‘Finn MacCool offers his thumb’ by Laura McKee

Finn MacCool offers his thumb

to my salmon lips
to see if I’m ready

and when I drip
when I spit

it burns
tells him

all he needs to know
and he wants to

suck the knowing
out of me
Author’s note: The Salmon of Knowledge is one of many stories surrounding the legend of
Finn MacCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill)
Laura McKee’s poems have appeared in various journals including The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog, Obsessed With Pipework, Prole, The Rialto, Ink Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems, and the anthology Mildly Erotic Verse (Emma Press). She was a winner in the Guernsey International Poetry Competition. Contact her on Twitter: @Estlinin

‘Armagh Tellings’ by Geraldine Snape

Armagh Tellings

I remember hearing about
Newtownhamilton and granny.
I was told about how the
hens scuttled around where
Summer’s swifts filled the farmyard.
Told about the road to market taken
By the broad carthorse that
turned the wheel that
churned the butter..
That was the pride of Armagh….and
Dad wearing a top hat and
Him perched proudly on the cart.
And I remember
Drumlins everywhere you looked
And the roads flying by..killyfaddy,
tassagh, and dundrum.
And There’s the wee post office…neat and sparse
With Will Moore and his little mum.
William James from..the Braeside..
That’s running along the border..
By Annvale road…and the lake.
And the famous Darkley Mill.
And I remember the stories of the
Farm and how they said that
Sarah Makem who worked at the mill
Sometimes sang in the yard
And there’s the C of I at
Where I once met a Mr. Lowry
whose mum knew dad apparently …..
There on annvale road and
found that dad had been there before!!..
Albert Nesbit…megagherty…..watsons
There’s two piers guarding a lane to a farm
To 26 Corkley….and there’s a possibility
That it was Joe’s farm.
Out comes the present owner
As rough as a badger…
He owns a tractor from ’61
Bought it when he moved there…Said it worked still.
Said he never needed a wake up call.
Said he rose in the morning with the first horn…
From..Darkley mill.
This poem was read aloud in Bangor Library for International Women’s Day on March 8th 2017.
Geraldine Snape was born in Belfast and now lives in Warrington. She has been in Belfast recently as part of the Women Aloud NI readings in libraries, book shops and town centres. She is a member of Geraldine Green’s group that meets in Kirby Lonsdale every month and is a member of Bold Street Writers group in Warrington. Instagram geraldinesnape

‘Door to door, Belfast 1969’ by Finola Scott

Door to door, Belfast 1969

Imagine a curtained room
table set with supper,
the radio hums.
          A knock at the door.
          Shadows through glass.
          Staccato bullet-raps on wood.
          Outside, shoulders square set
          balaclavas snarl, a fist punches out
          a rattling can.
          A barrel winks, trigger oiled
          Collecting for the lads.
          Coins shake, paper unfolds.
          Purse empty, chest pulses.
          to the next
          through spring-yellow flowers and hedge
          and next and
the glowing room
fat congealed on plates.
(previously published online in Jan’16 in Leaveners Poets Corner)
Finola Scott’s poems are widely published in anthologies and magazines including The Ofi Press, Raum, Dactyl, The Lake, Hark, Poets’ Republic, The Eildon Tree. She is mentored by Liz Lochhead on the Clydebuilt scheme. A performance poet, she is also proud to be a slam-winning granny.

‘The Wren Boy’ by David Cooke

The Wren Boy

I must have been having the time
of my life the year I started singing,
trying hard to remember the words,
but high on applause and silver.

In the lounge bar of a pub
in Swinford I tried out a repertoire
I’d culled from the Clancys and mixed
to a Home Counties hybrid.

Shock-headed, crowd-pleasing,
I might have been one of their own,
giving them back The Irish Rover,
The Woman from Wexford Town.

Lured by the promise of easy pickings,
I tagged along St Stephen’s Day,
togged out as a mummer,
and welcomed for miles around.

Strapped across her shoulder,
my cousin lugged her squeezebox,
melodeon, whatever, down lanes
and over fields. At each house

we stopped I gave them my party piece,
while across the buttons and keys
perished fingers danced
like spiders on warm stones.

(Previously published in Cyphers)
David Cooke has appeared in many journals in the UK, Ireland and beyond in Agenda, Ambit, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Times, The London Magazine, Magma, The Morning Star, New Walk, The North, Poem, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp and Stand. A Murmuration, his fourth collection was published by Two Rivers Press in 2015. His next collection, After Hours, will be published this year by Cultured Llama. He is a co-editor of The High Window.

‘Destination: Port of New York, 23 December 1929’ by Maggie Sawkins

Destination: Port of New York
23 December 1929

Even though your name is there
on the SS Cameronia’s passenger list:
Regina M Keohane, scholar aged eight,
of sound mind and body,
you were the one sister
left behind in Aughnacliffe,
along with your Grandda’s blue cow
and your milk bottle doll.

But if you had gone
I would not have been born.
I wouldn’t have spent my life
caught in an undertow.
Watching for the feathering of waves,
fighting the weight of an ocean.

(from Zones of Avoidance, Cinnamon Press)

Author’s note: My grandfather, Thomas Keohane, left Ireland for America in 1929 taking half his family of motherless children with him. He planned to return for the other five once he had made a living. He died three years later and was buried in Boston. The family was never reunited.
Maggie Sawkins won the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her live literature production, Zones of Avoidance. She lives in Portsmouth where she runs writing projects in community and healthcare settings. She’s currently facilitating poetry workshops at Erlestoke Prison in Wiltshire as part of their Penned Up Festival. www.zonesofavoidance.wordpress.com

‘My Mother’s Reserve’ by Fiona Larkin

My Mother’s Reserve
after W B Yeats

An ash-banked spark, her Lissadell:
a small domestic match
would fire the turf, and catch
her memorising. Rhymes compel.

See her break off, to write a life
in medical vocabulary,
responsibilities undreamt of
in Castlebar or Foxford.
She weighs the babies, annotates
new-birth visits, progress checks,
dispenses care and calm advice
in rosehip syrup, infant milk,
vaccine laced in sugar lumps.
Bright beneath her Elnett curls
the banked flame smoulders,
uncovered by a word, gazelle.

And what returns is not defeat,
the burning tent of young ideals,
or dismissals of a public man before
he found the truth in withered raving;
but phrases necklacing girls’ limbs,
the slipping silk, the dressed romance,
the trusting eyes and tender hoof
of all beginnings: her Lissadell.
Author’s note: This poem is closely connected to Yeats’s poem In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz, and has other Yeatsian echoes
Fiona Larkin was born in London to parents from Mayo and Tipperary. Her work has appeared in journals, including The North, Southword, The High Window, Envoi, And Other Poems, Antiphon and Ink Sweat & Tears, and is forthcoming in the anthology Bedford Square 10, produced by Royal Holloway where she is currently completing an MA in Creative Writing. @fionalarkin

‘Posted in stone, O’Connell Street’ by Beth McDonough

Posted in stone,

O’Connell Street

Most buildings improve as they lose
their blueprint finish, weather off
architect too-sharp plans.
Some wear layered flaked paint,
for shuttered quaint takes, while carved seats
bottom out smooth. When an engraver’s cut
blurs into brass, it surely gains
from handled warmth, but this grey

braves a Europe-wide boulevard, all
pocked out, holed and whole
with the guts of wronged men
who rose on Easter Day.
Beth McDonough’s poetry appears in Agenda, Antiphon and elsewhere; she reviews in DURA. Her pamphlet Handfast (2016, with Ruth Aylett) explores family experiences – Aylett’s of dementia and McDonough’s of autism.

‘Cork Schoolgirl Considers the GPO O’Connell Street, Dublin 2016’ By Victoria Kennefick

Cork Schoolgirl Considers the GPO O’Connell Street, Dublin 2016

I am sixteen, standing outside the GPO
in my school uniform, which isn’t ideal.

My uniform is the colour of bull’s blood.

In this year, I am sixteen, a pleasing symmetry
because I love history, have I told you that?

It is mine so I carry it in my rucksack.

I love all the men of history sacrificing
themselves for Ireland, for me, like rebel Jesuses.

I put my finger in the building’s bullet holes;

poke around in its wounds.
I wonder if they feel it,

those boys, younger than me,

I hope they do, their blooming faces
pressed flat in the pages of my books.

I lick the wall as if it were a stamp,

it tastes of bones, this smelly city,
of those boys in uniforms,

theirs bloody too. I put my lips

to the pillar. I want to kiss them all. And
I do, I kiss all those boys goodbye.
Victoria Kennefick‘s pamphlet, White Whale (Southword Editions, 2015), won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition and the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. Her work has appeared in POETRY, Poetry News, Poetry Ireland Review, Prelude, The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, and elsewhere. She was recently awarded a Next Generation Artist Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland. You can follow her on Twitter @VKennefick.

‘Virgin of the Rocks’ by Mary Noonan

Virgin of the Rocks

Go on, Ann Lovett, crawl into the grotto
and join the Blessed Lady there, the one you
prayed to at the railings when your mother
held you by the hand. Water is streaming down
your school tights and the pain is making it hard
for you to move. Go on! Lie down and let your
long hair hang over the cold stones, over your belly,
let the small head come out between your legs
in the grotto cut high in the rock outside Granard,
on the last day of January, nineteen-eighty-four.

Let the small head come out and let the weight
of your heart ballast you to the grotto of your
blood, as the thick liquid starts to trickle down
your thighs, over the stones, a red waterfall
washing the Lady’s alabaster feet. Whimper now,
Ann Lovett, cry to the circlet of stars, to the
corn-flower-blue eyes turned forever to the sky!
Swaddle your little scrap in Her ice-cold skirts!
Offer Her a lily, as the statue of the girl has done
all the years of your fifteen, the stone girl

in the grotto, holding the white bloom, praying
to the Holy Mother – Oh clement, oh loving, oh
sweet virgin Mary, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!

– lift up your blue lily, your silent boy, you prayed
to him in your belly, the secret of your small bed,
couldn’t say the word you heard whispered
by your mother and your grandmother, a word
that could not be said aloud. Say it out loud now,
Ann Lovett, on this last night of January. Then
raise your heavy head from the rocks and pray.
(first published in PN Review, 2016)

Author’s note: Ann Lovett died giving birth in a grotto to the Virgin Mary in Granard, County Longford, on 31 January 1984. She was 14 years old. Her baby also died.
Mary Noonan‘s first collection The Fado House, Dedalus, 2012, was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize and the Strong/Shine Award. She was awarded an Arts Council of Ireland Literature Bursary in 2014. A pamphlet, Father, Bonnefant Press, was published in 2015.

‘Silently, The Women Waited’ by Angela Carr

Silently, The Women Waited

The clocks ticked down, the men debated
the Proclamation and celebrated
while, silently, the women waited

a hundred years to be placated,
a body, sovereign, emancipated –
the clocks ticked on, the men debated –

and by the roadside Virgin, consecrated,
and on ferry crossings, expediated,
silently the women waited

in convent laundries, incarcerated,
their ‘fatherless’ children emigrated –
the clocks ticked on and men debated

a beach and the infant excavated,
a corpse and the fetus incubated,
still, silently the women waited,

mental acuity checked and rated,
septicemia equivocated:
the clocks ticked on, the men debated
and, silently, the women waited.
This poem was read at an International Women’s Day event on March 11, 2017 at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin .
Angela Carr is a poet living and writing in Dublin, Ireland. Twitter @adreamingskin