Poetry

Selected poems

Making Pies

We would pick blackberries
every day after school
for three weeks before
dressing up and dreading
Pooka’s poison spit.

We'd munch as we gathered
be left with only half our winnings
lick our fingers dry of juice
and always come home late.

To protect their labours
the briars would attack
and tear into soft finger tips.
I’d delve delicately into
the gushing wound,
lap up the coppery flow
and suck out the hidden prick.
I’d always say it didn’t hurt.

There was an orchard in my back garden
there we could pick our second ingredient;
Apples.
Six a piece to make a pie

They were high up
and buried in the auburn curls of autumn.
You’d give me a boost,
half the time we’d fall over
stain our trousers with the dewy evening lawn.
You’d always say it didn’t hurt.

One year they were sparse
“A bad year” my mother said,
so she bought cooking apples
from the new Tesco in Town.
I had to peel the stickers
off before she skinned them.
That was the year I learned to
use the sharp knives,
and we didn’t go trick or treating
any more.

Originally appeared in Poethead

Nativity

Don’t touch.
Your mother told you
not to touch.

It is very important
that you do not
touch them.
They are not for playing with.

Creamy ceramic
and burned blue
nestled
in a straw bed
on the mantel
displayed for admiration.

You mustn’t touch them
or desire to touch.
He can
and will
because boys
will be boys.
But you child
know better.

Precariously
balanced
perfectly dusted
figurines.
You want to cup
in your fleshy feeling paws
and examine, animate, invent
another story for them.
However
You must not touch.

Your brother
touched her
dropped her
smashed her.

He wasn’t scolded
it was expected,
because they will be
won’t they? Boys?

You found her on the carpet.
A four foot drop
had shattered her
her clay dress ripped
apart
her adoring eyes
now gazing
into nothingness.

Originally appeared in The Fem

Museums

Every holiday we’d visit two, or more,
as many as they could find really.
Terror, Resistance, Imperial war.
Unconnected, all the same.

I would complain.
Resist, be bored, disinterested.
Mum read, Dad took photos,
they didn’t speak
other than to tell me to look away
if something seemed too much.

Photographs and subtitles,
dark rooms with looming projectors,
articles in other languages,
names that didn’t look like ours.
A time I could never see as real.

One year we took a bus
out to the sunny square suburbs
of a German town with a name
I can’t remember,
to the dusty grounds within the high walls
the silhouette of a chimney,
the tower of a memorial
flags flying low in the empty air of summer.

Then there were the shoes.
A glass wall of shoes;
soles separated, flaking leather
none of them had laces
browned as if burned by years.

I was growing out of my pair then,
twelve and stretching daily,
the tatty Converse coated,
with the dust of yesterday.

I looked at all the sizes
wondering which was closest to my own
piled, packed together
collected and confined to serve their purpose.
Unwittingly connected by their kind.

Originally appeared in Poetry Northern Ireland’s Holocaust Memorial Anthology

Periwinkle

Your fingers unfurled to unveil the shell,
like the unwrapping of a present
I didn’t know I deserved.
Little twirls on the bright jewel you’d found
amongst the greys, greens and muddy sand.

Flurries of words whistling through tooth gaps,
the excitement brought by being somewhere not here.
Finding me still at home, unchanged,
all wide eyes and gaping ears,
ready to believe any adventure.

The curled sunshine shell came as evidence,
like the creamy buttercup reflection
shimmering on your chin like summer sea surface
as we’d hold our fingers too close to each other’s
faces for the first time.

The swirl of it, held tight, poised to spring
unravel into something other than
the little yellow shell, carried carefully
home from your holidays,
to share a little of the sunlight with me.

Originally appeared in The Galway Review

The bones of it

Start it with a rush - of love flesh ideas.
Keep it building, feed it with all the things you feed yourself.
Grow inside and let it fill you ‘til you’re bloated cannot keep it in.
Let it fall into the world and explode ‘til you cannot control it.
Tame it softly kill the bits you thought you loved.
Pare it back pare away the messiness,
so all that’s left are the perfect bones of it
The ones that last forever- show us to be all the same.

Originally appeared in Live Encounters

Periwinkle