Seanín Hughes, How To Swallow Whole The Sky


How To Swallow Whole The Sky

After Muriel Rukeyser

Say it, say it. The world is made
Of stories, not atoms.
Little fictions, little truths,
The yarn we used to weave
Our history in reds and blues.

Let me call you by your name,
For once, we were sisters.
We were sisters not of blood,
But of petals pressed into palms
And swirled with rainwater
To make perfume sold at a price.

You were the brave one; young thing
Dangling from the wire
As the chinooks took to flight.
You watched, wondered
How to swallow whole the sky.

Seanín Hughes is an emerging poet from County Tyrone who will shortly commence study of BA Hons English with Ulster University as a mature student.

Seanín was first published on Poethead in July 2017 and was selected for the Crescent Arts Centre’s Poetry Jukebox, launched in October 2017. She has work published…

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This Is Not A Kindness





Mam tells me my heart is soft as a peach.

She kisses my cheek like it’s the last time.

My heart is soft as a peach, and Mam tells me

there is kindness, somewhere.

I look beneath layers; cardboard, paper, polyester,

synthetic comfort. The look of a stranger

when they spare loose change; enough

for soup, or soap.

My heart is soft as a peach and Mam tells me

there is kindness. I see my first dead body at six.

At six, I know the plasma expelled

by a corpse on the street, pooled in the piss

around a nameless man’s feet.

My heart is soft as a peach when at ten

I see my first penis.

Mam told me there is kindness somewhere,

so I learn to read the faces of hungry men

as I lie beneath them, searching for it.

My heart is soft as a peach,

my hips cleavered open,

my bones stretched to splitting

as I search for it, a kindness


to keep my heart as soft as a peach.




A Celebration of Women’s Poetry for International Women’s Day 2018

Honoured to be featured by Chris Murray for this year’s celebration of women poets for International Women’s Day 2018.


‘A History of Love Letters’ by Seanín Hughes
Miss said every time I told a lie,
Baby Jesus had a nail hammered
into his hand.
She said I had a sad mouth,
corners downturned, pointing
to hell.
Stephen with the p-h had a mouth
like sunshine. I gave him a token:
a tiny toy dinosaur egg, pale blue and gold.
I wrote his name on my hand
and hoped the egg would hatch.
My body grew and Granny said, never
shave your legs, so I did. Better bald
spring chicken; better descaled
and plucked bare for boys
to touch with their nervous fingers,
and work me open.
The one who wrote love letters
spilled his entrails in black Bic biro,
telling me in no particular order
the parts of me he liked best —
some illustrated.
When Napoleon begged his Josephine
to lay…

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Making ‘Den of Sibyl Wren’ by Salma Ahmad Caller


Notes on Salma Ahmad Caller’s process for the making of ‘Den of Sibyl Wren’.


The Den of Sibyl Wren is my response to A Hierarchy of Halls (forthcoming, Smithereens Press, 2018) by Christine Murray. It is my response to words Chris wrote about how she feels about this poem, and what she sees in her mind’s eye.
Details of the image ‘Den of Sibyl Wren’ by Salma Ahmad Caller 
Materials: Watercolour, Indian ink, collage, graphite and gold pigment on Fabriano acid free paper 57cm x 76.3cm

My process involves an intense working back and forth with words and images in my imagination. I write a lot as part of my creative process as an artist, and these writings help me create and develop the visual image. The so-called ‘visual’ image is to me embodied, materialised, haptic and tactile. So the ‘image’ in poetry…

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Seanín Hughes, Shade


She was always a mad bitch. If it wasn’t for me, she’d have had nothin, not after her Da. The poor fucker couldn’t take anymore, y’know? Between the wife and the daughter his head was turned to fuckin mush. I says I’d do him a turn and take the girl and he was as relieved, so he was, sittin there in his kitchen with the stained walls and filthy fuckin floor. Sure she never knew how to lift a mop til I showed her. Same day I had to show her the fist, too, and put her right on a few matters. I’ve had more than one shade of her on the knuckles since.

So there’s me, and there’s her and I make her my wife. I doubt she was ever as fuckin lucky in her life, but it didn’t stop her from makin a show of herself at the…

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Smile, Sugar

when your palm pressed

against mine, you unzipped

those pearl homilies

tallied across your skin

and showed me your reasons

for keeping count. I saw


your mother hiding

in the medicine cabinet, clinging

to the brown bottle —

her stash of tiny anchors

while you have none


your father’s whiskey-spit,

his fists, his laugh, the limp

you blamed on pulled ligaments


and that boy, who

put red flowers in your mouth

and told you to smile more

so you taste better.

Points of Reference

My axis is a blister pack

containing copper dots –

take one tablet three times daily

to subdue that feeling skin of yours.

Without it, I become

a wailing organ in a monsoon,

the eyeless monarch on the heath;

a roomful of smashed mirrors,

or a carpet of teeth, canine,

sharp and starving.

My axis is a blister pack

containing points of reference –

full stops that say there, now

pause and breathe –

see: a fat moon, a torch,

chamomile to taste;

plumes of smoke, burning peat

in the crisp air of October –

a coming sleep,

the quiet feather fall of dusk

and everything dressed softly

in its sepia self,

including me.