3 poems by Maeve McKenna

Maeve McKenna lives in Sligo. She writes poetry, flash fiction, and the occasional short story. Her work has been placed in several international poetry competitions and published online and in print. She enjoys writing immensely, almost as much as she does avoiding it.


Hungry, our eyes point, aim where hurt is willing. 

Reactions simmer on the cooker ring 

until boiling; a pot for us to stare blindly into. 

I make meals from the taste of my own voice: sickly 

sweet sauce infused 

with alcohol-marinated lemon rind.

Crumbs reoccur like demons 

on a chopping board. 

On the dinner plate, slivers of dissected

flesh mangled around a fork’s teeth, then

the massive feasting 

of strangers in exodus. We keep returning.

Riots! Sucking sounds against bone, meat left 

to overnight under fingernails, 

knives and tumblers abruptly streaking.

After supper — stunned by the stench of boots kicked off 

at the low point of a sprung base, 

soon after by the nightmare-infested fist of a child at 4 am.

I’m preparing to tell you this: to tell you each day is birth 

and the burial. Until, at the blindside 

of the bed, the smell of leather cooking something exotic.


Someone is watching with eye fonts on the front 

cover, pupils the sly dilation of blame. I hear a 

child’s strand of hair whispering, stringing sounds 

of letters to make a chain-mail out of prologues. Pens 

at the ready on the first page! I will, the voice promises, 

sense a trigger-hand stamping ink handcuffs on flesh, the 

blotter then to soak the working-class shame. Little 

consequence, I know: people don’t eyeball their assassin 

in best-selling deaths. But, I have un-wordy form;

might die from tiny murders with suitably dark characters. 

Once, in the rickety long-loader, the announcement 

of my arrival was the hard, plastic tips of laces 

slapping a wire ladder, and on entering, to my limited 

shame, I squirreled pretentious notions disguised as a 

hardback into the potholed lining of my convent gabardine. 

It was called Less Than Zero

Outside the pages was a house, family, us. Inside, under a 

pillow I shared with sister, I recall each dated reminder 

now, less than zero. Every bookshelf tried to align us, but 

we were, by my calculations, that is to say — after a meddling 

with alphabetic obedience — correctly labelled as harmed.


A spider where you point 

your gaze: brothers,

tidied for battle, pinned 

unarmed to the floor,

ready for the killing in them 

to reveal itself, not yet 

hard in their ways. 

It will come.

Your sisters are younger, 

unknowing of the consequences 

of growing — 

the absolution needed 

to harbour death. 

You know fear. The boys will too.

Your sisters keep looking 

to the highest wall for it.

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Now that you're here

The Blue Nib believes in the power of the written word, the well-structured sentence and the crafted poetic phrase. Since 2016 we have published, supported and promoted the work of both established and emerging voices in poetry, fiction, essay and journalism. Times are difficult for publishers, and The Blue Nib is no exception. It survives on subscription income only. If you also believe in the power of the written word, then please consider supporting The Blue Nib and our contributors by subscribing to either our print or digital issue.

Editor of Abhaile, Tracy Gaughan is constantly searching for fresh and innovative voices in poetry from Ireland or The United Kingdom: Submit to Abhaile.


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Kay Ritchie’s work is widely published in magazines and anthologies and has performed at various events.

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