The two poems chosen are from my set prompted by the concept SAINT which also inspired my short story in the current issue of The Lonely Crowd, ‘Above It All’.
Winter came early for that girl
When the unreturning brother –
The endlessly prevented youth –
Was thrown first in a ditch
And then a grave.
She was the Winter’s girl,
Wearing its icy dress,
So when she saw one parent
Smash the other’s face into a wall
She wasn’t fazed. She understood how well
The rounded skull fits to the palm;
How deep the need to make pain visible since he
Had been hooded when they tortured him.
But she − to Mammy and Daddy both −
She had become
As faint as frost on glass.
Then even the mirrors emptied.
A neighbour, meaning to be kind,
Had asked her to help him set December bulbs,
Late possibilities. She’d cupped a Winter White,
A cranium, papery-skinned and primed,
But when his back was turned
She’d plunged the bulb in upside down,
Cursing it to torment itself
In growing towards the dark.
Since she was a murderer too
She sentenced herself to drink till she was sick
On school-nights out beyond the playing fields.
And only the cold would do.
But a long dormancy
Can keep something alive.
Forty years on, even the Winter tired
Of cold. It dis-adopted her,
Heading for Spring
When she shouldered her dying mother
And felt how well that heavy head
Fitted the hollow below her collar-bone,
In that embrace sensing
A possibility, though late.
Image: Claire Loader
I’m honoured to have a poem in #61 of ‘The North’, the special issue on contemporary Irish poetry.
It launches on 24th January at Poetry Ireland, Dublin and on February 25th as an event organised by the Irish Literary Society.
I'm indulging myself by re-posting this poem of mine as it has Epiphany
The wonderful image is of a capital in the Cathedral of Saint Lazare,
carved by Ghislebertus of Autun in the twelfth century: an angel awakens
The stars, a rowdy, cheerful crowd,
Ran to their places, prompt to the call,
And how they sing! since then,
A nightly choir.
Only the comets − their slow tears −
Betray the sorrow underneath that steadfastness,
For haven’t they seen it all?
− what we do down here,
Warping the darkness that they love
Into sly coverts for our filthiness.
Poor stars. Don’t grudge them their reprieve
Each year, when their paragon,
Their Star of stars, leader of kings,
Sets out once more and triumphs,
Finds his place, finding the child,
Perfect as every new-born.
Here! the Star declares to each of us,
Surely you see – surely – that you
Are a Child Awaited, you
Arrived − naked and loved − and you,
Gift-bearer of nothing,
Can stoop under this lintel,
Step clean through the needle’s eye.