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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023
The Decision, poem by Daragh Byrne.
When she thought of her history as a bell-curve
with a narrow standard deviation, the day itself
was a tall spike that sundered the expanses
of prior and since, on an otherwise placid lifeline.
That morning, the breeze blew from its bad side,
and flattened her hair with a first intimation
that the sense of herself she had long been so sure of
could be ripped from the mast of her being
and flap in a gale of dissemblance.
In the days immediately afterwards,
she was relieved that there were few witnesses.
She mended herself invisibly, stitching her tears,
wearing her conscience like a favourite undershirt.
As the long years ushered her through,
she sometimes gave thanks that those who felt
a nameless narrowing on their path —
at times when they expected smoother progress —
would never have known to condemn her.
In her later years, when she walked past churches,
she’d sense the tug of a faith that was no longer hers.
Those holy men who milk the instinct to confess,
to the same ends they lid our more urgent instincts,
would goad her to share her act beyond herself.
She held less tightly to their notion of sin,
so she clasped her decision to the hub of her breastbone,
and coddled it like a taciturn child,
until they put her in the coffin and buried them both.
© Daragh Byrne
Daragh Byrne is a Sydney-based Irish poet. Recently his work has appeared in Poetry Wales, Southword, Crannóg, Abridged, Skylight 47, Wild Court and One Hand Clapping. His work has placed or been commended in the Poetry London, Winchester and Allingham Prizes, amongst others. In 2022, he was shortlisted for the Val Vallis award and was a finalist in the Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition. He runs the Sydney Poetry Lounge, a regular open-mic night.