Poetry by Featured Poet, Leeanne Quinn

BEFORE YOU

It was all crimson or black anyway,
eyes opened or closed it looked good
out there, when things were still

within reach and no one had come
to warn you of your potential
like you were wood or stone, waiting

to be something made of wood or stone.
And the sun didn’t need to be fixed
to a certain height or lowered

to a specific point, for you to be happy.
It was glamorous too, in the pre-emptive
stage, when you had gathered yourself

to yourself as if you were love or
simply something warmer
than your own skin. The air

was breathable then, it took from you
and was returned
unblemished. And with that, life

was in the wings, beating a silent drum
before you, telling you this,
and this, and this.

From Before You (Dedalus Press, 2012)

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.

STORMS I

What were you thinking when the roof blew off your solitary
room. Had the storm come to this, sinister, had it found you
wanting. Trespasser, walking in the bat-filled woods, gathering
ground. And in the forest you heard owls and dreamt at night
of owls, of an eyeless, owl-less man. What were your dreams
telling you. That the bats will follow you home. That the owl’s
malevolent hooting is made for you alone, just as the road that
winds its way up to a mountaintop house is mapped to the
outline of your life. Though you don’t yet know it, it will lead
there and return you.

From Before You (Dedalus Press, 2012)

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.

MAGNESIUM, OR AKHMATOVA’S DREAM

But a dream — is also something real.
— Anna Akhmatova

Winter shadows
the last frost of spring.
Soon it will be bright
early.

A flash of square light
from a window,
no one is sleeping.

A knock on the door,
wood shapes
your name.

I fetch you
from behind a curtain
where you are only
a child.

I am happy
to give you up.
Magnesium pulses
behind my eyes,
an empty room

the only exhibit.
No need for acquittals.
I am tired of dreaming
only of the dead.

Besides,
I will have plenty
more nights
to save you.

From Some Lives (Dedalus Press, 2020)

.

.

AND NOW

the stars are out again.
Now they’ve started to make
their dreadful appearance

on the page, like specks
of blood, they foretell only
silence.

Other objects always go
as soon as they appear
— my white-handled

walking-stick, my old travelling
rug, the roof above our heads.
I dare not mention that woman

again for fear she’ll follow
her husband into the dark wood.
To talk is to tempt, and everyone

around here knows how talk
can make things
disappear.

From Some Lives (Dedalus Press, 2020)

.

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SAINT-Lô, 1946

Somewhere there is a town

beneath the rubble
of a town, a sky above
the rubble of the sky.

In the garden a couple lie
where their children buried them,
urging the ground

to new growth. You can smell the mud
in the air for miles.
A dog barked throughout

the whole of the first night.
For months there’s been nothing
above his head.

For months he’s been circling
an empty sky. This is what
he does.

We are still compiling lists
of the dead, to know
where they are buried.

This is what we do,
what people do.

.

.

HARVEST TIME

(Nano Reid, oil on board)

No sign yet
of the smothering snow
no portents here
of weather

August suggests
only itself
steam rises
from the horse’s back
they will swim him in the river
just to be sure

just to be sure
they will watch the angle of sky
above the mountain ridge
judge it to be blue

there are fires burning
across Europe
as autumn fruit falls

in what they say
has been
a record year

You can read Leeanne Quinn’s conversation with Tracy Gaughan here

About the contributor

Leeanne Quinn
Leeanne Quinn was born in Drogheda. Her debut collection, Before You, was published by Dedalus Press in 2012, and was highly commended in the Forward Prize for Poetry 2013. Her poems have been widely anthologised, appearing in The Forward Book of Poetry 2013, and Windharp: Poems of Ireland Since 1916, among others. Her second collection, Some Lives, was published by Dedalus in October 2020. She lives in Munich.

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