Lorna Shaughnessy – Wherein

Lorna Shaughnessy LE P&W February 2019

Download PDF Here

Wherein, poems by Lorna Shaughnessy

Lorna Shaughnessy was born in Belfast and lives in Co. Galway. She has published three poetry collections, Torching the Brown River, Witness Trees and Anchored (Salmon Poetry), and a chapbook, Song of the Forgotten Shulamite (Lapwing). Her work was selected for the Forward Book of Poetry, 2009. Her poem, ‘The Dual Citizen’ was joint winner of the Poems for Patience Award (UHG/Cúirt) in 2017. Her theatre-piece, The Sacrificial Wind,  based on her ‘Aulis Monologues’ (Anchored), was staged in the Cúirt International Literature Festival in 2017 and the Heaney HomePlace in 2018. She was awarded an Artist’s Bursary by the Arts Council of Ireland in 2018. She lectures in Hispanic Studies in NUI Galway, and is also a translator of Spanish and South American Poetry. Her translation of Manuel Rivas’, The Mouth of the Earth (Shearsman Press) will be launched in March 2019. https://salmonpoetry.com/


The walls of the room of waiting
are civil service green,
a shade between olive and avocado
unknown in nature.
The radiators are magnolia, gloss,
fat drips visibly arrested in congealed solidity.
Infants and the old come here to cough.
Others come to get out of the cold
or read about of the lives of Royals
in magazines marooned in the past.
The young bow in prayer over their phones
waiting for The Call to the counter
where they will receive The Truth in small doses.

The rooms of motels
invite clients to be strangers
passing through their own lives;
to drown out the sound of traffic
and the noise in their heads
with an automatic reflex –
lift remote, point, press.
Later, food delivered to the door is bland
and unenticing as a prison meal,
the delivery-boy a ghost, impossible to recall.

There is a room of living
too, they say, and if no-one seems to know
anyone who has seen it,
we all know someone who has been trained
to guide us there; the ones who
explain  it’s just a bus ride away
with a stopover or two in a roadside motel;
just a case of taking your ticket number
and your seat in the waiting room,
confident in the knowledge that
everyone who enters is recognisable,
and no-one leaves unnoticed or unknown.

Annaghmakerrig Zen


Today a buzzard swooped
across my path at six o’clock.
Yesterday a buzzard swooped
across my path at six o’clock
on the same bend in the road.

Evidently, we are both creatures of habit.

Autumn Parable

It was waiting there in the dead leaves:
a warm smile of chestnut where the shell had split,
coveted, scooped up and taken home.
Weeks later, fingers find truth in the same pocket,
dulled and slightly shrivelled from neglect.

Autumn Springs

On a day this still
you can hear each leaf
settle on the lake.
Every tree casts a presence,
every field contains a bull;
a quiet potency
waits for its season.

Back to her Senses

At some point she had taken leave of her senses
and now she couldn’t find her way back,
couldn’t sink into in a minor chord or feel
the chill of cloud-shadow scud across her face;
the scent of hyacinths on a window-sill recalled nothing;
her own scent repelled embrace.

She found herself alone in her mind,
a cramped place with no give left in it
that insisted on spelling out the facts
of who and where she had been, but
nothing of what could be.

Was it for this she had shirked the thrill
of danger’s breath on her neck –
only to find that her mind could coax no joy
from the dry and peeling plaster on its walls?

Surrealist Objects

After Dali, Mutt, Henry and De Chirico

A boiled lobster waits
patiently to take your call.

Something furry sprouts inside my teacup;
life in the fur-lined rut has lost its flavour.

Someone has bandaged the violin
to stop its injured song

If the Venus de Milo only had arms,
she could peel one of those bananas.

©Lorna Shaughnessy