Anthem

New York’s summer breath

climbs heavy through the window

and the restless worm wrestles

through apple rot.

 

Narcissus’ trumpets

wither in astonished atrophy,

recoiling into the earth

 

as the amnion ruptures,

a parting of seas in the

holiest of churches –  

 

between

the wide open legs

of an obedient woman,

 

held to ransom by

blanched agony, lips

anaemic, lily white.

 

Skull shards shift tectonic

and give passage

to the crowning;

 

the searing stretch of emergence,

the ripping of the mantle,

the sting of the slap –

 

And it breathes.

 

The bed sheets are soiled

with immigrant blood

the colour of November poppies,

 

and writhing in it,

the jaundiced newborn skin

of an epoch in waiting:

 

a God complex

with baby sized fists

clutching nuclear warheads.

Cookstown, Spring 1987

Down one side of the road, I walked

with my mother, clean neck

and well-pressed dress,

my eyes too large,

too knowing; between footsteps,

I heard my mother’s breath

catch on the

barbed wire

and I saw a dark green man

with a gun


like the ones from TV shows, where men would spray bullets and blood

across walls like death confetti,

and my father would say

it wasn’t real, and the

Incredible Hulk wasn’t real –

but this man wore green

and he walked towards us

with a gun


and my heart was only

the size of my fist and

it couldn’t beat hard enough;

when I looked at my mother’s

chest it was still,

heavy as the sandbags

at the crossroads,

dead torsos in white sacks.


We stopped moving and

he was there,

the dark green man

with a gun,

above my head, like God


and I wondered if God wore green

– until he looked down and stared,

held me in his gaze,

distilled my image,

and he spoke

in a voice that had cracks

up the middle,

that knew stories by heart

and the soft hollow of absence.


My mother’s chest eased

into its usual gentle rhythm, and

there we were, across from the

army barracks, on the edge of

the division line, bridged by

the tenderness of recognition. 

I’d Be Queen Of Myself (if I weren’t anti-Monarchy)

She said

I seemed brighter and

I was that day,

that week,

but my brightness

had a lid on it

because I couldn’t let it

spill

unless I was alone and then

I could sing

and sing and sing

and grin

at the windows

and the cutlery

and laugh at the shape

of the front door

all angular and rigid

and trapped by lines

not like me

I was bright that day

that week

in cahoots with the sun

she told me so

and she’s a puppeteer and I’m

dancing jigs

in the frozen aisle and

I’d be the Queen

of myself (if I wasn’t

anti-monarchy)

but I’ll settle

for this power

this rising gift

this momentary lapse

when the numbing fog

clears and life is vivid

so vivid, and it’s right

under my nose

the promise of it

and sometimes I forget

that it can’t last

it won’t last

until it slips

through the membrane

of my skin and I watch

it leave I watch

the lights dim, I watch

the numbing fog

and the way

it trundles in again

bearing the weight of

things I can’t carry.

Belfast Book Festival ’17 with Women Aloud NI

Over recent weeks, I have had the great fortune of discovering Women Aloud NI – a network founded by Jane Talbot, author of The Faerie Thorn, and dedicated to the celebration of women writers with ties to Northern Ireland. With the 7th annual Belfast Book Festival approaching, I’ve been excited to attend some great workshops, hear from some incredible talent and meet some faces from the Women Aloud NI group; what I wasn’t expecting was to end up with a slot to read some of my own poetry, but when Jane asked, I wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity.

That said, I am a complete unknown on the NI writers’ scene. As yet, I remain unpublished, having only completed a series of 23 poems over the course of recent months which  – to say the least – are absolutely nothing like the poetry already featured here on my blog. I should admit that even during my younger years, I struggled to find my ‘voice’ as a writer, but I think I’ve finally discovered it. To have a chance to share that voice for a brief time in front of people who love poetry is quite the privilege.

I’ve decided to share one of my recently written poems to give a taste of my poetic style. This piece was inspired by reflections upon my return to writing and the decision to pursue it properly.

Nebulae & Salt

I couldn’t bear then

to try it on, this thing;

I knew and I know, I’d have lost myself,

swathed in metaphors I hadn’t yet tasted

because I was still

seasonless, waiting

for drunken dawns and sublime solecism

– the grit and the sting of honesty.

Spring came

with the dripping thaw of

unfolding I ams, and there

I was and wasn’t, all at once,

a wide eyed coma.

Then, I strangled summer;

squeezed its neck between pale knuckles, and the

bloodstains on my nails

were a simmering oil slick,

sunset red.

But here is the harvest;

autumn now, southward

of birthing days,

and there’s that thing again, begging me

to give it limbs, to slip it over my head and fill it up

like a throat full of song.

So I’ll fill it

with songs and dirges,

with nebulae and salt

I’ll let it hold hands with my shadows

and say the words I cannot.