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Helen Dempsey – Change

Profile Dempsey LEP&W April 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2021.

Helen Dempsey from Rush, Co. Dublin has had poems published in anthologies, magazines,   online, local radio, poetry readings and open mic sessions. She won Fingal Libraries’ Poetry Day competition 2018; a commended and highly commended award in the Jonathan Swift Poetry Competition 2017 and was shortlisted for the Bridport prize in 2018. A member of the Ardgillan Creative Writers’ Group, she holds a Masters Degree in Poetry Studies from Mater Dei College, D.C.U. and is working towards her first collection.


I feel in the fabric threads of being
molecular intensity,
the weighty sense of altered horizons.

Daily circuits,
routine familiar faces,
sameness in shopping lists,
bin collections,
commuter timetables;

yet I feel it.

Mental magnification plays deceptive games,
insane machinations or are there corrugations
on the mirrored estuary?
Have I mistaken the rustling
of silver birch leaves clapping?

Is something happening?

Costal dwellers ignored the elephants
before the great St. Stephen’s Day tsunami.
I see the early signs of unease
as yet an intermittent breeze,
but there is anarchy in the air.
The global temperature is rising.

Smell the fear.

High Tide

Huddles of sandbags
in household islands.

The enemy creeps closer,
with every wave hope ebbs.

Hours of darkness terrify,
dawn wagers the outcome.

Rain gushes over drains,
sewage seeps, dank smells,

silent phones, candles sputter
in what was once a home.

Mildewed memories, human histories,
sodden dreams drift by.

Clutch trinkets and a change of clothes,
leave life’s remnants behind.

Clamber upstairs in defeat,
unhinge the window sash

too tired to utter worthless curses.
The rising tide is lintel level now.

As sirens call their final warning
neighbours motion from a boat.

Waver on the sill; one more
bewildered refugee tumbles.

Easter Island

Core of nowhere. Desolate
hapless habitat of no one.

Fallen albatross baffled by eerie doom,
battered, butted by relentless assaults
surf spray from misnamed ocean.

Island mysteries lichen carpeted,
pristine pile where nothing, no fall of foot, is felt.
Hints of stewardship haunts in long-forgotten lore.

A Bounty tale, boon for felons or pilgrims but lips are sealed,
tongues silent in stone-faced Moai gargantuans.

Guardians of god-forsaken gardens; sentinels without a cause.
Reasons vie with lessons spurned, social wisdom disregarded
when pride, greed, envy outstrips resources.

Denuded eco-systems, primordial woodland sacrificed
in wanton rapacious rivalry. Their gods grin.

Too late true revelation: Rocks cannot float.
Imprisoned in remote, insane, isolation
the savagery of disintegrating self in their last days,

baleful beings froth frantic pleas to dead-pan deities
with no comfort of resurrection.

Martin’s Moon

(after Martin Buber’s I and Thou)

Clustered conservers inherit
old ways, sway with sea, palm,
on sand-toed atolls.

Between Cancer and Capricorn
Huxley savages evolve simply,
scorned by dull northerners.

Earnest’s old man, indigene,
deep, vast, bobs on the surface,
survives with a canny knowledge.

In the dugout felled from a trunk, chiselled, seared,
honed by hand, Martin’s subject watches, waits
then launches with temerity to forage.

Native and ocean synchronize, far from the gull’s caw,
free to ponder below a huge moon
that brings the shoals to him.

He observes the crescent orbit
without words or calculations;
pale-young, full-mature, wane-age

as he grows; two old men.
He knows the moods and hues of his lunar companion,
the slow arch of seasons.

They have mellowed
in their spheres, unable to touch:
I and it. I and thou hover on the brink

the native lowers himself into the briny
path, ripple-lit, to the horizon,
the capricious moon beams

while the other dreams. Tides abate.
Beneath tropical skies the native lives, tries,
his orbit of effort, the essence.

© Helen Dempsey