Featured Poet- Tracy Gaughan


THE WAITING ROOM






A flock of physicians arrived on the wing, bringing some new grief.
I was sent to the waiting room. It was so full of honesty; it was half empty 


and almost impossible to hide from God. I took a seat and tried to exist less.
I recognised myself in the ruined faces about me. The silence was absolute.
 
We disappeared into the walls like frescoes.  Fixated on our portraits, we clung 
to our belongings like sacred relics: scarves, spectacles, a chain of crochet;


a storybook and a handbag.  In those moments, which were the longest 
and shortest of my life, I imagined historians, in the next millennium 


making fools of themselves, deciphering the significance of these mementos. 
Trying to determine what brought a small caravanserai of pilgrims together


at this latitude, in this epoch, in the midst of a wholly different Holy City. I claimed each 
possession as my own and bore the burden of its true biography.  


Because, when a kingdom falls dilapidated into what remains of the last 
and the slow labour of archaeology begins; our belongings become fortune’s coiled fossils.  


The icons and sacred manuscripts that will one day tell a truth, or a lie.  
The waiting room will be ransacked and looted, the handbags wrenched from their moorings, 


like the blunt arrowheads and potsherds before them. Virgil told of the tears of things, both 
mortal and not, and the spectacles, the crochet – made by the hand to please the heart 


will sit weeping in museums, alongside wistful statuary, far-flung 
from the desires of their bearers. How will the archaeologists know? 


That we were more than a community of unshorn axemen who mutilated ox’s, 
built walls and polished stones? How will they know 


that a man was not giving up on a woman, whose heart was giving out?  
That a child, with a shadow on her lung the size of the moon


was looking-up from her storybook, making a room smile 
as if in the company of a flower?  


That a young man in a scarf, stealing heaven, would soon be asked to return it?  
Something of us catches on the things we touch, and when the poets ask: 


Ubi Sunt? Where are those who went before us? They already know our forebears 
are still here, moving like heavenly bodies in their own secret evolutions.






Walking through the doors we never walk through. They are the light remains
of vanished stars, the truth in the waiting room paring us to the bone.  


Later, came the physicians. They passed-by without stopping, returning 
home for the winter perhaps, taking your heart with them as they flew.





SAPPHO AND ARISTOTLE






Sappho is a papyric myth, humidified by a man. A learned face 
on an Attic vase, transfigured to fulfil the will of an age. A poet, 
a priestess recast as a whore. A violet-haired woman-lover
scorned for an acumen revered in Aristotle.  
He never made a myth of her. He kept a book 
of Sappho’s poems beneath his pillow. From far across 
the Aegean, her melodic lyre lulled him to sleep. 
Two souls in motion. On soles of silk  
She dreamed her way into his dreams.  


Admiration is the fire of love; you may burn me if you wish.  


Their sleepy assignations were oratories of reciprocal love.  
Sappho’s vivid imagery, her vowel-laden verse permeated 
the rhetoric of the Lyceum. Ideas, hewn from a woman’s mind.
For what is a philosopher if not the emissary of a muse? 
Aristotle reoriented his soul, in the virtuous bower of an invisible poet.
Gave his love to whom he knew would return it.


Teach me your song that I may learn it and die.  


Upon soporific cantos, Sappho climbed into his mind 
and Aristotle climbed the sublime rungs of love.  
When in reverie he died, she came on winged horses 
to retrieve him. Slipping between the shadows 
and the satin sheets, she hoisted him on her shoulders 
carrying him to some arcane domain 
thousands of years away. What happened there, 
papyrologists have yet to discover.




MOTHERHOOD


 
 
According to David Attenborough,
the female Australian Crab Spider
ensures the survival of her young
by allowing them to suckle nourishing juices
from her leg joints.
Sucking her dry.
Until she dies.




PASSCHENDAELE



This much I know. That first, there was a village, then, there was no village.  
There was a woman, now there is none. 
I close my eyes with a finale of long shadows wrought by the sinking sun.  
I am haunted by men.


My body is a bitter earth, a garden of remembered dead. Pockmarked 
With cavities, violently shelled-out by omnipotent men 
who poured their fury all over me. Who were all Hun to me. 
I lie on my back looking up at the unfailing sky. It has not changed 
in one hundred years. It is the same late summer sky beneath which 
my verdant skin was scarred by rancour and shrapnel, 
a forced smile slashed across the churned-up ground 
of my beautiful face. My defiant tears that fell
from heavy-laden clouds above the village, that sprung 
from the deep trenches of my veins, submerged those men 
and their munitions into glutinous mud. They did not withdraw.  
They burrowed in like leeches, suffocating and expiring right there,
cradled in the low ground of my arms, subdued by the throbbing army.  
By my ears the bullets whistled. The shouting shells and smoke of war 
hid the glow of my blossoming roses. My thighs gashed and riven 
by their heaving gun carriages. I lay there, an open-jawed cadaver
entangled in the silent barbs of the death wire, my soft breasts 
ravaged by contorted metal, the landscape of my room ransacked 
and strewn with spent munitions; detritus of a brutal incursion.  
I closed my eyes, let the sodden earth devour me.   
Like a flotilla of charred masts, a silent vista of defoliated trees rose up 
from the fetid mire. Everywhere corpses; corpses in the copses of my shell-holed mind, 
wet-bodied men drowning in the flooded craters. From above, 
the great hand of providence seeded corpses between the folds of my furrowed womb.  
They festered there. Gestated. I deliver their putrid carcases each spring – stillborns 
resurfacing from the innards of the earth – the midwifery of nature, an aide-memoire to shame.   
Those omnipotent figures loom large above my grave. 
They weep not for me. A confessional of remembrance absolves them of sin, 
Those committers, free to commit again.  
War, someone would later say, does not decide who is right but who is left.
And what is left soiling the scarred earth of Flanders? 
 
This much I know. That first, there was a village, then, there was no village.  
There was a woman, now there is none.  
I close my eyes with a finale of long shadows wrought by the sinking sun.  
I am haunted by men.





AFTER BRANDENBURG



Autumn came threshing through the window.
A woman and a man strapped themselves in.
Their whole past lying in front of them.  
The blade of the plough churning up that dark
soil. Words falling like leaves, then
unbearably ripe apples:
I
don’t
love
you
came pounding into their laps. Two lovers 
sick from love who did not know what 
love was. Shivering like the fall’s first couple
at the thought of never loving each other 
again. The wind did their speaking for them;
broke them up like clouds. Absorbed them 
into a tragedy. The woman stood at the door 
feeling the austerity of the stars. The man 
returned home and put the apple in a bowl.
It sank quietly into the bottom of itself.
The rest of the world continued its way.





About The Poet

Tracy Gaughan lives in Galway, Ireland. She presents the popular arts show ‘WestWords’ on Ireland’s Community Radio Network and facilitates Creative Writing workshops in her local area. Tracy recently completed a master’s degree in International Contemporary Literature at NUIG. She writes poetry and short fiction.

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Editor of Abhaile, Tracy Gaughan is constantly searching for fresh and innovative voices in poetry from Ireland or The United Kingdom: Submit to Abhaile.

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