2017 Winning Poems
1st Prize. Derek Coyle,
Even the poet’s wife,
Mary Shelley kept his heart
wrapped in a poem
for thirty years
after his death. Just like
my mother, how the memory
of me burned like ice
day and night through her dreams,
my old boots under the bed.
She never took them out
but she knew they were there.
Even as each moment
is an answer to the last,
an object from the past
speaks eloquently – so often –
to the present. And that’s why
I prefer to contemplate
the skipping rope – the hours
of pleasure in the garden
by the swing. My father
always busy about that yard,
and I was like a Seville orange
on a cold December table,
a late joy in that poor man’s life.
He would hammer away
at fences and doors, his measuring tape
in his hand, a piece of twine
hanging from his pocket. Always
busy, but watchful. I never knew
what it was to be a parent,
but there’s no Sundays
in that job. If my mother’s
relic was the boots, my father’s
was the old statue of the young
girl with a baby in her arms
—it lost its lustre over many winters,
gradually greying, returning slowly,
imperceptibly to the clay
from which it was made.
2nd Prize Eoin Hegarty
Rites of Passage
The classroom air is hushed
as the pencils rush back
and forth, whispering
of chestnut leaves,
sycamore masks, the curls
of an oak or a copper birch –
a paper-thin equinox,
dog-eared copies, and school bags
full of bread crumbs
and autumnal skies.
As if to press an old grief – understand
its familiar shape
in rubbings of soft lead,
the images bleed through
the course paper –
a ghost outline, veins
like cracks in the glass. Each leaf
and its own flaring halo.3rd Prize. Nessa O Mahony
The hollow woman at St. Enda’s
The hollow woman, or soon to be,
goes for her morning walk,
lets the dog’s nose direct
the regular route past shrubs,
over stone bridge, playing fields.
She is cavalier with the sun.
This hollowing, or soon to be,
makes her risk UV rays;
real beauty is deeper
than skin, she knows.
Winter has taken its toll;
she sees torsoes of wood
brandishing new scars
from the tree-surgeon’s cut.
Preventative, it seems.
She wonders if each tree
feels each ghost limb
shivering in the breeze,
or her fingered caress
of each scalpeled node,
House to Let: Delgany
He made for an unlikely Mother Teresa,
his suit more Armani than Albania,
a hint, perhaps, in his blue and white striped tie,
tanned skin, smile-lines.
A numbers man, spread-sheets, trends,
the market, his daily trade.
Brochures, contracts, zipped alphabetically
in his buff leather briefcase.
The house was proud, straight-backed,
she wore her age as a badge of honour.
Distressed oak floorboards, faint echoes
of a grand piano in the ballroom.
Doors spoke of ladies taking tea,
cobwebs waved their lace dresses,
walls whispered myths, how locals
stole Cromwell’s warhorse – kept it
as a pet in the orchard where it grew
on apples, forgot about battle.
In the nursery, a boy’s toy soldier
lay where he fell, forgotten in retreat.
Outside – wildness, broken steps,
an up-ended henhouse, an empty kennel
waiting for a hound to return from the hunt,
the orchard, tired, choked with briars.
Maybe the estate agent thought my story
didn’t quite add up but chose to believe.
Maybe it was something in my face or voice
put him in mind of someone else.
Maybe he once heard his mother cry
for want of a kindness or he recalled
his grandfather’s refusal to remove a nest
from the eaves till hatchlings had fledged.
Maybe, long ago, his brother fell, got
Maybe he knew it wasn’t just a key he placed in my hand.
After Mount Usher Gardens, Ireland
Mighty, ancient, tall,
the group of trees
entwine their foliage
like green fingers.
they’ve grown comfortable
in each others’ company.
They’d had time
to do so:
brought here by Victorians
who’d scoured continents
for their seeds,
they were never meant
to be together.
Now the Chilean Myrtle
hugs the Thuya
The Chinese Bamboo Oak
inhales the fragrance
of the Incense Cedar
from North America.
Together they protect
the Cashmiri Cypress,
a rare specimen
to grow this tall
outside of Asia.
They don’t know
what divides them,
so nothing does.
Who are we
to tell them
where they belong?Derek Coyle
Carlow Poem #83
The good people of Ballinabrana
thought he’d finally gone mad.
Watt had abandoned shoes,
and taken to traipsing
in his bare feet, regardless
of glass, tarmacadam
and chewing gum.
And what’s more,
there were the rumours
of his trance-like trudging
through the woods
at any and all hours.
His talk of sylphs stirring
the wheat fields,
his talk of spirit people moving
through the clothes hanging
on their washing lines,
the ghosts who rattled their doors.
And, then, the tale
of the startled teenager
who came upon him embracing
and kissing the huge hazel
at the centre of the woods,
his love poem to its dryad,
his care for this creature of the earth.
As we sip our Veltliner at the marketplace Brauhaus,
two ravens on the steeple split the Alp massif––
the morning’s summit now rusty, a hinge on horizon.
As one shifts to study us, her mate soars to crags,
to updrafts while I claw at the parallels between our ilk
and theirs. You stand up and declare Let’s explore.
It’s scenes like this that always seem to split us.
When I’m building nests for us both in my head,
you crave the swoop, the rush and the throng.
The female and I hold each other’s beady eyes,
as the bordello red sky fades to granite, to neutral.
The male raven lands back in the lull of his mate.
The crowd returns you to me, after circling
the cathedral. In the stretch of liminal from your unrest
to my head, we’ve left each other so many times.
But when the ballast casts off, in this littoral,
there are more ways in which we’ve observed then followed.
Liebling, my omens elude you when I ossify and collapse,
facing inward yet bound to the radius of you.
Dämmerung, dawn— as close to love as we’ll get.
Terribly self-conscious most of the time,
she tried to be like all the other wives
who only held opinions that would chime
with husbands who lived honest, busy lives.
But she was brighter than the others knew,
a liberated woman who held sway.
He understood her love was something few
would ever know, and fewer could repay.
A gentleness belied her force of mind
which he was grateful for in times of stress
when he could give himself and be entwined
with her and find his better self. And yes,
they stole strength from each other as they went,
a lifetime’s give and take, some discontent.