LORNA SHAUGHNESSY was born in Belfast and lives in Co. Galway, Ireland. She has published three poetry collections, Torching the Brown River, Witness Trees and Anchored (Salmon Poetry), and a chapbook, Song of the Forgotten Shulamite (Lapwing). Her work was selected for the Forward Book of Poetry, 2009. She is also a translator of Spanish and South American Poetry. Her poem, ‘The Dual Citizen’ was joint winner of the Poems for Patience Award (UHG/Cúirt) in 2017. Her spoken word piece for theatre The Sacrificial Wind, was staged in the Cúirt International Literature Festival in 2017.
The night breeze is damp,
though it has long forgotten
the smell of salt water
by the time it reaches us.
A voice calls, a horse starts,
its shoes a muffled percussion
in streets paved in sand
where nothing has a echo.
The pilgrims have departed
in a halo of dust, a rumbling of tractors
and wagons at dusk. Candles burn
before the sleeping virgin in her niche.
In the darkness, white belfries
release a portion of the light
they stole from the day’s sun.
From a window, a guitar-strum.
Beyond the town a shifting horizon,
tomorrow will not stand still
but eludes us, always,
like the moving dunes.
Pope’s Quay, 1983
Easy to forget
that being young and poor
was no hardship then, that wealth
was an abundance of time
to share our bodies in damp rooms
that smelled of briquettes.
The Corpus Christi procession
passed within feet of our single bed.
We watched through a lace curtain
the faithful shadows that lined the kerb,
emerged at midday for tea and bread,
survived on a diet of cheese sandwiches,
pints, tea in cafes that had newspapers.
That winter, I read in the warmth
of the Public Library while you rehearsed,
befriended the homeless and the staff.
And once, inexplicably then,
I cried for hours in our favourite pub.
There’s nowhere to hide
when all’s been said and done,
no moral ground high enough
to stand on, throwing stones
to break the windows
of glass houses we used to own.
No ruses left unused
to stand over abuses,
no excuses left to excuse
not doing what we should’ve
no rewind to erase what was said
or done, only replay
over and over,
the same wounding words,
the same old reel-to-reel
turning in our heads.
A kettleful of anger
steams up the kitchen;
To be at once all endeavour and yet effortless
stillness and motion,
to make sound from movement without intention,
yet always unexpected flash of iridescence,
presence of grace
sustained by a skeleton so small;
substance of wonder
that defies equations of bodyweight, time and acceleration,
in the fact of vast distances travelled
here, now, needle-tip dipping
in absolute attentiveness,
concentration contagious to the observer
who can only watch,
compelled to put aside the task at hand
to not utter,
absorb through the iris