Two poems from Rapture (Southword Editions 2016)
Mars in Retrograde
June comes to the sky above Leitrim
and Mars is as red as a rose.
Our garden’s roses stare longingly upwards,
this heat is killing them.
Oh Plough, slip some water
from your tilting pan to my poor roses,
into the red mouth of Mars.
The swinging bench moans like a ship
all around me, and I am adrift
in a sea of stars.
Cut me loose from this rope of fairy lights
entwined like a glittering snake
around the chains and the boards.
Let me float to Orion,
let my fingers find his belt’s cold buckle.
Oh Mars, my love with red hair
is gone from me, and in your single,
maddened eye, I have glimpsed
the men I’ll sacrifice to find him.
I have seen the future slipping from me
like a lonely satellite. I
have heard the creaking of a thousand
ships released at once
like a breath across the face of Earth.
She greets passengers off the ferry
on an island in Donegal;
her figure is illuminated
by a west Cork road, cars’ tail lights receding
as a string of ruby beads.
Her statues and shrines
are everywhere, even in the city.
In a mossy lane between old terraced houses
the paint is scratched and worn
on her face, her blue robe.
As a child at Mass
when given a coin
to say a prayer, I never lit
a blood-red candle
at the nailed, stained feet of Jesus.
Instead I’d make a blue star
for the virgin, my small hands nervous
as they touched a wick
to someone else’s flame.
Since then my hands have set other
things on fire, and she does not judge.
She knows what we have done
in the dark, tumbling
over sofa and rug.
I will lay you down before her
at her wettest, wildest grotto
where only she and I
will hear your cries.
For you, she’ll raise blue candles in the sky.
She’ll whisper in your ear
that for your love she’ll cross
the whole aching universe—crush planets
in her fists to dust
and the seeds of new stars,
re-ignite dying suns.
Rapture is available at the price of €5 (€7 for international orders)
from the Munster Literature Centre’s online bookstore