Mary Guckian – Agapanthus

Mary Guckian LE P&W February 2019

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Agapanthus, poems by Mary Guckian

Mary Guckian is a poet and photographer and has published three books of poetry with Swan Press, Perfume of the Soil, The Road to Gowel and Walking on Snow. Her poems are included in A Life a play written by Victor Feldman and performed at the Irish Writer’s Centre, Dublin and Pearse Street Library. She is a long time member of Rathmines Writers Workshop who have published several anthologies and is included in many literary publications and magazines, the most recent The Lea-Green Down, edited by Eileen Casey where 64 writers responded to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh, published by Fiery Arrow Press, 2018 and  Irish Washing Windows? Women Write Poetry in honour of poet Eavan Boland and Catherine Rose founder and publisher of Arlen House and Women’s Education Bureau, published by Arlen Houe, 2017. Mary was born in County Leitrim in the west of Ireland and grew up on a small organic farm, much of her poems are written about growing up on the farm and how the family worked closely with nature, setting potatoes, saving hay, cutting turf and always busy but appreciating the abundance of growth and decay from season to season. Mary is retired from the Library of the Institute of Public Administration and lives at Ringsend in Dublin.


All those bulky leaves
of Agapanthus flowers
fill patches in gardens.
The little blue ringlets
bunch together and hang
over the elegant willow
stem all summer and into
Autumn months, then
the lovely shade of blue
begins to turn a greyish
colour, ringlets in place.
A few weeks later these
curls turn into blonde
heads, before the stem
weakens, begins to faint
forward, hitting the ground.

Sacred Tree

I love to stand in the graveyard,
underneath the hanging branches
of the old palm tree,
its broad arms sheltering
headstones that inform us
of lives now at peace.

At funerals, I hide from showers
under the sprawling limbs
of this majestic icon
where earth is dry, protected
from hailstones and hot sun, below
this sacred tree tranquillity reigns.

Beyond Galway

Turning into a laneway
driving towards the sea,
while clouds travelled
across a pale blue sky.
long, lanky stems pushed
through sand and ironstone
where soil had gathered
between each crevice and
many varieties of flowers
bloomed petals freely,
while sounds of rippling
water and noisy ocean
brought us far from
traffic and pollution.

On crumpled rocks a woman
sits knitting, another
studying postcards, both
wearing pink cotton hats,
keeping the glare from
the shiny ocean away
from their tired eyes.
My friends lay behind
cars avoiding a constant
breeze and I walked on
absorbing the beauty
of the west of Ireland
and wild Atlantic waves.

January Day in Dun Laoghaire

A calm sea at Dun Laoghaire,
with a glossy surface tempts
visitors to glide towards tall
pylons across the bay at Ringsend
where fragile steam climbs,
decaying into a blue sky.

Lost red and yellow balloons
lie on the dark slate surface,
children stretch to reach them.
Suddenly a speed boat skims past,
creases spires in the waves
attracting gulls screaming for food.

Reflecting in cold water
the old terminal building rusts
recalling years where cattle
boats sailed in and out of the bay
taking thousands of Irish workers
in search of an enriched life.

A solid locked circular lighthouse,
stands at the end of the pier
retaining memories of times, where
men spent months on duty caring
for beacon lights that guided ships
safely on abiding journeys.

Shannonside Walk at Drumsna

Sitting at a picnic table
under the shady trees,
sun high in the sky beams
on to the flowing water.
The gurgling movement
and a slight shimmer makes
bubbles into stars dancing.
Like a ballroom of dancers,
couples dressed in silver
moving fast to music,
the darkness of the river
becoming a polished floor.

In villages alongside the
River Shannon much flooding
takes place in winter time.
Other times causing havoc
when young people give
their bodies to the fast
current, some go missing.
From where it rises at the
Cuilcagh Mountains in
County Cavan, many stories
are hidden, lie dormant.
I want to sit here forever,
But a dark cloud warns
A thundery shower is
About to pour down.

Milking Cows in Summer

We walked towards the lake field
with scoured buckets in our hands,
enjoying soft green mossy grass
where winter flooding left growth.
Our tiny feet comforted after walking
across higher ground where thistles
stung us and pushed sharp needles
into the fragile soles of our feet.

Sometimes, Francie sang songs
and the melodious tunes travelled
across the water as he cut hay
with the mowing machine sounding
like background music or he might
work at saving his oat crop, a swishing
sound keeping up with his words.

Reaching our cows they were quiet
waiting for us to take the weight
from the over flowing udders.
chewing the cud while we pulled
the tits and filled our buckets.
Heading back over bumpy fields
we got home, straining healthy
liquid into disinfected muslin.

©Mary Guckian