Featured Poet Anne Tannam

ROLE MODELS

Referring to it as ‘the job’,

Dad first, then my eldest brother,

would leave the house,

head out to bandit country

where ‘the lads at work’

a self-sufficient tribe of rebels

ruled their world from 8 to 5,

far from the reach of bosses and wives.

The crack in the depot

waiting for the work orders

to be handed down,

the skiving off to football matches;

the slagging in the canteen,

a mug screwed carefully to the table,

its owner’s priceless face when he tried to lift it,

the lads killing themselves laughing.

I wanted in.

Wanted that life.

Never the view from the kitchen.

ONE THAT GOT AWAY

‘My knight in shining armour’, she calls him,

voice still shaky though it’s forty years

since her uncle pushed past

their sullen resistance,

stood at the foot of the stairs,

calling up to her to pack her things;

he’d come to bring her home.

Forty years and still she finds it hard

to forgive a mother

cowed by the parish priest

widowed, without a man

to keep control

who blackened her ears

with talk of family shame, terrible sin,

righteous solutions to an awful mess

only God knew how to put right.

She’s one of the lucky ones,

a narrow escape,

she knows that

but this tightness

in her throat, hurt rising

when she hears of mothers erased

from birth certificates, of underground tanks,

infant bones pressed up against each other,

endlessly seeking comfort in the dark.

WHILE THE OTHERS IN SCHOOL

listened to The Bay City Rollers,

I was knee-deep in Dylan, The Band,

The Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East.

I’d put in the hours

long afternoons in the sitting room

on weekends, fire flickering in the grate,

sitting at my brother’s feet, leaning

into the speaker to catch the first few notes,

shouting out the name of the artist and song,

bursting with pride when I got it right.

I’d earned my music-lover stripes,

wore my taste like a badge of honour,

so years later, newly-wed and setting up home,

when the man who came to clean the chimney

glanced at the CD rack and said

‘I see your husband’s into music’,

I felt stripped of those long afternoons

when I’d first tested the honeyed notes

of a slide guitar on my eager tongue,

foolishly believing the newly-made world

was mine for the taking.

MORNING PAGES

I write the blue of the sky, the beads of condensation

on the skylight, the chill coming up the attic stairs,

the sound of my fingers on the keyboard.

I write the brown leather of my mother’s purse on the desk,

her fifteen-year-old eyes looking at me from the black

and white photo on the wall. I write the ache.

I write the heat coming from the radiator beside me,

the coarse feel of the woollen throw across my knees,

the house creaking around me, the knowledge of Neil’s

steady breathing. I write the comfort.

I write the frame of Aislinn’s door, the remnants

of Claire’s artwork, Darragh stirring downstairs.

I write the day the house is empty of children.

I write the relief. I write the grief.

I write the colour of the sky on my run, birdsong,

the flutter of bags, shredded and ragged, caught

in the branches of trees, the leaves budding into bloom.

I write the heron flying over houses, swans by the canal nesting,

the thrumming energy of spring. I write the cracks on the footpath,

the uneven concrete; Sian appearing on the road in front of me.

I write the joy.

I write my mind’s eye remembering a beach,

my eight-year old-self turning cartwheels across the sand,

my fifty-two-year old body in awe of her.

I write the flow of the river beneath the river, the sound of water

rushing over stones, the brown hush of the riverbed.

I write my ninety-seven-year-old father, the veins on his hands,

his bony knuckles, the fragile length of him, the stubborn length of him.

I write my mother’s death. I write the stillness of her body.

I write the dream of my own dying, the dream of my own death.

I write the pigeons cooing on the roof. I write the day beckoning.

About the contributor

Anne Tannam is a Dublin poet with two collections: Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor (Salmon Poetry 2017) and Take This Life (WordOnTheStreet 2011). A spoken word artist, Anne has performed at festivals and events in Ireland and abroad. She is co-founder of the weekly Dublin Writers’ Forum and regularly runs literary events across Dublin.

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