Summer Sestina and other poems by Caoimhe McKeogh


it is not the telephone
it is the stove
with its timer beeping in that never-ending way
most importantly
it is your wife
standing limply unaware
that anything is breaking the silence
of this cold day’s middle-age

for some reason it occurs to you
that you can’t remember the sound of her voice
– when you imagine her talking
it sounds the same as all the other
talking in your head

this is no emergency
it’s five to ten minutes since you last heard her speak
surely only seconds until you hear her again
but the beeping fills your head
and you wonder
whether there’s something wrong with you

or maybe the affliction affects everyone
the way a smell will bring back
all the emotions of a forgotten memory
but memory can never quite bring back a smell

it seems impossible that you could ever forget
this incessant beeping
or your wife’s eerie mid-June stillness
but soon new moments will pile on top of this one
and perhaps one day you will smell scones
cut in half, just beginning to burn
and you’ll feel suddenly cold and alone.


where aeroplanes sit heavy on the ground
heavy is a sound
a clumsy sound a heaving
a heavy heaving into the clouds
clumsy nose heavy pushing
through instead of going around
through the cloud through the blue 
through the sky
still heavy above 

heavy nose down
down toward the ground
the whine the wheels the wings
don’t flap they have flaps that open wide
the wheels come out they whine down
the aeroplane pushes down heavy
to the runway


The telephone is ringing and the woman is crying,
the sounds refusing to mix together
as she holds the phone in her hand until it stops.
When the ringing is over, the woman goes silent too,
then breathes in deeply, breathes out slowly,
and starts to hang up the washing.

There are not enough pegs for all this washing
and around her ankle the kitten is crying
out for attention, circling slowly
so his nose and his tail come together
at her heel.  His eyes look wet too –
she notices this and stops.

She’s not sure why she stops,
maybe it’s because there aren’t enough pegs for the washing,
or because she wonders whether the kitten is sad too.
She stands still – not pegging, not crying,
not stroking the cat whose tail and nose are still together
at the ankle he’s circling slowly.

And after a while, she starts spinning slowly.
The cat can no longer circle her ankle, but never stops
turning, they’re spinning together
underneath half of the washing
and a sky that seems to say, “No more crying
‘til Autumn comes, and I get cloudy too.”

The woman remembers that the planet is turning too –
so slowly
that this piece of sky had time to notice her crying.
It’s a spinning that never stops
even if you haven’t done all of your washing,
even if you and a kitten are spinning together,

dancing together, crying together.
The washing on the line is dancing too.
She watches as the washing

They finish dancing together.  The sun is slowly
setting because the planet’s turning too.  The cat stops
and the woman stops.  The washing is still.  Nobody is crying.

Caoimhe McKeogh has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Victoria University’s IIML.

About the contributor

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