By Paul mcmahon
From Belfast, Paul McMahon lives in Clonakilty, Cork. His poetry has appeared in The Poetry Review, The North, The Threepenny Review, The Irish Times, Southword, The Stinging Fly, The Best New British and Irish Poets 2018, and others. His debut poetry chapbook, Bourdon, is published by Southword Editions.
In our old village library
I found an unsent letter,
addressed to you, inside
The Flood, by Emilie Zola,
when I took it from the shelf
after remembering that time
we stood in the same aisle
many years ago when
we were both young men.
Your name and the address
of your old family home
were written on the envelope
and the letter was dated
the 1st of May, 1970.
The letter opens with the line:
Dear Sean, I am very sorry
and I hope that one day
you will forgive me…
It goes on to explain why
Catherine had to leave you
and our small village.
She had obviously cried
the whole way through writing it –
the ink is blotched
and the page is dotted
with flattened-out craters
where the falling tears
landed in no-man’s land.
I replaced the letter
into the same book,
returned it to the shelf,
and told no-one.
And although it’s too late
to bring the closure
you often spoke about
needing to know
before you filled the bath
with warm water
and turned it red,
I take some consolation
from an old artist’s proverb
that comes to mind:
Five hundred tears must be shed
if any finished piece of art
is to produce even one smile –
and I’m smiling, Sean,
because it was, I remember,
the week after Catherine left
when we stood there together,
the both of us young men,
and you pointed your finger
to this same book, The Flood,
by Emilie Zola, and said
it was your favourite, and
you had recommended it
to Catherine, but doubted
she would ever read it now,
and then you turned to me
and said, but you were sure
that one day I would read it.
Published by The North – Special Irish Issue
By Audrey molloy
Audrey Molloy is an emerging Irish poet based in Sydney. She was born in Dublin and grew up in the coastal village of Blackwater, Co. Wexford. Audrey’s poetry has been widely published, most recently in The North, Mslexia, Magma, The Moth, The Irish Times and The Tangerine.
As soon as they let me travel with the baby,
I take the long-haul via Abu Dhabi, arrive
in Dublin on my mother’s birthday. Dad
picks us up and I see that ageing is not
linear; this last year he’s caught up on ten
years of looking the same. He talks all the
way to Blackwater like a man who hasn’t
spoken to anyone in months. At the edge of
the village we see the church and I ask to
stop. He shows me where she is, in a new
part of the cemetery, her grave
unpretentious but tasteful, like the woman.
No photo on hers, unlike the teenagers’
graves that flank it, their high-school faces
witness to a jet-lagged woman talking to
polished granite while an infant kicks in his
stroller. The cut flowers are dying but there
are glazed black planters full of bright
blooms. And I tell her why. I unclick the
child from his seat and hold him to the sky.
But she says nothing. I had pictured a
backdrop of light rain—the kind that
doesn’t clear the weather—but there’s just
the muffle of low cloud. It’s only later, over
the skeleton of a lemon sole on a Denby
plate, that the rain finally comes.
Published by Mslexia
By christine broe
Christine Broe, sculptor and poet, is from the Liberties of Dublin. Married with seven children, with seven grandchildren now scattered around the globe. She has two collections with Swan Press, Solas Sólás (2003), and Lifting Light (2015).
Resting at the border
she brushed the earth from her feet,
collected it in an old kerchief.
And while her sons slept,
she scrapped the soil from their sandal soles,
this too she added to her treasure.
She coaxed the river mud from between the toes
of the little ones, who twitched in their slumbers,
dreaming perhaps of tickles.
The other women, sensing her mission
combed the travel dust from their long hair,
brushed it from their clothes, gifted it to her.
So light and heavy in her hands she held
the earth and air born essence of their land,
and she tied it in a bundle,
hung it like a third breast on her chest.
Talking her homeland with her,
when morning came, they crossed the border
and she imagined the apple pip she sucked
might be the first seed she would plant
in this bag of heavy loss.
Published by Poetry Ireland & Trócaire
pine box in the flea market
By dean browne
Dean Browne’s poems have appeared in anthologies and journals including Banshee, The Penny Dreadful, Poetry, Southword, and The Tangerine. He is a poetry editor for The Well Review. He lived in Cork City for many years and now travels.
Pine Box in the Flea Market
The japanned pine box
with its cold brass handle and clasp
makes an enigma of the room
Opening it will be intimate, you think—
like the sudden glimpse of a heel
when she nips to the bath
leaving you and the bedposts to interpret
this new hush.
The box is burnished orange brown,
a finish the tint of Chilean Myrtle
or something choked with paprika,
with corners that could cut
like fishhooks. Watch your thumbs.
You want to poke about inside,
to shuck it open with an oyster knife,
spy in over the pine horizon,
and whisht you’re saying whisht—
Inside? Maybe a bunch of shrunken heads;
a rosary of goats’ teeth, bone blushing;
a pair of rusty, rubber-handled pliers;
the peekaboo of a tarantula—
you are a horsefly learning immensity
at the brink of a donkey’s ear.
You can just picture shouldering it home
past bleeding candles, black veils,
mourners falling into step
and the shops closing on MacCurtain St.
Someone clips a leash on his dog.
This is the clock’s insomnia now—
your shoulder killing you all the way back
to a room on a numberless avenue
where blue snow is falling
Published by The Stinging Fly
We’re delighted to share the shortlist for the Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year 2019.
More than 100 entries were received this year and anonymously adjudicated by Richard Skinner, Director of the Fiction Programme at the Faber Academy.
Richard had the unenviable task of choosing a shortlist of four poems:
Dear Sean by Paul McMahon
Salt Rain by Audrey Molloy
The Kerchief by Christine Broe
Pine box at the Flea Market by Dean Browne
In addition to the four shortlisted poems, Richard also issued special commendation to:
Rebellion/Uprising by Andrew Soye
Redwing by Eleanor Hooker
Midwinter by Jessica Traynor
How to vote
Voting is open for the Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year until 6pm on November 13th.
The winners of the An Post Irish Book Awards will be announced on November 20th 2019.