Some days my mother was so weak
I wanted to leave her. Imagined walking out
the door, across the fields, as far as I could get.
I started running just to be alone in the world,
away from our house with its twisted spine
and the dog with his hurt eyes.
I ran the brutal miles, up the Silvermines,
through farmers’ fields, the grass and mud.
Built to move across the earth, I was a land animal.
My mother was not. Rooms were a shape she struggled
to fill, required a rigidness that did not come naturally.
She was part water, part fish. Seaweed parted for her.
Jellyfish made way. She swaggered through water,
cut strokes sharp and clean. In the shallows,
I was embarrassed by my weak limbs, rarely brave
enough to lift my feet clean off the land.
My mother was suddenly weightless,
nothing mattered, only the breath, the rhythm,
her tiny trapped head in the vastness.
Originally published in the Antigonish Review
You’re basking outside in the sunshine—
a cup of tea, books, and a tatty pillow.
It’s nice to see some things stay the same,
though you wear your hair differently now,
and your freckles are more apparent.
A tub of peanut butter sits absently to one side.
Last year, I watched you eat it from a spoon
on a video chat, and was reminded of us
sneaking peanut butter from the kitchen
and spooning it straight from the jar.
When you were born, I remember the thrill
of skidding down hospital halls, pushing
through big double doors to get to you.
We threw ourselves across our mother’s stomach,
rupturing something. She stayed calm and pale
as she let us cradle you, taught us how to be gentle.
Sister, I slip your name into conversations,
though I have not told you anything in so long,
you, who once knew everything.
There seems to be no way for us to speak
without all the old hurt showing up,
making us both sound backward and ugly.
I cannot tell you what it means to be gentle,
back then, it was easy, keep still, support the head,
there’s just so much more to it now.
Originally published in "I Traveled West" an anthology
by the Contemporary Irish Arts Center, Los Angeles
The Snow Spirit
I’ve only seen snow like this
in films, falling in sheets
over all the greys, browns,
beneath its forceful quiet.
A Yorkshire Terrier
turns her face upwards,
her yellow raincoat,
a dash of vibrant colour,
hind legs lost in the drift,
paws in red booties.
Something so irresistible
about those booties,
red dots punctuating
A woman tugs her lead,
maybe work, maybe emails.
But this creature is resolute,
she will have—
snow going kiss, kiss,
wind going wahoosh, wahoosh,
footsteps going munch, munch.
She eats it up
in big white mouthfuls,
as snow melts in her throat,
with her tiny dog cells.
Her spirit takes up
the whole street.
Originally released in video format
for the Irish Poetry Archive
Socrates likes to talk philosophy at the taverna
It must be the burden of his name, all this talk
of philosophy, which seems to be just talk. He’s full
of chat, never short of a story, maybe even lonely.
He reminds me of old men sipping pints on worn out
stools, though he drinks Ouzo, and this is his taverna.
Light pours in, illuminating checked tablecloths
and wooden floors, windowsills painted blue
to match the sea, shells dangle from threads—
he collects them when he hunts, harpooning tuna,
then drifting in search of the sea’s pink trinkets.
All day, I work the nearby bar, wipe counters, pour
cold coffees and rub mint to make mojitos bloom.
He brings me things. Once, it’s a dessert called sweet.
I say it’s grainy like caviar. After, he calls it sweet caviar.
He holds out fresh salt in his palm, picked from the rocks
that morning, limpets still breathing in their shells.
Each gift comes with a Greek word, I take these parcels
of language, eat my fill. He brings wild capers, arms raw
with scratches. He followed goats across the mountain
to find them. He will use the leaves for salad, pickle
the stalks, use each part of the plant, not just the caper.
He fills silence and I soak in his sentences.
Slowly, he is building a house in the mountains.
His mother says to really live, you must have
your own home and a wife. He looks out to sea
as she says this. What is it he sees out there?
Maybe America. Most days he mentions it,
how he saved fifty thousand dollars because he never
went to the movies and didn’t know how to spend it.
He remembers an Irish woman in Brooklyn,
how he stood in the streetlight and threw pebbles
at her window (as if in one of those movies,
he never went to see). She sat inside, terrified.
I imagine him young and burning in a land of concrete.
One night he picks up my drunk housemate at the bar,
takes her down a red dirt road to his half-built home.
She escapes his kiss, refuses to give him what he wants,
eventually, he drives her home. I sit on the floor and listen
to her story, it’s impossible to connect my old romantic
to this truth. Everything feels tired and dirty. I eat
in the taverna when he’s not there, stare at the green knot
of capers in the bowl, then out at the sea.
Originally published in Banshee