Poetry by K.T. Slattery


Just like David Copperfield, I am born.
At five I don’t remember much. A surprise party, a birthday cake.

(Out, Out, Brief Candle)

My grandfather died this year. Cancer. He smoked pipes and cigarettes.

We moved then from Tennessee to Mississippi, with my grandmother

and uncle with muscular dystrophy.

At ten I start my period. Confused, hormonal, filled-out, taller. Tallest

person in class. My best friend, the shortest. Her father died last year. Cancer.

Lung travelled to the brain. He was a grumpy man. Chain smoker.

Hated people. Liked me, for a while. Another piece of my childhood

laid to rest in a wooden box.

Twelve, young, and impressionable I discover Camus and existentialism.

Life is still a bit meaningless. (Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player

that struts and frets his hour upon the stage)

University at eighteen, my grandmother is diagnosed with cancer. I do not

remember which kind. I  always thought bitterness and rage

were her true cancers.  Five of seven deadly sins ate her inside out.  Not gluttony

because fat people don’t deserve to be happy, or sloth, cause you can’t stay thin sitting

on your ass all day. (And then is heard no more)

I begin to understand racism,

the cancer eating the South. (It is a tale told by an idiot)

Twenty-one, my grandmother dies. My great-grandmother a week later. She outlived

all her children, hated her daughter (my grandmother), adored me. My grandmother

hated both of us.

I get married at twenty-five, move to Ireland.  My uncle is diagnosed with cancer (not the one with muscular dystrophy – he died when I was fifteen). He was an officer on the first nuclear submarines. They said they were safe.

Thirty-three, my father is diagnosed with cancer. Prostate.  Spread to his bones.

Thirty-five, my labrador, my girl, best friend, Breezy, bone cancer.

My father dies months later. I fly home, want my daddy.  The one person on the planet that thought I was perfect is gone. My dog is gone. The world is a very scary place. (Full of Sound and Fury)

Forty, my slathered-in-sunscreen, wheatgrass-eating eighteen-year-old niece is diagnosed

with obscure cancer. She fights but she will lose. (Because, no battle is ever won, he said. They are not even fought and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.  Faulkner)

With so many to choose from, I wonder which will get me? The odds are not in my favour. (Signifying nothing)


A small girl took an egg 

from its nest 

in the refrigerator.

The last one. 

Its potential siblings 

used to make chocolate pie 

piled high with meringue.

She took out the heat lamp, 

placed it in an old shoebox  

filled with hay from the barn

and waited.

Turning it twice a day.

The surgeon removed the last egg

from her barren core, 

giving no guarantees 

that the thousands of dollars spent 

would come to anything more

than an extravagantly 


laboratory omelette.

As he did his best to give her

no reassurances, she thought 

she could smell sulphur 

seeping from her womb.


no first breath

no firsts whatsoever

not even a glint 

yet I feel the lack of your 

presence in everything

especially christmas

when I put ornaments on a tree

two stockings 

(one for me and  …) 

over the fireplace

sometimes I think it

strange that for tens 

of thousands of years

women had children 

that led to me

and now I sit 

alone in a desert


desperately trying

to take hold 

in shifting sand

About the contributor

K.T. Slattery is a poet and short story writer based in the West of Ireland. Her work has been widely published in both magazines and online journals. She received a special mention in the 2020 Desmond O’Grady Poetry Competition.

Related Articles

2 poems by Bernie Crawford

Bernie Crawford’s poetry has been published in The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, the North magazine, and elsewhere.

2 Poems by Bob Beagrie

Bob Beagrie's most recent colection is 'Civil Insolencies' (Smokestack 2019)

3 poems by Lynn Valentine

Lynn Valentine has won and been placed in competitions including Glasgow Women’s Library Dragon’s Pen Award.


More Like This

Poetry by Ciarán O’Rourke

Well versed in Western literature, a fact borne out in the quality and flexibility of his style, O’Rourke’s poems evoke and challenge a millenia old tradition.

A Poem by Vona Groarke

Vona Groarke's awards include the Brendan Behan Memorial Prize, the Hennessy Award, the Michael Hartnett Award, and the Strokestown International Poetry Award.

3 poems by Emma Lee

Stitching America (for Gloria) It started at Kansas, roughly centre, and two strands of blue for back stitches: the calm, smooth line of a river. At each stitch, it...

Poetry by Hugh McMillan

Baggage In the square   is a giant tree  hung with lights. Through the branches a blood moon  has come  and gone, and now  a chain smoking  player rasps  a wonderful song. The man next to...

A Poem by Nigel Kent

Nigel Kent’s collection ‘Saudade’ was published in 2019 (Hedgehog Poetry Press)