back, hold his whole
breathing body in my hand
 
what would the soft bones
tell me, the barbed primaries
and the mite-infested down?
 
The bird stirs, and now
shows a bead, a pinhead eye,
a beak ripening to yellow.
 
Then the sudden thrust
out of the damp bush,
the perfect trajectory.
 
This was his first lesson,
the enactment of his ease.
 
Submitted to The Rialto Poetry competition, February 2015
 

Dancer, after Yinka Shonibare, ‘Girl Ballerina’

 
I am tailored, buttoned, piped,
the colonist’s clothes a tight fit
round my slim child’s waist.
Net and frills, my costume’s
a good girl’s best party dress.
But am I a welcome guest
or a blackface clown?
Headless, I say nothing.
I am a dancer’s body
in a pair of cotton shoes.
 
I am a sister to Marie, the wax
and bronze work of M Degas,
shiny, moulded on a frame
of pipes and paintbrushes.
Called monkey, Aztec,
a medical specimen,
the flower of depravity.
I am ten, to her fourteen, and so,
you could say, innocent.
 
My neat bodice of East India
Batiks is the bright stuff
of conquest, traded from
Batavia to Benin and now
spread across south London stalls.
My Brixton market wardrobe,
my new flags, my hopeful anthems.
 
Hands behind my back,
my finger resting on the trigger.
 
Submitted to Faber New Poets competition, January 2015

WP_20150116_19_52_26_ProImogen Forster is a freelance translator, mainly of art history, from French, Italian, Spanish and Catalan. She translated one of the French volumes for the new edition of Vincent van Gogh’s Letters published by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, in 2009. She has published poems on-line, and in a number of magazines.
‘Blackbird’ and other poems by Imogen Forster

‘The Mission’ by Rita Ann Higgins

The Mission

I think of the last time we met
on the prom in Galway.
A sunny day in May
you looked cool in those shades.
You looked taller somehow.
We talked for ages.
You told me about plans
for your mother’s sixtieth.
I felt lucky to have such a nephew.
Shades or no shades.

You hid your distress well, John.
None of it was evident that sunny day.
The day of good nephews.
A month later you went to Beachy Head.
WTF John.

I think of you
leaving your bundle
on top of Beachy Head.
Your belt coiled around your watch
your wallet with a photo of your daughter
your fire fighter’s ID card
your blood donor card
your bus ticket from Brighton.
Losers weepers.

Margaret, your Irish twin,
was on a holiday she didn’t want to go on.
She had been worried sick,
she had us all demented
saying you were going to do it.
Twins know things, Irish twins know more.
I was at a wedding in June
when some friends of yours called me outside.
‘It’s about John Diviney,’
and something about Beachy Head.

Later we went to the priest
he came down to Castle Park
to tell your mother.
She thought we were there to show her the wedding style.
I wouldn’t mind, John
but I had hired a dress for the wedding.
It was a deep blue.
It sailed when I walked.
Your mother was in a daze.
‘I dreamed of him on Thursday night,’ she said.
‘He went in and out of every room.
Himself and Shannon were laughing.’

We went to Eastbourne to bring you home.
Your mother to collect a son,
Margaret to collect a brother,
Caroline and Majella to collect a cousin.
Me to collect a nephew.
Five women on a mission.

Your mother couldn’t sleep,
she was smoking out the hotel window.
She saw the undertaker
collect your best suit from reception at six am.

Despite all the sadness
we had laughed a lot on the way over.
The girls nearly missing the flight
because they had to get food.
We laughed too at nothing at all.
Declan, another cousin of yours turned up
and chauffeured us around Eastbourne
and later to Heathrow.
Loosers weepers.

You had a photo in your wallet
of your daughter Katie.
I have a photo in my study
of the day we bumped into you
in King’s Cross, you and Katie.
Ye were going to some match or other.
What are the chances?
We were over to surprise Heather
on her thirtieth.

What are the chances of bumping into you now, John?
We weren’t laughing when we saw you in that coffin.
Your Irish twin ran outside and puked.
Your mother whispered things in your ear.
We started the prayers
it was a mumbo jumbo litany
We couldn’t remember how anything finished.
Hail Mary full of grace the lord is with thee…

On the way back
there was a bad storm.
We were at the airport for five hours.
Your mother kept going back out for a smoke.
Each time she went out we worried
that she’d never get back in.

You were in the hold,
in your new suit
your designer shirt
your best shoes.
We forgot your socks.
Losers weepers.

We arrived at Shannon
in the early hours.
The Divineys were there en masse.
So was Keith and Aidan.
We followed the hearse,
a night cortège.
‘At least we have him back,’
your mother said,
more than once.

After the funeral mass
your friends from the fire station
hoisted your coffin onto the fire brigade.
The army were there too.
It was a show stopper.
I never told you this, John
but I love a man in uniform.

I think of you
leaving your bundle
on top of Beachy Head.
Your belt coiled
around your watch
your wallet with a photo of Katie
your fire fighter’s ID card
your blood donor card
your bus ticket from Brighton.
Loosers weepers.

‘It’s about John Diviney,’
the coroner’s office said.
‘Some young people found his things.
His belt a loop around them.’
He flew without wings
off Beachy Head.
He landed at the bottom
his back against the wall
his eyes looking out to sea.

The Mission is © Rita Ann Higgins

Poet Rita Ann Higgins(1)Rita Ann Higgins was born in Galway. She has published ten collections of poetry, her most recent being Ireland is Changing Mother, (Bloodaxe 2011), a memoir in prose and poetry Hurting God (Salmon 2010). She is the author of six stage plays and one screen play. She has been awarded numerous prizes and awards, among others an honorary professorship. She is a member of Aosdána.
 
Rita Ann Higgins’s readings are legendary. Raucous, anarchic, witty and sympathetic, her poems chronicle the lives of the Irish dispossessed in ways that are both provocative and heart-warming. Her next collection Tongulish is due out in April 2016 from Bloodaxe.
‘The Mission’ by Rita Ann Higgins

‘Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree’ and other poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree

 
1.
 
I didn’t see my grandmother’s tree in Chile,
araucaria araucana,
though they grow tall there and are many.
I must have walked under them every day, tripped
over their seeds, but I didn’t think of her, oceans away,
standing in a square of green, raking leaves
around her monkey puzzle tree.
 
2.
 
For over a hundred years, that tree stood between
pruned rosebush and clipped hedge, a long shadow
moving over wet fields and stone walls.
As a girl, I clung to the trunk when we played hide and seek,
rough bark printing maps on my palms.
 
3.
 
In April gales, the tree sways. From the window,
my grandmother watches a chainsaw blade
spin the tree into a flight of splinters,
until only logs and sawdust are left.
In each neat wheel of wood, an eye opens,
ringed by lines of the past. The logs are split,
stacked, the tree turned into armfuls of firewood
which will rise as smoke to the sky,
a puzzle unravelled.
 

Frozen Food

 
In the frozen foods aisle, I think of him
when I shiver among shelves of green flecked
garlic breads and chunks of frozen fish.
I touch the cold door until my thumbs numb.
 
Strangers unpacked his body in a lab
and thawed his hand, watched long-frozen fingers
unfurl one by one, until his fist finally opened,
let go, and from his grasp rolled
a single sloe,
ice-black with a purple-blue waxy bloom.
 

Inside the sloe,
a blackthorn stone.
Inside the stone,
a seed.

 
Standing in the supermarket aisle,
I watch my breath freeze.
 

Museum

 
I am custodian of this exhibition of erasures, curator of loss.
I watch over pages of scribbles, deletions, obliterations,
in a museum that preserves not what is left, but what is lost.
 
Where arteries are unblocked, I keep the missing clots.
I collect all the lasered tattoos that let skin start again.
In this exhibition of erasures, I am curator of loss.
 
See the unraveled wool that was once a soldier’s socks,
shredded documents, untied shoestring
knots — my museum protects not what is left, but what is lost.
 
I keep deleted jpegs of strangers with eyes crossed,
and the circle of pale skin where you removed your wedding ring.
I recall all the names you ever forgot. I am curator of loss.
 
Here, the forgotten need for the flint and steel of a tinderbox,
and there, a barber’s pile of scissored hair. I attend
not what is left, but what is lost.
 
I keep shrapnel pulled from wounds where children were shot,
confession sins, abortions, wildflowers lost in cement.
I am custodian of erasures. I am curator of loss
in this museum that protects not what is left, but what is lost.
 
‘Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree’, ‘Museum’ and ‘Frozen Food’ are © Doireann Ní Ghríofa

DOIREANN b+wDoireann Ní Ghríofa is an award-winning bilingual poet, writing both in Irish and in English. Paula Meehan awarded her the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary 2014-2015. Her collections are Résheoid, Dúlasair (Coiscéim), A Hummingbird, your Heart (Smithereens Press) and Clasp (Dedalus Press). Her work is regularly broadcast on RTE Radio One. Doireann’s poems have previously appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally (in Canada, France, Mexico, USA, Scotland and England). Two of her poems are currently Pushcart Prize nominated.
.
www.doireannnighriofa.com & DoireannNiG
‘Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree’ and other poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

‘Crystal Clear’ and other poems by Eileen T O’Neill

Crystal Clear

 
She sits alone within her own cocoon,
Shrouded from her entire surroundings.
Eyes stare without seeing today’s world,
The sound of talking is silent in her mind.
Her crystal lamp is abandoned from care,
All belongings are deserted from attention.
Her perspective is internally facing forever,
Her gaze is transparent in its sad emptiness.
This journey is taken in isolation and alone,
Farewells too late as her departure had gone.
Her dementia deteriorated in a sneaky fashion,
Only memories enliven her past participation.
 
© Copyright Eileen T O’Neill 20/02/2015
 

Solitude’s Soliloquy

 
Loneliness is an outpost endured,
Alone in isolation bereft of friends.
A far flung niche deserted in tundra,
Or lost in the coldness of city living.
It shrouds demeanour and self-belief,
Belonging is seemingly for all others.
Unattached except for wishful dreaming,
Solitude does not placate a lonely mind.
Seclusion is at times a necessity of desire,
Its calmness affords tranquillity to muse.
Reflections gaze and ponder their silences,
In this solitudinous mode one draws breaths.
A soliloquy considered in quiet contemplation,
This position sits well in the stillness of being.
 

© Copyright Eileen T O’Neill 19/02/2015
 

Rebirth and Opportunity

 
Making that first bold move takes much courage,
The contemplation and the deliberation were easy.
Stepping away from what was life’s familiarity then,
Every worldly possession uprooted and packed away.
Closing doors of the old abode was a surreal moment,
Pulling the garden gate shut and not daring to look back.
Nearest and dearest confused in the midst of changes,
Looking beyond the confines of what had been home.
Promise and dreams awaited in a flight of sixty minutes,
The arrival revealed an environment of boring normality.
Leafy slumbers of countryside living in a haven of safety,
Opportunities grasped at every turning point of direction.
One could sit and contemplate the nothingness of something,
Or simply taste life free from the scourges of its daily violence.
That momentous date of departure remains in minds forever,
Yet a rebirth evolved from the perspective of fresh beginnings.
 
© Copyright Eileen T O’Neill 14/01/2015

XdxI_-Ln_400x400Eileen T O’Neill was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She lives in Cheshire, England. Mum to four wonderful and loving children and one beautiful grandchild.
 
Eileen’s Website
‘Crystal Clear’ and other poems by Eileen T O’Neill