Erin Fornoff

Hymn to the Reckless (For my Brother)

Third Place in the 2013 Strokestown International Poetry Awards

Together we throw flame into orbit.
The frantic patter,
the volley, the hit.
From afar it’s just stars
come down to flit.

We bend quick to the flame
and pull coals into flight
Delirious sleight of hand
with a teaspoon of light
Once one caught
between my fingers and seared
and that night I wrapped
my aching hand around cold beer.

We’re boozy folk heroes
performing incredible feats
craft exquisite trajectories
with arms full of heat
Look! the arc as he sends it
hurdling toward me
bending with some
eccentric choreography-

We burn.
Our power, to drag a new comet trail
across the evening
a hymn to the reckless,
so breathless it falls to earth,
the air singeing–
we smolder.
Gods of our own solstice,
and solace,
there’s solace in this insane game;
in being the wild ones
who manhandle coals from the flames
and make them dance.

Oh! he catches behind the back,
he’s a one-man eclipse of the sun,
lays cursive lines across your eyelids
even once you’ve closed them
With a tap-tap-tap it comes flying to me
oh God–I got it! Lightning quick layup,
i shot it–always skyward.

We marvel at our savage skill,
at what we’ve harnessed.
Sleep hard with sooty hands,
flames peel us unvarnished.

One night in the smoke
with his throat full,
he turned, stilled, confessed:
You know,
I always thought
they loved you the best.

How long has he held that
pressed tight in his palm
as it scorched him?
Brave in the dim to de-clench that fist
from the ember within;
to admit what forges us.
The gentle soul who can cast flame
to the rim of the sky.
And the ember.
Exposed to air it glows,
it catches, it dies, it passes.
Toss it here.
We’ll pass it back and forth
until it’s ashes.

A native of the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, Erin Fornoff is a poet living and working in Ireland for the past four years. Called a “story-telling poet,” she has performed her poetry at the Electric Picnic Word and Arts Council stages, and many other festivals including First Fortnight, Flatlakes Literary Festival, Tonehenge, Mindfield Festival, as well as Caca Milis Cabaret in Wexford and Medicine Sessions in Waterford. She is a regular at many spoken word nights around Dublin, including Brownbread Mixtape, Nighthawks, The Monday Echo, and many others. She has been featured live on RTE’s Arena Stage with Sean Rocks, and was a finalist with Peter Sheridan in Literary Death Match Dublin. Her essays have been published in The Irish Times, and her poetry in Wordlegs, The Cellar Door, and Bare Hands Literary Journal. She won First Prize for Poetry in The Cellar Door and was shortlisted for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year for 2012. She will be a guest artist at the Glastonbury Festival in June of this year.

Erin Fornoff, on being shortlisted for the 2013 Strokestown International Poetry Award: ‘Ireland is the place where I became a writer. Living in Ireland and amongst all these words has made me feel most deeply myself. Poetry is a natural resource and national monument here. I have found nowhere else in the world where a person can say a poem in a loud, crowded bar and feel the whole room quiet. It is a wonderful and rare thing. I’m so delighted to be shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Award and to be in the company of so many inspiring artists.’

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