Karen J. McDonnell: Four Poems

Biographical Note                  This Little World Launch Speech                 
Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

New Quay
Shell Gathering

P .


A benign pondling straight
from Constable’s studio:

Cattle graze calcific patches
on a summering canvas.

Then rains, in on the Atlantic.
Malevolent down the mountains.

Underground drowns and you
sinkhole in reverse, spewing.

Roads disappear, fields are
islanded. Senselines tangle.

Your water-mischief engulfs
us. We are lost.

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P .


His line is in his face.
My fingers trace dark-eyed,
Norman origins.

I close my eyes. In the distance,
mist is drenching a wood.

See a man moving quietly,
neat in leather boots,
peating half-rotted leaves.

He steps off a path known only
to memory and the closed eye.

He tenses the string on the bow.
He leans, stretches, releases.
The arrow hits home.

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P .

New Quay
In 1969 nine children died in the ‘Red Bank’ disaster, New Quay, Co. Clare</sma;;>

Six strange beasts rose up,
still breathing, in the water
where you drowned.

They seemed to be walking;
heads held proud of the sea.
Then a flash of neon green

dispelled impressions
as flippers breached,
harrowing the surface.

Reddened faces, then hands
and wet-suited torsos sucking
up out of the shallows.

Squelching, chatty men
speaking of currents strong
enough to pull buoys under.

You never had a chance,
when adventure turned to disaster,
capsizing every summer.

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P .

Shell Gathering

Coming home from the funeral
we stop in the hot day
for ice-cream at Crusheen.

The sun hammers down.
A day for the beach and shell gathering.
No weather for heat-seeking black.

Out on the Mare Nostrum, an Israeli eye
scans a Gaza beach
where children play football.

A held breath.
A lining up of crosshairs.
Slight pressure on the fingerpad.

The air shivers, but the sea remains calm.
Shells whoosh in, shredding the children.
And their fathers run, to gather them in.


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Looking back through time and memory: Celeste Augé launches ‘This Little World’ by Karen J. McDonnell

Karen J. McDonnell Biographical Note       Karen J. McDonnell Four Poems            
Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

This Little World by Karen J. McDonnell, Doire Press 2017, was launched by Celeste Augé on Saturday 17th June, 2017 at the Galway Arts Centre

Celeste Augé launching This Little World

There are books of poetry that jump out and hit you on the head with overwrought emotion, opinions or anxieties. This Little World is not one of those. It’s a book that demands a quiet space, for you to take the time to slowly read – or re-read – individual poems so that they sink in, the way a good conversation with a friend sinks in, follows you throughout the day; the way snippets of chat are later recollected and gain added meanings, maybe even a different perspective. These are poems that need time, the way a friendship needs time.

At the outset of her collection, in the poem ‘Rear View’, Karen J. McDonnell asserts: ‘I drown in other lives’. This Little World looks back through time and memory, through different perspectives, including those that flare beyond Ireland’s boundaries. From the hills of Clare to ‘Sleepless in Armagh’ to a soldier on the Somme to Limerick in 1918 to Nazi death camps through to present-day Middle East to Syria, McDonnell fashions poems out of the quiet unseen moments – the small incidents and insights – recognising that we are all human, together.

In ‘The Good Room’ – an evocative title for any Irish person of a certain age, a room we’ve been banished from or invited through depending on the circumstances – the poet looks at transgression, at spending time in spaces we’re not supposed to: ‘Tell me, child, why / do you still grasp this time-shard / when memories are lost as easily as a daisy hair clip / in a day’s rough and tumble?’ The poem asks the question within a memory, providing delicious irony. And isn’t this the role of the writer, to watch and remember and piece it together later, to illuminate context and meaning?

Another glimpse of Irish-ness is contained in the powerful poem ‘Shell Gathering’, which opens with an image that is very much located in Ireland: ‘Coming home from the funeral / we stop in the hot day / for ice-cream at Crusheen.’ This image sets the scene for shell gathering beyond these shores, creating a breathtaking twist. Well, you’ll have to read the collection to discover it.

Flashes of humour and whim combine to give us delicious lines like this one from ‘Super Moon’: ‘Optimism is no match for Burren / mists.’ That first line sucks me in, then the poem succinctly dives off into a perfect description of the life of the artist and more specifically the process of writing poetry: ‘Chasing a super moon / in cloud cover is fruitless.’ It speaks both of the challenges of life in the West of Ireland and the difficulty of writing poetry, of finding truth in the midst of our complicated world. In the playful ‘Sleepless in Armagh’, when ‘the boy racers of Armagh are at it’ – it being handbrake turns in the B&M car park – the speaker wryly speculates: ‘This was once the most militarised zone / in Europe. Where are the police? / Could we not have a bit of the tough stuff back?’ Then later in the poem, after at least one prayer, she confesses: ‘I’m an ecumenical non-believer.’ The poet’s fine sense of whimsy lights up another poem, ‘A Bad Dose’, which describes getting a writerly affliction while in A&E: ‘Worse still is the dose / I catch in there. Hospitals: / completely overrun by adverbs.’

This Little World does what good poetry should: transform the everyday and draw our attention to it. The poet takes the sense of powerlessness felt when faced with natural or man made disasters beyond our control, and from them casts images of beauty. The poem ‘In Zaraq’ features the lines: ‘On a high wire / a plastic bag hangs / like a hawk / treading stilled air.’ It brings to mind an earlier poem, ‘Swansong’, so that both images reverberate across my mind: ‘A discarded fertiliser bag. / I tried to fool myself, but the sea / slunk out, leaving behind a / desolate, soaked swan / that I couldn’t reach.’ What else can we do when faced with the impossibility of action but write, or failing that, read a poem? One of my favourite poems of the book, ‘Palmyra, 2016’ contains the striking observation: ‘Even ghosts can only bear so much suffering.’ So the collection ends, halfway across the world from County Clare, where it began.

Karen has taken the time to listen to the world, to write these poems, wrestle them together into a collection. Writing poetry is never easy in a world that rewards feeding the corporate giants. And although other people can help, ultimately the writer does it alone. In that way, writing resembles birth. To quote from one more poem: ‘Birthing. / Not always joyful. / Forceping dactyls. / Similes I’ll never like. / Elusive adjectives.’

But now comes the christening, the publication of Karen’s poems in the world, the celebration with friends and family as This Little World joins the extended family of books already published, as her new book – her first – joins the conversation between poems – and poets – across boundaries and through time, goes out to find its place in this world, independent of the poet who birthed it.

 – Celeste Augé


Celeste Augé is the author of Skip Diving (Salmon Poetry, 2014), The Essential Guide to Flight (Salmon Poetry, 2009) and the collection of short stories Fireproof and Other Stories (Doire Press, 2012). Her poetry has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award and in 2011 she won the Cúirt New Writing Prize for fiction. She lives in Connemara, in the West of Ireland, with her husband and son.

Vale Rae Desmond Jones

Rae Desmond Jones at the joint launch of The Selected Your Friendly Fascist and P76 Issue 6 – October 21, 2012 The Friend In Hand Hotel, Glebe.

I was on the train coming home from work checking social media on my phone when I saw a post from John Edwards:

Vale Rae Jones, poet, Mayor of Ashfield, teacher and my oldest friend (1966-2017). Rae died today as Ruth & I were there to say “goodbye,” at about 4.15pm in Concord Hospital. He was one for the ages.

I read it again in disbelief and felt the punch to my stomach. Then there were tears rolling down my face as I sat in the train staring at my phone. People in the carriage started moving away from me…..

Rae was a friend and a mentor. He was one of the first contemporary  Australian poets I read as a teenager and my fascination with him only increased following the controversy over the inclusion of ‘The deadshits’ on Robyn Archer’s  1978 LP The Wild Girl in the Heart.

I then meet Rae in person when I started hanging around NSW Poets Union events. Over the following years we worked together in various capacities in the Poets Union and I got to know him quite well. I also came across his “legendary” publication Your Friendly Fascist, a journal which he ran with John Edwards. The Fascist, as one could tell from its title, was not a normal literary journal. If you work appeared in it, for example, it was not always clear if it had been selected on “literary merits” or if it was so bad the editors couldn’t resist taking the piss…..

In the early 1980s I decided I wanted to start publishing and, taking the lead from magazines like Magic Sam and Your Friendly Fascist I found a gestetner machine and started learning how to use it. Rae heard about my new machine and, in need of a way of printing the final issue of the Fascist, offered to come round and show me how to print a magazine. That issue of Your Friendly Fascist was, in fact, the first publication to emerge from Rochford Street (from my second floor bedroom in fact).

Over the years Rae was always happy to provide advice on poetry and publishing and, during his years in local government (he was Mayor Of Ashfield for a number of years), he feed me a number of stories when I was working as journalist for Tribune.

We began working together again a few years ago when, while he recovering from an operation, he wrote an article for Rochford Street Review about Your Friendly FascistLots of energy here, not much control”: Your Friendly Fascist – 1970 – 1984. Rae Desmond Jones remembers…..‘. After it was published I said to him in a half joke it would be great to do a “best of” – about six weeks later he contacted me to say he had pulled it together. Rae had put a lot of work into the selection, editing and layout but he still wanted that “ratbag” look and so we photocopied the pages, printed the covers on an inkjet printer and bought a big stapler to staple them together.

Over the intervening years we discussed the possibility of doing a sequel – Your Friendly Fascist – The Rejects, sadly for Australian Literature that book will now never appear.

Goodbye Rae and thank you.

Rae Desmond Jones in Rochford Street Review;

Rochford Street Review extends its deepest condolences to Helen, Karey, Alys, Bevan and the rest of his family and very many friends and colleagues.

Rae’s funeral Service will be held on Friday, 7th July, 2017 in the Ashfield Uniting Church, 180 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, commencing at 11.30am.


Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Kimberly Campanello

Six Poems              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index


Kimberly Campanello was born in Elkhart, Indiana, and is a dual American and Irish citizen. Her poetry include Consent (Doire Press, 2013), Imagines (New Dublin Press, 2015/ICAD prizewinner), and Strange Country (2015), her full-length collection on the sheela-na-gig stone carvings. Eyewear Publishing released her version of the Hymn to Kālī in May 2016. ZimZalla will publish  MOTHERBABYHOME, a book of conceptual and visual poetry next year. In summer 2017, poems from MOTHERBABYHOME will appear in Laudanum Publishing’s second chapbook anthology alongside work by Fran Lock and Abigail Parry. Kimberly’s play Constance and Eva – about the revolutionary sisters Constance Markiewicz and Eva Gore-Booth – will be produced in London at Bread and Roses Theatre in September 2017.


Selected Interviews:

Kimberly Campanello reads her poem “April, Dublin” in the UCD Special Collections Reading Room. Part of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive.

Kimberly Campanello Six Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

VERSE 4 from Hymn to Kālī
VERSE 9 from Hymn to Kālī
Love Poem as Reflection, as Presence
VERSE 16 from Hymn to Kālī

P .



Now the wracked bodies
of charred rabbits
have disappeared
from the fields
and the village is flooded
with people who can’t
speak the language.
Each day we help each other
peel back our eyelids
despite the sun.
We prepare food
with a rusting knife
made by a child
we don’t know
on the other side of the world.
We sharpen
a hundred pencils each
and work on new lines
to press into our palms
new veins to line our legs
new omniscience
to goad our hearts.


To displace
the obelisk’s
stacked stone
To invent new trumpets
tubas saxophones
To march
To attack first with rosemary
then predictions
to demand money
to accept tears
To run up the street
from our offices
in high heels
to grab our babies
to feed them
from our breasts
then and there
To light candles
in the grotto
to light so many
it will explode


I squat over these rising white ribbons,
these maggots reaching
and twisting themselves

from a rotting leg joint.
They promise me
there are salves

for all of this.
Salves stronger
than nuclear waste

with a smell
that could fill a church
like incense.

Biologists say
a maggot’s whole body
is covered with ocular cells,

eyes that never blink.
They always
respond to the light.

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P .


Copper kills sperm offerings, you see.
An old knowledge. That, and its
T-shape hovers and bounces
along womb walls, evicting occupants.
A bucranium within a bucranium.
Bull’s head and horns of the goddess.
Uterus and fallopian tubes. The coil.

Once we drilled holes in her stone belly,
filled them with branches and antlers
spreading outward like a child’s fingers
reaching for an egg. Once we carved
a triangle above her pubis
for the bull’s nose breathing
heat, rustling and shining wet
before the charge. Once we handed the ear
to the man who killed best. The heavy
body falling. The throngs rising
to their feet. Or we snatched rosettes
tied to the horns, twirled their
stems in our fingers, brought the petals
to our noses. And all of this means
something. Perhaps then, as now.

Now, this act of gynecology—someone
must reach in and twirl its strings
so we can know it’s still there.
Will it be me, or you? Copper
kills sperm offerings, you see. Once we
excarnated our corpses. Crows
tore skin from fat, fat from flesh,
exposed the bull’s horns for the first time.

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P .

VERSE 4 from Hymn to Kālī

O Dakṣiṇā

you’ve got me covered


you sever all my attachment

and shake this world’s bleeding head


you give me the signs

that I am lucky

and safe


and that I don’t

have to wander



I only have to carry your lotus

in my palm

to enjoy its scent

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P .

VERSE 9 from Hymn to Kālī

so what can I
say to show you
I know you

you the origin

even the big
gods admit
they can’t explain

O Darkness Itself

forgive me
for trying

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P .

Love Poem as Reflection, as Presence

When bones
we say
they knit
Are we
plaiting ourselves
like the bones
of tantric dance aprons
human remains
carved first
sized perfectly
in liquid
to preserve
for at least
1,000 years?
Or are we
stacked upon
like catacomb
And now
are you
and pulling
my scalp
to see
my skull’s
growth lines
that I
have been?
Am I
your lines
right through
your skin?
Are you
so I’ll crack
you open
and drink?

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P .

VERSE 16 from Hymn to Kālī

on Tuesdays I tear out a strand
of my beloved’s hair
cover it in my wetness
bring it to the graveyard at noon

for you O Kālī with you

I don’t give a shit
about death
my feet don’t even
touch the ground

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Poet Kimberly Campanello reads her poem “Chloran” in the UCD Special Collections Reading Room. Part of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive.

Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Noel Duffy

Four Poems ....................Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Noel Duffy’s debut collection, In the Library of Lost Objects, appeared with Ward Wood Publishing, London, in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish poet. His second collection On Light & Carbon followed in 2013. His most recent collection, Summer Rain, was published in summer 2016, again with Ward Wood. His poetry has been published widely in Ireland and beyond, including in Poetry Ireland Review, The Irish Times and The Financial Times, and has also been broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4. He lives in Dublin.



Reviews and Articles



Noel Duffy: Four Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

The Department of Dead Letters
The Botanical Gardens
Darkroom Notes
The Island

P .

The Department of Dead Letters

There is a man among us who knows secrets.
He gets up when night comes, looks
at the outline of the woman’s body, a question mark
against the sheets as he dresses quickly
and leaves her there asleep. He is already late,
but then everything is his life is late, or lost
as he retrieves his car from the apartment carpark
to make his nightshift at the sorting depot.
There it is his duty to piece together the clues
and runes of misspelt addresses, the half-remembered
names, the scrawling handwriting, undecipherable;
the lost love letters or wedding invitations
written to those long since parted or departed –
to try, at least, to find a place to return them to,
so the one who sent them may know they went
undelivered, touched only by his hands.
This work his solitary calling as he inspects
the items from the tray, delicately lifting one
from the pile as he applies steam to the yellowed
parchment, his hand a soft caress to ease it open
to find there a cursive script but no return address,
the loss so carefully expressed, now his and his only.

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P .

The Botanical Gardens

You lean down close to the blossom, inhale deeply;
the stem straight, the perfect contours of the stamen,
the tight, precise folds of containing petals. There is
a sadness in the opulent grace of such things whose
season is passing. The August sunshine suddenly
darkens, the cloud thickening to rain. I take your hand
as we run to take cover, passing beneath the creepers
that climb the arching ironwork trellis of the entrance
to the rose garden. You pull tight your yellow overcoat
and we hurriedly make our way towards the shelter
of the vaulting glass of the Victorian palm house,
the slam of humid heat that meets us as we enter,
the intense odour of sweat reminding us of ourselves.
You shake away the rain and laugh as an old couple
walk past slowly, holding hands, carrying each other along,
like the century flower that blooms only once in its lifetime,
but endures so many seasons to continue so.

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P .

Darkroom Notes

The print lies in the tray, the image of the hotel
emerging in the red sundown of the darkroom,
the filigree of the ironwork window boxes painted over
in the double-exposure of memory’s flashbulb
and the rust of time passing. What stories lie behind
these boarded-up windows overlooking the promenade,
the sea still washing up against the harbour wall,
yet forgetful of everything: the women in their
tightened corsets and flounce of tresses, attended upon;
the men in their bowler hats and spotted neckties;
the reliquary of old, faded postcards of the silver-nitrate
past as the ghosts of maids continue to walk the corridors
ascending and descending staircases that lead nowhere
in the stopped watch of someone else’s afterlife.
And the figure of a man caught in the scene, standing
beneath the spotlight of a street lamp, staring back at me.

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P .

The Island

We approach the jetty by a narrow path
the boat shifting with the lake’s waters.
I hold your hand as you step
from the wooden platform in half-shadow
to the rocking seat, the cradling bow
measuring your weight as it tilts slightly
beneath you, the water lapping against the hull.
I climb onto the seat behind you, push
the oars down deep into the surface,
the lake receiving my giving force
and we push outward from the bank into
obsidian waters. A crescent moon rises
above the distant treetops of the island,
your shrill laughter echoing in the stillness
the stars plotting our course through darkness
into the night’s forbidden navigations.

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‘Reykjavik’ – a video-poem by Noel Duffy

Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Breda Wall Ryan

Six Poems ....................Contemporary Irish Poetry Index


Breda Wall Ryan grew up on a farm in Co Waterford and lived in Cork, Spain and Dublin before settling in Co. Wicklow. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish (NUI); a Post-graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language from Trinity College, London and a M.Phil. in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Trinity College, Dublin. A former language teacher and teacher trainer, she is now a poetry workshop facilitator and competition judge.

Ryan’s short stories have appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2006-7 and The New Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction and have been shortlisted for The Davy Byrnes Award, Francis MacManus Short Story Award, Hennessy Literary Award, UCD Anthology Award (Fiction) and Elizabeth Bowen/William Trevor Award.

Her debut poetry collection In a Hare’s Eye (Doire Press 2015) was awarded the Strong/Shine Award for a First Collection by an Irish Poet. Contest judge, writer Kevin Barry said, “Breda Wall Ryan has an astounding control of language. And I think only a poet as sure-footed as this on the line and as certain of her own gifts could bring the poems to the very difficult places they sometimes go…”

Among her other awards are the iYeats Poetry Prize, Dromineer Poetry Prize, Poets meet Painters Prize, Over The Edge New Writer Award and The Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize.

Her poems have been widely published in print and online journals and anthologies, including Ink Sweat and Tears, Mslexia, The Pickled Body, Deep Water Literary Journal, Magma, Orbis, The OFI Press, The Fish Anthology 2013 and 2014, The Penny Dreadful, The Bohemyth, The Rialto, Itaca, Crannóg, Poethead, The Camel Saloon, Blue Fifth Review, The Stony Thursday Book and Southword. Most recently, her work has appeared in Flare, Live Encounters, Blackjack, and Poetry Ireland Review. Her poetry has been broadcast on local and national radio stations and has been translated into several languages, including Irish and Romanian.

She has been recorded by RTÉ Radio 1 for The Poetry Programme, and by University College, Dublin, School of English, Drama and Film for the Irish Poetry Reading Archive.

She has been a featured poet in Authors and Artists Introductions Series 10, in Live Encounters, on Poethead.wordpress.com (ed. Christine Murray), and in Poetry Ireland Review The Rising Generation.

Ryan has performed at poetry events throughout Ireland, including Belfast Book Festival; Wild Atlantic Waves Poetry Festival, Cahirciveen; Cork Spring International Poetry Festival; Five Glens Arts Festival, Co.Leitrim; Dromineer Literature Festival, Co Tipperary; Hay Festival at Kells, Co Meath, and Cúirt Festival of Literature Galway. She has also read at Troubadour, London and at Tres Gatos, Boston, USA.


Breda’s website can be found at www.bredawallryan.com


In a Hare’s Eye can be bought from Doire Press, who ship free of charge worldwide: www.doirepress.com/writers/a_f/breda_wall_ryan/

Reviews and Articles

Poetry reviews: new work by Kathleen Jamie, Breda Wall Ryan and Grace Wells in The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/poetry-reviews-new-work-by-kathleen-jamie-breda-wall-ryan-and-grace-wells-1.2515430

Breda Wall Ryan on writing In a Hare’s Eye in The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/breda-wall-ryan-on-writing-in-a-hare-s-eye-1.2600493

Other Work




Breda Wall Ryan: Six Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Self Portrait as She Wolf
The Woman Who Toasted the Owl
Tender Loving Care
Epiphany in Jamaica Plain
Self Portrait in the Convex Bulge of a Hare’s Eye

P .

Self Portrait as She Wolf

You sheer away from the warm,
many-tailed beast,
spurn the communal dream.

Beyond the shelter of pine and fir
you lope across open ground
where cold scalds your lungs,

feel a soft-nosed bullet’s kiss,
lick the salt wound clean,
almost drown in a starry bog,

but break through its dark mirror,
meet your reflection
in a boutique window on a city street

among mannequins in ersatz furs,
the last of your kind,
or the first.

Only look back once,
for a silhouette, a hungry scent.
There is still time to re-trace your spoor,

answer the tribal howl. Your throat opens
on one long, swooped syllable,
almost a word.

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P .

The Woman Who Toasted the Owl

Who can describe this? Who?

Who, driven mad by night-feeds,
talons tensed, struck her tormentor?

Whose unlullabied child grew wide-eyed,
called to the dark in owl-song?

Who flew from mother to murder,
spurred by a blizzard of questions —
Who could not bear it?

Who haunted the owl,
insomnia’s interrogator,
abandoned her child in deepwoods
to fend with the birds? Who?
Whose feather-trail leads from cradle
to beamed barn owl-roost?

Who scorched her prey on a fire,
spun its neck through all points of  the compass?
The breast on a toast-fork
run through and through— whose?

Whose cradle lies nursery-rhymed
under shattered treetops,
nest wrenched from rock-a-bye roots?
Who toasted the owl,
became what she’d eaten?

Who is the raptor?

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P .

Tender Loving Care

The child meant for summer, they say, came early in April,
light as a poppy, breaths that were barely breaths
fluttered his day-lily lungs,
speedwell-veined eyelids shut to a future
of TLC only prescribed on his chart.

Rumours flew round our small town that the mother
shed never a tear, but her breasts wept
when his fingerbuds opened, boneless as blossoms.
She read the plea in his palm, fixed
a soft pillow for his head.

They say she came back once, after her sentence,
begged the baker to water his Easter-dyed chicks.
A pigeon racer at a loft near the graveyard
said someone the spit of her spat on a stone
and scrubbed off the moss.

There’s talk here of pink-and-blue chicks sipping water
from a hubcap in a window of broken glass,
they say someone’s seen an empty coop and a stranger,
and a flock of opal wings swooping over a grave.
Some say the devil exists; some say angels.

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P .


A million crawling things run spiderwise
inside her skin, her skeleton is glass,
she needs another hit, and fast,

her skin is needle-tracked, she works
the street for heroin to stop the spiderlings,
she does a punter in a dash against a fence

and scores a thirty-second rush,
glass splinters in her veins fuse
into a waterfall of raindrops,

magic light spills from her fingertips,
she’s blissed out, dreaming weightless while
the good brown horse outruns her dream,

she’s goofing now, slumped outside a church,
between her knees a paper cup she holds out
like a sacred heart to passers-by,

small change spills through her fingertips
but not enough, another stranger in a car
earns her more dreams, she sucks her tongue

for spit to swallow fear, swears
on the Sacred Heart that she’ll get clean,
then mugs the punter with a syringe,

again the spiderlings criss-cross her skin
and crawl inside her arm-tracks,
two blow-jobs on her knees to get a high,

she cooks the gear, a bag of china white,
loads up a syringe, smacks a vein, ties off
and hits; her hopes are answered with amen,

the dragon’s knocked brown sugar girl
off her horse, the fall has sucked out
all her breath, her eyes are pinned,

she feels no crawly things, she has no skin,
her bones are glass, her heartbeats trickle
from her fingertips like raindrops when

the rain’s about to stop…

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P .

Epiphany in Jamaica Plain

I’m filling a notebook with firsts:
my first cardinal, chipmunk, chickadee,
first turtles in the wild, ranged like stones
on a half-submerged tree in Jamaica Pond,
basking to warm up winter blood.
I welcome this summering,
sip iced coffee under the awning
on the second-floor terrace, sweating
after my trek from the T at Stony Brook
where I had sidestepped an old Dominicano,
scribbled ‘Mrs Baez Serves Coffee
on the Third Floor’ to look up later.
Alert for following footsteps,
I scurried past Latinas calling Cuidado!
to kids jostling on a rodadero.

Back home on my dappled terrace,
I write an uneasy note: no white people
until Sheridan Street. Around me,
neighbourhood gardens are lilacking,
chickadees flit through the leaves,
cars slow for the white-lettered HUMP
on the street. A six-litre SUV stops,
revs, circles the block, stops below.
It’s all judder and engine roar.
The Latino beat that throbs
from its wound-down windows
startles the cardinals, spurs squirrels to leap
impossible gaps. I jolt from my reverie,
afraid. Afraid as I was this morning,
the sole white face in that T-car
on the Orange line; alarmed
by the old man’s offer to talk;
wary of the young Dominicano peacocking
in his SUV. And it comes to me
like a voice underwater: this fear
is race-coloured. I have sleepwalked
my whole life, thinking myself untainted.

Note: ‘Mrs Baez Serves Coffee on the Third Floor’ by Martín Estrada is carved on a stone at Stoney Brook T-Station near Jamaica Plain, Boston, USA.

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P .

Self Portrait in the Convex Bulge of a Hare’s Eye

My first word for Hare was cailleach,
witch or crone, slack-skinned
hag with blade-edged bones.

I met her again today
where seven hare-sisters grazed
a scrawny field at Renvyle,

face to face inhaled her lepus breath,
gazed through my shadow-face
cupped in her glass-dark eye.

‘Which is my animal shade?’ I asked
the coven of leathern-ears.
Each licked her cloven lip and chanted,
‘I’, ‘I’, and ‘I’. Hare with sea-salt tongue
rolled the dark bulge of her eye,
answered, ‘All of us, all of us here;

we show no map of your journey, we
are you when you get there’.
I grabbed at scut and slippery ear,

begged her to tell more
but rain rolled in from Boffin,
plump drops slicked her fur,

she twitched a salt-crusted whisker,
slipped into Otherwhere
like a white horse in ceo draíochta,

left me straddling a barbed wire fence
with two handfuls of loose belly-skin
and a jagged gash in my thigh.

note: ceo draíochta: (Gaeilge) magic mist, fairy fog.


Breda Wall Ryan reads ‘Dreamless’ at The pSoken Wrod 2nd February 2016

Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Lizz Murphy

Seven Poems              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Lizz Murphy was born in Belfast but has lived in Binalong, a rural village in NSW, Australia, for a long time now. She has published 13 books of different kinds. Her eight poetry titles include Shebird, Portraits: 54 Poems and Six Hundred Dollars (PressPress), Walk the Wildly (Picaro), Stop Your Cryin (Island) and Two Lips Went Shopping (Spinifex print & e-book). Her best-known anthology is Wee Girls: Women Writing from an Irish Perspective (Spinifex Press).

She is widely published in Australian and overseas journals including Abridged, Aesthetica, Blue Pepper, Cordite Poetry Review, Honest Ulsterman, Shot Glass Journal, Uut Poetry, Verity La, Wonder Book of Poetry and in quite a number of print anthologies. Lizz’ awards include: Anutech Poetry Prize, Rosemary Dobson Poetry Award (co-winner), ACT Creative Fellowship for Literature, and a Highly Commended in the Blake Poetry Prize plus a few other shortlistings/special mentions.

Lizz writes prose poetry and micropoems and especially likes the ‘small disturbance.’

In 2016 she posted new poems/images every day with Project 366 (URL: project365plus.blogspot.com.au) coordinated by Kit Kelen. Some of these poems are thanks to that experience. She blogs at A Poet’s Slant lizzmurphypoet.blogspot.com