‘Skinny Dipping’ by Jean O’Brien

Skinny Dipping

I’m Irish, we keep our clothes on
most of the time. We perform
contorted dances on beaches in Cork,
or Donegal; undressing under
not-yet-wet-towels. Worried that any gap
might expose us, lay some body-part bare.
It was the Immaculate Conception that did it,
if Mary could conceive a child without
removing her knickers, then by God
us could undress and swim
without baring our buttocks.
We swam serene in freezing seas,
goose bumps freckling our pale skin.
We lay togged out on wet sand desperate
for the weak sun to dry us, before performing
the contorted dance in reverse. Now as I
remove my clothes, peel them off
layer by layer down to the bare,
a brief moment of unease before the release
of water baptising skin. With a quiet ‘Jesus, Mary’,
I dive in.
(previously published in Merman, Salmon Publishing 2012 and The Windharp Ed. Niall MacMonagle, Penguin 2015)
Jean O’Brien‘s fifth collection is New & Selected Poems: Fish on a Bicycle, Salmon 2016. She has won the Arvon International Poetry Award and the Fish Poetry award as well as being placed in many other competitions, most recently her work was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize (2014). She holds an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin and tutors in CW.

‘The English Papers’ by Mike Gallagher

The English Papers

On Achill the post came twice each week –
Tuesday brought Queenshead fivers,
postmarked Ormskirk, Tamworth, Kilburn –
short letters from villages of men
transplanted en masse to alien trenches.
Thursday brought brownpaper rolls, neatly
wrapped; Anthony Jack flung them from his bike,
cursed their weight, their wickedness, their
Englishness with equal ferocities. The Achill mother
unfurled the Sunday Post, plucked The News of the World
from the entrails of The Sunday Mail
and, with a magician’s sleight of hand,
made it disappear. The others
were absorbed, devoured by her children, tales
of dazzling sights and city lights grooming them too,
for the emigrant fate of their fathers. The mother
bided her time, waited for the covert hour, then savoured
the News of the World, revelled in stories
of bedroom romps, relief from absence and abstinence,
far-fingered foreplay, forbidden by Church and State,
twin conspirators who saw fit to make
slaves of their sons, sinners of their saints.
Mike Gallagher was born on Achill Island and worked in London for forty years before retiring to Kerry. His prose, poetry, haiku and songs have been published worldwide. His writing has been translated into Croatian, Japanese, Dutch, German, Chinese and Italian. He won the Michael Hartnett Viva Voce competition in 2010 and 2016, was shortlisted for the Hennessy Award in 2011 and won the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Contest in 2012. His collection Stick on Stone is published by Revival Press.

‘Dublin Puzzle’ by Aoife Lyall

Dublin Puzzle

The porous bag sliced through.
Sediment gathered in the corners.
We upend the pieces into the lid and bottom.
We shift through them, panning for edges, corners.

We kneel on the green felt kings use to play chess and
peer at each piece; inscrutable, divine, mysterious.
The gradations, lines, shadings, out of place –
the edges connect, the real work begins.

Some pieces fit easily, naturally,
matching colours, patterns, cross-hatchings,
letters, body parts, shapes: others
we come back to again and again –

resurfacing in the shoggled box like a guilty secret,
a prick of conscience, a broken promise –
a piece of cloud, a shadow, a joining piece –
rotated, beleaguered, threatened, coaxed.

It refuses to fit in any one place but its place.
It niggles, annoys, frustrates, creates
false hope of victory, until –
suddenly it clicks – that little cloud,

that shadow – there, there, there!
It fits, slips in among the other shapes,
glides and drops, first time.
The shape, complete.

And now, finished, it lies ignored.
Now, accepted, it attracts no attention.
Now, in its place, all mystery lost

(published in Irish Times, 25th July, 2015)
Aoife Lyall is an Irish poet living in Scotland. Her work has appeared in the Irish times and The Poets’ Republic, and is forthcoming in The Stinging Fly and Northwords Now. Shortlisted for the Hennessy New Writing Award 2016, she is currently writing her first collection. Twitter @PoetLyall

Blog: Aoifelyall.wordpress.com

‘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.