Emma McKervey studied at Dartington College of Arts. Her debut collection The Rag Tree Speaks was published by Doire Press in Autumn 2017. Her work has appearred in anthologies and journals in both the UK and Ireland. She has been shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize for New Writing, the Irish Poem of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, and the FSNI National Poetry Competition. Emma is currently collaborating with visual artist Philip Mussen creating work based on sacred sites close to where she lives.
The father of Socrates was a stone cutter
and he grew, that child, watching the perfect tilt
of chisel cutting the line of stone, the grain set just so,
orientated so that when the finished work
came to be laid back into the Earth the stone felt itself home,
the strata returned snugly to its native place.
These stone cutters have built civilisations,
(not only by producing their sons),
they have left their monumental monuments
bound and tombed in Egypt and the Easter Islands,
in the many steps to the pinnacle of Chichen Itza.
It is the quieter words to which we hold dear though,
as horsemen passing by churchyards, epithets etched
onto granite for those who will never be wholly ground down.
These markers, these lynch pins; when the mason lifts his chisel
he knows who’s life it is he enscribes – how old, how young –
in the quiet of his work the tapping of mallet,
the susurrus of flakes and chips coming to rest on the floor.
This Winter at the ice rink the music stopped
before the session ended. In the silence
there was no silence, there was the thin slicing
of ice by blades, and the held breath of all the people
who suddenly realised this was beautiful.
We were drift on gilded shoes heading for the egress,
we were swan, until finally we had to leave our planate dance
to waddle ungainly across rubberised flooring.
But we had found what we needed,
we had been drift, we had been swim.
With our skates slipped off we were un-elemented.
We looked to find a nest, we wished to keep our secret safe.
The Rain Queen died in a high valley in the Drakenburg Mountains.
Her body would be kept for weeks, water poured across her chest,
stomach, thighs, eyes, catching in the tightness of her hair, distilling
the fatherness of her, the motherness of her, the childness of her.
It is to make a potion of her, this distillation of the Rain Queen.
She would sit always at the mud porch of her hut scrutinising, waiting
for visitors to disregard. She would make it rain when she wanted –
whether she wished her bananas to grow or not – that was her prerogative.
Never mind the anomaly of her small kingdom’s catchment above
the dry plains beyond the Indian Ocean, the scoop of clouds contained
in that crevice was called by her. At her death she had no daughter
but in Johannesburg unseasonable precipitation began and continued for several days.
The sows have been separated as one is now in farrow.
I wonder which it is – the one who always stole the second apple
I’d throw on my passing by, or the one who went without?
It is almost a relief they are not together as the appleless sow
caused my heart to hurt. Not at first though – the clammering
of the two at my approach, the squinting eyes; so venal, so piggy,
it was not love which made me toss those fruits, but there was an orchard,
and there was a stall with two sows, so why not?
It took time to read more into the glazed amber of their eyes –
I’d rather not see, especially now as apples are scarce on the ground.
I deny my interest is vested, even if I was there with the apples
when the farmer stood with his insemination gear, fixing the sow
between his thighs before inserting that endless syringe.
“Really, right now?!” he said when noticing my appearance with fruit.
I still gave the apples to them. It is probably the sow which always took
both apples who is in farrow, the other never gets anything.