New Poetry, Fiction, Essays

Highly Commended Poet – Antoinette Rock

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The White Bus

Pickups among the drumlins,
trundling down narrow boreens,
across cattle grids,
side-swiped by scratchy branches —
the white bus weaves a meandering track.

Two by two, hormones huddle together.
Creased copies spread out on daringly-shortened skirts.
Algebra copied from the swot.
Irish verbs terrorise the back row.


Black and White

They were in love with Jesus
and Jesus loved them too.
He loved their powdered hands,
the long lengths of skirt,
plastic rain hoods,
their doll faces beaming,
shock of apparent hair.

The sisters worshipped him
in silence, in their hearts.
He belonged exclusively to each –
being shared was not discussed.
When they gathered in the chapel
serene and pious
the blue light searching
made dark patches on the wall.

What happened underneath
still undiscovered, hidden,
buried alongside vows, sanity,
baby bones …

… et Benedictus,
fructus ventris tui
Santa Maria! Mater……



I too, have fallen
three times:
so many people, pressing
pushing, imploring
pulling me apart —

The past is an adversary
destined to move
through underground of
white tiles,
a busker
playing a sad violin
to all who listen —
while I’m lost
in another tunnel.

I clutch my ticket
unfurl the map —
a wider spread
of parameter, route,


Bog Head

No matter
about the Stanley stove,
the ridges of drying turf,
the framed papal blessing on the wall,
the cold red tiles in the scullery,
shopping in the ’72 Massey
or the braying ass in Slowey’s field
on the other side of town —
the be all and end all!
Your words are swollen with self-indulgence,
matted among your tweed britches,
you’re a sheanchaí in the céilí house,
bard to all us peasants,
mirrored in a dream of Tilley lamps,
mantels glowing like a halo.
Life here is lined by a privet hedge,
we’re all moving
forward at the speed of wireless
bytes, coffee pods, artisan bread.
Our lampposts sensor and illuminate reality.


St. Dympna’s

Cool turquoise walls.
Perpetual spooling of images
that repeat and repeat and repeat.
Fixated on the same street.
Hope, a blue healing
threaded through with light,
ribbon days.


Castle Street

Two o’clock
sunshine struts
the grey pavement,
“Give us your odds, love.”
She sits
on a green tartan rug
plastic cup
ready to be ignored
a head full of thoughts
footsteps file by.


Pointed Nib
(after Seamus Heaney)

Etched on desks
as teacher talked…
eternal words
that took root
embedded deep
towards bedrock
to lie dormant
until a coaxed tear
quickens the bulb to growth
blooms like a bruise;
still hurts.

Comes back strong.
Lines to remember
when the school bell’s gone.



Her grandmother was convinced
her soup would heat your bones.
Pearl barley, swollen overnight
to become transparent.
Freshly dug carrots,
thin bright orange discs to crunch;
heavy globes of onion quartered,
plucked parsley from their allotment,
thin slices of Comber spuds.
A Belfast bap to dunk.

Net curtains that stuck to the
steamed up windows,
Black Diamond coal fire blazing
the pulley clothesline stretched,
sagging with damp shirts.

November traditions,
Like the names of the faithful departed
scraps wrapped in pink
ten-shilling notes
slipped into the Canon’s hand.
And I, a young one,
taking it all in, eager to consume
learned it nourished the soul.

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