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Winter Commons – Geraldine Mitchell
Taken from Geraldine’s forthcoming collection, ‘Mountains for Breakfast’, published by Arlen House in March 2017
Where The Brown River Flows John Murphy
Here they come, the Friesians and Charolais,
the Large Whites and Landraces, down
Oxmantown, down Aughrim Street,
Ross Street, Ashford and Arklow Street,
they run, the rivulets of dung turning
to rivers on Ben Eadair and Niall Street,
the crombied drovers calling and shouting,
their ash plants strafing polls and bleeding
haunches, fear and a strange exhilaration
everywhere on market day when children
crush in doorways and alcoves, well-used-to
but wary of the thundering hooves
and the sudden grunt of diesel engines.
Here they come, the blessed of the country,
the cattle ranchers and farmers, the dealers
and flush bucks in money-chocked boots.
Here they come, the spit-on-the-hand men,
the blowers and puffers, the gombeens
and sharps. They come and they come,
and beasts bellow in the slaughter races,
and ramps clang on the pavements,
and sticks jangle the grills and hollow rails,
and they turn in a ring of churning dust
where the auctioneer yammers the bids
and farmers pummel rosettes of money.
And still they come, they come until
the blood drains from the killing floor,
the foundations drop, and Drumalee estate
slides over the cattle pens and abattoir,
the stench of crop and carcass lingering
for years— And now they are gone,
one hundred and seventeen years of gore
and slaughter, a holocaust of beasts, ten
thousand hecatombs drained to the bones,
trotters and hooves, skulled, hung and cropped,
the slung curves of hooked meat
cut clean as the torsos of mannequins.
They came and are gone, the cattle trucks,
the glazed eyes that bulged between the slats.
The tanglers, drovers and penny boys gone.
The skull bolt and the brown river gone.
The greatcoats pressed, the boots polished,
the streets washed clean— all of it gone,
everything put away or covered over.
This is civilisation. This is how it is.
Téacs Doireann Ní Ghríofa
arís, músclaím scáileán dorcha an fhóin phóca
líonaim an scáileán le himpí:
[bí liom, a ghrá]
arís, scriosaim na litreacha, ceann ar cheann
amhail fuil ag fágáil croí
[tar chugam a rún]
ach arís is arís, fágaim folús eadrainn
ní chuirim chugat
agus fágtar ár scáileáin
Is file í Doireann Ní Ghríofa a scríobhann as Gaeilge agus as Béarla araon. I measc na nduaiseanna atá bronnta uirthi tá Duais Rooney do Litríocht Éireannach, Sparánacht Ollamh Filíochta na hÉireann, Gradam Filíochta Mhichíl Uí Airtnéide agus duais liteartha Wigtown (duais náisiúnta filíochta na hAlban).
At the Station by Mary Turley-McGrath
You did not see me as you left the platform,
turned through the swivel gate and crossed the road ̶
the safety barrier still down.
I called your name and the wind blew words back
into me. I gained pace until I was almost parallel,
the lines of speeding cars between us now.
I did not call again but watched your coat blow back,
your left hand resting on your stomach, head bowed
as if talking to the baby inside.
You were never so close to me, never so far away:
like in the film of Dr Zhivago, in the final frames
we see their love-child for the last time:
a plain business-like girl with a headscarf,
quite unromantic in herself, who hurries home
with her young man, a balalaika on her shoulder.
I saw the film my first weekend in college.
I still remember that sunlight through winter trees,
Julie Christie’s hair, Omar Sharif’s gaze, love’s despair,
as if here I could never cross this road to hug you
or that we would walk forever in parallel lines
like the railway tracks in the film, glinting, stretching.
Otter by Grace Wells
Some things happened that should not have,
I made mistakes and was given witness to my worst self—
I was left like something a spider leaves,
sucked of everything except despair.
We founder and must find ways to mend.
One foot in front of the other I walked the riverbank,
inland, upstream, letting water flow against my failings.
I struck a path through cow-parsley and nettle,
holding the indigo lamp of bluebells to my damage,
moving deeper toward the river’s quiet country,
further into my personal ruin. Where the two
converged I slumped among the wet weeds, wanting
the river to wash right through me, to wipe me clean.
And up from the liquid surface rose an otter;
an otter plunging water. It dived to somersault,
to divide in two and become a mated pair.
Black as eels but halo-bright they circled, swimming
me into their carnival, into a wider world—
so that I want to say, do not fear your anguish;
despair births miracles; hope is only waiting for release.
Pay attention, the signs gifted are subtle: small beads
for the necklace of faith we must thread for ourselves.
Globalising the Grafán Paddy Bushe
The Béarra man recognised it alright. I thought he might.
The neighbour with the John Deere tractor had no clue,
Although the teacher home on holidays recalled his grandfather
Insisting that “a grafán is your only man for the garden”.
Someone found it on Amazon (a “digging hoe” in DIY)
After I had tried hardware shops all over the peninsula.
It came – cheaply – by courier, a heavy shaft and blade
That scrapes a dogged living for the wide world’s poor.
Some of whom, migrants now, reviewed it on Amazon:
“I have looked for this since I left my own country”. Mine
Flew through lazy-beds of potatoes, scattering boggy sods
While I recalled ridges and furrows in high, remote places,
And I thought of my friend who was smuggled into Europe
And of Amazon trafficking its stateless tax-accounts
Between borders, searching for a haven, like refugees
Who slip across frontiers when the guards avert their eyes.