Susan Millar DuMars Five Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index
Robyn Rowland launches Bone Fire

Night Woods
Reasons to Tend the Front Garden



Dusty Millar’s head on fire.
His eyes two wet worlds,

He sits by the bar.
In his battering hands
the immaculate pint.

The bomb’s just gone off.
Its pulse sharpening
the air like a stone
sharpens a knife.
It also shattered
the front window,
pulled free a ceiling beam,
brought down the back room
where it was hidden.
There’s a lot of light.
Sudden light.
In what was
a dark corner pub.

Dusty sips his pint.
It’s that moment
of stillness before
screams and sirens
and the flailing arms
of the near dead
as they try to swim
through smoke
to the safe
Mackey Street shore.
It’s peaceful,
and Dusty’s the only
thing moving.
He makes a little whisper-sigh
after he swallows.

His hair is red as brick,
as flame,
and his eyes are my eyes.
He smiles at me
and I feel the cold caress,
in my two hands, of a glass.

This story probably isn’t true.
But it’s all I have of you,
Granddad, so I retell it.

This tale passed down
of you shrugging off
a Belfast bomb
is all I’ve inherited –

that, and this thirst.

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I torched our orchard last night.
The first flames were feathers
fallen from some bright
fabled bird.
The trees wept sparks and apples
and I said goodbye
to the faces in the bark.

Soon it was a field of light
like the glass sunsets of winter
when you’d be tucked in safe
while I wandered the orchard
protecting our perimeter.

The fire panted, a great animal
and I thought of the time,
my head in your lap,
a kind-eyed lion
was painted on the sky.
I thought it was sent to keep us safe,
believed in guardians then,
spells, the voices
of branches. And you.
None of that matters now.

Last night I torched the orchard.
It’s gone now.  I don’t think
it was ever there.

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The blood has stopped
and with it the need
to suckle lesser creatures.
My breasts are pale, cool
and mine.

The blood has stopped
and with it the need
to shield smaller souls
inside me.
My womb calm.
Not weeping.
And it’s my womb.

I’m learning the pleasure
of empty.
The weight of one.
Nothing on my back
but a breeze
getting colder.

The blood has stopped
and with it the need
to grow anything
but older.

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Night Woods
after Ted Hughes

My path was direct
through the bones of the murdered,
the maimed; I nest among remains.

Meditation, prayer are no use here.
All my questions go unanswered
except by the blip of blood-fear, the scream

of collared kill, carried above trees
by the hawk. And it laughs as it dives,
laughs, for the pleasure of swooping,

the pleasure of choosing,
the heat that escapes as it pierces the creature.
For the meat.  This is its nature.

I, the hawk’s witness.  This is my nature.

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Reasons to Tend the Front Garden

Because it’s here.  Because I’m here.
Because it’s my house now.
Because yellow petals shimmer,
like fish scales,
after rain.

Dried twig crackle, riddle
of weeds, shrubs skeletal
after a tough winter.
Because the dead must make room
for the living.
Because roots need room to take hold.
Because I’m moved by the humility
of a trimmed lawn.
Because I love
sun and the shadows of clouds
moving, everything moving,

growing, changing, dying,
and I am part of everything.
Because I love
the sweet mourning
in the scent of cut grass.
Because I love.
Because I’m here.

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Susan Millar DuMars

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