Alice Kinsella: Five Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Tír na nÓg
Rose
Sweetheart, come
And what, what are we giving to our children?
When – A video Poem

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Tír na nÓg

In lieu of history classes we learned legends of warriors,
fierce fighting Fianna we were sure lived in our blood.

Neart ár ngéag

We waved ash branches for swords,
flew down hills on steeds with wheels,
foraged berries, scaring magpies with screams,
cleared the stream in one leap – this was our land.

My favourite was always the story
of Oisín, little deer bard boy,
bravest of band of brothers,
tempted by beauty and promises,
he left for the land of the young.

We watched the tape of Into the West
while eating beans on toast
we pretended we’d cooked in camp fires,
you laughing at my Dublin dialect
dissolving with Wild West warrior words.

Beart de réir ár mbriathar

Ears hanging on the telling of legends
round camp fires, the memories of
stories, the bravery of Oisín the poet
prince and his fairy love laying siege
to time with their eternal youth.

You’d run home in half-dark before bedtime,
I’d watch the film to the end,
read the whole story in the illustrated book

learning that no amount of love
could keep him in the land without death
that the call of age would always test.

Glaine ár gcroí

One snap of the rope, the saddle strap broke,
the fall of a warrior that could not keep fighting.

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Rose

I.

Take these petals.
Let me lay this offering at your feet.

I bring you red roses
like a lover.

I will not leave you
with lilies,

and their deathly associations.
I’d imagine you’re tired of them.

Watch white hands drop red tears
one by one into the black.

II.

The rose bush is coming into bloom again.
It has decided to forgive the winter.

It’s going to give this another try.

The flourish of flowers is burying
the thorns loading its leafy limbs,

but you can still prick your finger
on the spindle that wants your sleep,

can still slit your skin
as you reach to pluck its offering.

Though,
then

your hurt hand will hold beauty
to see you through the pain.

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Sweetheart, come
I.M. Emma Hauck.

I cannot claim to understand
how they locked you away
like a corpse in waiting,

how he turned his eyes from you
and your letters went unsent
as you pleaded for him to

Komm Komm Komm
Herzensschatzi komm.

I cannot ask you to understand
that terminal is not a word
you should have heard.
That they should have

come come come
to you.

How were you to know
you are not the only one
bleeding into words
breeding love in letters
scrawled ten thousand times.

Sweetheart,

I do not have your tongue
only your prayer
that someone may

come –

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And what, what are we giving to our children?
For Aoibhe

She uses words new to her
and finds her way around the ones
she doesn’t know yet like a maze.
Tells me the marble looks like oil.
I know what she means:
its iridescent curve, blues, greens, purples
moving as it spins like the film of oil
on the surface of the sea riding the waves,
shining rainbows on lakes and streams
or every puddle she’s ever seen.

I think how our mothers
would not have known
that comparison at her age.

On Trá Mór we leave our footprints
in the peat-like drowned forest,
examine evacuated shells,
we find a Mermaid’s purse,
the leathery pocket shed by a shark
in its first moments.

Mum remembers what it said on the news:
They’ve found a superbug in the bay,
it has come in on currents from the city.
We drop the shells, wipe our shoes,
use anti-bac wipes on our hands
the whole way home.

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When’ – A video poem by Alice Kinsella released on International Women’s Day 2017.

‘When’ is a poem by Alice Kinsella based on the Rudyard Kipling poem ‘If’. ‘If’ is a poem famous for its inspiring advice on how to be a man. It is a beautiful and motivational poem but, as with much of the literary canon, ‘If-’ is written by a man for men. ‘When’ is written with the intention of being inspiring and appealing to women, while honouring the original poem. It is written for every woman.

The video features sixteen female poets: Anamaria Crowe Serrano, Kerrie O’Brien, Day Magee, Natasha Helen Crudden, Anne Tanam, Elliot Furlong Tigue, Deirdre Daly, Alvy Carragher, Fiona Bolger, Rosita Sweetman, Lynn Harding, Clara Rose Thornton, Jess Traynor, Amy Dwyer, Ingrid Casey and Alice Kinsella.

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