‘Poem for Oscar with Stars in it’ by Kevin Graham

Poem for Oscar with Stars in it

Hoisted in the high chair of my arm – all bum and elbows
and chocolate ice-cream hands – you point a finger up at the fluid
night sky and say star. We’re on the porch of your uncle’s house,
on one of the year’s fledgling days, a couple of briquettes buzzing
nicely in an old barbeque. Leaning forward, you wet your fist
and try to blow them out from ten feet away, as though they were
birthday candles. The fizzing pylon looming overhead won’t stop
falling in my mind into the tender hub of our after-dinner party.
Sparks fly and catch in the fleeting nightmare, then recede.

Out here, in this Finnish-timber retreat, this otherworldly
stillness, we could be anywhere: Donabate, Tromsø, Chiang Mai.
The sea whispers beyond the bushes, dragging its enormous haul
back and forth between our listening ears. The flowing wine
has purpled my teeth and I must appear to you as a zombie,
you who toss your hair back suddenly and spot Jupiter kindling
in its hard-silvered light, make a purring sound and turn
to face me with all the wonder the world hopes you never lose,
and say again – in a voice that leaves before you know it – star.
(first published in The Stinging Fly, Summer 2014)
Kevin Graham is from Dublin, Ireland. His poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies. He was selected for the 2012 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and was shortlisted for a 2014 Hennessey Literary Award. He was featured poet in the summer 2014 issue of The Stinging Fly and is currently working towards his first collection. A chapbook Traces has been published by Smithereens Press and is available to download. Twitter @kevcgraham

‘The Kaleidoscope My Big Brother Gave Me’ by Ann Leahy

The Kaleidoscope My Big Brother Gave Me

It created geometric processions out of rooms:
made a pair of butterflies rise from a fireside chair,
caused a ball of wool to fan and become a guelder-rose,
a cylinder of gas to spoke into a four-pronged star,
eight eyes to glisten from a hot-plate ringed with chrome.

It put my reflection in as part of the pattern: let me see
myself in a pendulum, triangulated by a dour
mahogany surround. He helped me through a gap that year.
Finger to his lips, he slowed the whole summer down,
tuned out tractor drone, dog splash, sheep bleat –

moved in on one grasshopper sound, till we’d dipped
level with the angled systems of the insect’s exterior,
its armoured legs jigging out an oscillating click
that swelled in the field, a chant rising in its cathedral.
I became a juggler of surfaces, an evangelist

of detail, my world broken down, re-configured. I’d take
rubbings from the paint tears hardened down our door, wait
outside, round the narrowing waterline, as polygons
broke out across the mud, baked by the sun.
(from The Woman who Lived her Life Backwards)
Ann Leahy’s first collection The Woman who Lived her Life Backwards, Arlen House, 2008 won the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Individual poems have also won national awards (the Poetry on the Wall, and Clogh Writers’ prizes and others) and have twice been commended in the British National Poetry Competition. Her poems have been published widely in journals (Stand, AGENDA, Orbis, Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers, New Welsh Review and others) and anthologies (Best of Irish Poetry 2010; The Echoing Years: An Anthology of Poetry from Canada and Ireland, 2007 and others). She has taken part in writers’ festivals in Ireland and Germany, and received a Culture Ireland bursary for a reading tour in the U.S. She grew up in Co. Tipperary and lives in Dublin.

‘Feathers’ by Mark Granier


She gave me an etching she’d made
of a single feather, one of the short, curled ones
that plump ski-jackets and pillows. I asked
for it, though it may also have been a kind
of parting gift to something that could never
get off the ground.
Feathers found in amber
‘represent distinct stages of feather evolution… from
single-filament protofeathers to structures
associated with modern diving birds.’
In an old copy of The Rattle Bag (bulked
with bookmarks: photos, letters, notes…) I found
a postcard I’d sent home from Perth in ’74:
some long-horned highland cattle, and taped on the back,
a grouse-feather, fresh as ever, blunt
as a shovel, its earth-brown speckles beautifully
covering the little I could find to say.
A microraptor –– dark, small as a pigeon ––
shed, along with its life,
colour, ‘bundles of pigment’ far
thinner than a hair, in stone
sensitive to tones: a touch
of oily iridescence,
shades of blackness in feathers:
ferns, broken bones, the crushed
umbrella light of the Cretaceous
opening for us.
Mark Granier has published four collections of poetry: Airborne (Salmon Poetry, 2001), The Sky Road (Salmon, 2007), Fade Street (Salt, 2010) and Haunt (Salmon, 2015). Prizes and awards include the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize in 2004 and a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in 2011. He teaches Creative Writing for University College Dublin’s Adult Education programme and at The Irish Writers’ Centre. New & Selected Poems forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2017. Blogs: Lightbox / Skyroad (flickr) / Skyroad (blipfoto)

Two poems by Jane Clarke

The Finest Specimen

When I was a child my father wrote the twelve fair days
of Roscommon on the back of a Players pack
and taught me to recite them as farmers used to do.

He showed me where the blacksmith had inscribed
1865 on a gate – the year Yeats was born, he’d say.
There’s one date you have to remember, your great

great great grandfather, the one with the whiskers,
was born the year of the rebellion, 1798,
any family history before that is just imagination.

He showed me a bible with miniature print
on gossamer paper which he touched as if it were
pure gold. This was your great-grandmother’s,

published the year of the Act of Union. He told me
old stories as if he’d lived through them.
When the turlough froze in 1816,

three neighbours walked the ice with sacks of oats
on a short-cut home from the mill; one fell into a gap,
the other two drowned trying to save him. Some stories

he seldom told, how as a boarder in Blackhall Place
he slept with his feet pointing west or how he
and my mother returned early from honeymoon

because he was lonely for the fields. Yesterday
he took out old letters, bound together with knotted string;
my brother’s first letter home, another from a neighbour

thanking my grandfather for a loan and the letter
from his grandmother to her sister on the morning
of his birth, the second last day of March, 1929.

He came unexpectedly, the finest specimen yet,
good looking and the most formed little thing
with Dad’s nose and Georgie’s chin.

(previously published in the Fish Anthology 2015)
Her Own

My mother said she knew, just knew
I was going to be a girl,

two boys before and two boys after –
fodder for a hungry farm,

but I was hers.
She taught me her tricks of the trade;

it’ll look like dinner is nearly ready
if the table is set when he comes in,

bread and butter will fill them up,
add three drops of vinegar to water

so your mirrors and windows will gleam,
cool your fingers before rubbing lard into flour

for pastry, a handful of ground almonds
will keep your fruit cake moist,

darn a few socks every night
and never leave the ironing for more than a week,

don’t cut off rhubarb stalks with a knife,
just twist them clean from the crown,

and always hold onto the children’s allowance;
a woman must have something of her own.
(broadcast on Sunday Miscellany, RTE Radio 1, 4th October, 2015)
Jane Clarke’s debut collection, The River, is published by Bloodaxe Books. Originally from a farm in the west of Ireland, she now lives in Wicklow. Her work is published widely, including The Irish Times, Irish Independent, The Rialto, The North, Ambit, Acumen, Mslexia, Agenda, Poetry Wales. Her awards include the Listowel Writers’ Week Poetry Collection Prize (2014) and the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition (2014).