James Martyn Joyce – Furey

Profile James Martyn Joyce Live Encounters Poetry & Writing 8th Anniversary December 2017

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Furey, poems by James Martyn Joyce

James Martyn Joyce is from Galway. He has published three books, including editing Noir by Noir West: Dark Fiction from the West of Ireland (Arlen House). His work has appeared in The Cúirt Journal, West 47, Books Ireland, Crannog, The Sunday Tribune, The Stinging Fly, The Shop, The Honest Ulsterman, The Stony Thursday Book and Skylight47. He was shortlisted for a Hennessy Award in 2006, the Francis McManus award in 2007 and 2008 and The William Trevor International Short Story Competition in 2007 and 2011. He has had work broadcast on RTE and BBC and has won the Listowel Writers Week Originals Short Story Competition. He won the Doolin Writers Prize in 2014. He was a winner of the Greenbean Novel Fair in 2016 with his novel, A Long Day Dead. His second poetry collection entitled Furey is forthcoming from Doire Press in March, 2018.

Putting a Face on It

Depending on the season he was measuring,
my father stepped into our small fields,
spat in the hollow of his palms,
set his hands to the chosen grip,
and with our sheepdog circling
in the grass towards comfort,
he’d call a blessing on his task:
cut into the heavy scraw
or swing the scythe in narrow arcs.

He’d pause from time to time
to circle himself,
hold the picture in his mind’s eye,
open the field to the future,
keep a balance:
putting a face on it.


Brave, they said, naming a foreign country,
one seldom visited, day-to-day.

Courageous, they cried,
looking sincere and offering him a hand.

Wonderful, they chanted in unison,
carrying him shoulder-high.

Forward, they called, funnelling off,
down side-streets, back towards the centre.

Persevere, clapped their footsteps,
clattering off the walls.

Foolhardy, the cobbles whispered,
stragglers falling free like so much chaff.

Hard-headed, came echoing back,
the streets almost deserted now,

Endure, his cry, hand to the blade.
Backbone, the cry its cutting made.

Mother Hen

She kept her eggs
tucked in,
turned them,
with her sharp beak,
never left the nest untended,
lived on scratch,
buried her warmth
in their thin shells,
tended them,
though they never hatched,
sat there,
tucked them
to her grey breast,
forbade herself
the nagging doubt.
Believing her God
would work things out.

Talking to the Wall

Shop Street: anthill busy in the splitting sun,
the young man in the Tigers T-shirt
pummels the wall with his fists,
forehead thrumming on the grubby screen
of the financially reticent Cash Machine.

His scream brings the street to a halt:
buskers hold their caught breath,
the juggler’s baton freezes in the air.
The one-man-band, his left leg rigid,
forgets his elbow and the drumming dies.
The bongo players miss their beat completely,
and the sun-brown girl in the blue sarong shuffles to a stop,
the dance leaving her shoulders stuck
up around her ears.
Even Bernie-B pauses to stare,
forgetting for a moment the rents outstanding,
her shopfronts out there, earning nothing in all this heat.

As for me, shoulder to the bookshop door,
I hear my mother’s voice again,
from the year accountancy didn’t beckon,
telling me: “You think you know it all,
talking to you is like talking to the wall.”

© James Martyn Joyce