Poems by Anne Casey
Originally from the west of Ireland, Anne Casey is a Sydney-based writer/editor and author of two poetry collections—where the lost things go (Salmon Poetry 2017) and out of emptied cups (Salmon Poetry 2019). Anne has worked for 30 years as a journalist, magazine editor, media communications director and legal author. Her writing and poetry rank in The Irish Times newpaper’s ‘Most-Read’ and are widely published internationally—The Irish Times, Entropy, apt, Murmur House, Quiddity, Barzakh, DASH, The Stony Thursday Book, Live Encounters, The Poetry Jukebox, FourXFour (Poetry Northern Ireland), HCE Magazine, Poets’ Republic, Cordite, The Canberra Times, The Irish Echo, Verity La and Plumwood Mountain among others. Anne’s poetry has won/shortlisted for awards in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the USA, the UK, Hong Kong, Canada and Australia. She is Senior Poetry Editor of Other Terrain Journal and Backstory Journal (Swinburne University, Melbourne), and a member of several literary advisory boards.
Blow Wind Blow
over this low stone wall
where the moss holds close
though it may
screech and wail
and the rain comes down
oftentimes soft and
sharp corners have long come round
bracing against the storm
breeze in some old slow hand
to raise you back up from a fall
places that may give way
on those wildest of days
face to the pounding shore
stood in this seasoned field
bloomings of life thrive here
while ever the wind blows free
over this low stone wall
where the light slips through
(Note: “séad gaoth séad” is the Irish for “blow wind blow”.)
Waking to the wonder
in my brother’s voice—
his shrill delight
shaking him for once
from his teenage retreat—
I arose to a new world,
magically softened and
glowing at the edges
drawing us out
with its silent allure
Past the edge of town,
undisturbed by a soul,
caught by the urge
to jump a wall and run
full-tilt into its empty embrace:
whump! I had sunk,
in all that whiteness;
cushioned from the world,
I could be there still.
We dragged home
without a word,
mirth stolen by the cold;
the sudden warmth at the door,
my mother’s voice
reluctantly returning me to
to all the colour and clamour
and a pang
at the loss of all that
Shot in the dark
I: At a bar in Charleville
They found him shot still in his swag right
next to his bike folks say that bloke would’ve never woke.
Seven hundred kays of red dust a dead ‘roo round every bend
barely holding on to the Holden one tonner’s tanned wheel.
Once I held it level at seventy never moving chewing up
flat dirt over an hour till we saw a better way—flash
tarred stretch right next riding high out of sight into deep blue sky
when it came to a sharp tight dead end like the guy in his bed
-roll right next to his bike. Asleep at the wheel.
II: Just out of Charleville
Scrabbling in the dirt not far after dark stumbling
over stumps scratching for sticks bent on a fire
to boil the billy, roll out the swag sip and slip
away a rare prayer tripping into limp lamplight
—gagging at the sight gathered two arm
-fuls of forearms—bundles of ‘roo-bones
bleached white piled high in the loose red soil.
No stir of a breeze, chill breath in my ear:
Nighty-night, sleep tight, no nightcap tonight.
III: After midnight just out of Charleville
Sharp scrape of tyres, no warning shots fired—
fast awake—heart starts harsh flash—quick dash
—scramble in the dark ditch that swag, eat dirt, play dead:
rocks in the head; bed-time stories churning with warning.
Up stumps, see the morning. Pick up sticks—
seven kinds of snakes, the most dangerous ones
poison with tongues. Pennies dropping scales from eyes:
leave no fare for the ferryman tonight. Still dark nights
come stir that voice: Just pray them bones was ‘roos alriiiight…
The following Australian slang terms are used in this poem: “swag” meaning a temporary, all-weather bedroll for sleeping outdoors; “kays” meaning kilometres; “roo”/“roos” meaning kangaroo(s); “one tonner” meaning a utility vehicle similar to a pick-up truck; “billy” meaning a metal pot or kettle used to boil water over a camp-fire; and “up stumps” meaning to decamp.
Art Appreciation 101: Earthly Delights
I am fourteen; I feel naked, exposed. I close the book, look up, flushed. Suddenly shy.
She has been watching me, her face a wry smile. Finished already?
I am a small, limp creature held in a leopard’s clenched jaws.
I open it again. Furtive as a bird testing the edges of a pond filled with glimpsed promises
glistening beneath the surface,
leaping with strange shapes poised to hook you and drag you down. But a Christ-like god,
composed, reaches out of the page to calm my shaking hand. If he can look unabashed
at the moon-bright beauty of Eve—her nakedness transfixing a prone Adam;
a giraffe stretch fascinated; trees stand unbowed; an elephant uncowed; a murmuration
of birds fly blithely by in a distant sky, weaving in and out of orbital orifices beneath
the towering spire
of a twisted temple of flesh, why can’t I cast an innocent, exploring eye?
I am fourteen. Immersed for the first time in the translucent beauty of unwrapped skin.
The perfect indifference of this sundry array—until—I turn the page.
A rush of seduction. A hand laid just so, dangerously low on a glowing white torso.
Palpitating sweetness. Man. Woman. Bird. Fruit. Succulent. Flesh. Insect. Field. Surfaces
rendered fulsome. Ripe. Buttocks. Parted thighs. Riding high. Buck.
Naked. Triumphant. Bearing luscious tributes.
Blush. Hush, heart racing. Slam. Shut. Out. Even the angel-fairy beauty:
flower-palace. Organ-ic. Skin-swathed orbs enfolding orchid-like.
Open. Examine. A dance of innocent enrapturement. Strange new worlds burgeoning
beneath eager fingertips—until—the abrupt bell of a period change. Take it home.
She is hovering above me. Again. Read. Absorb. Respond with your own thoughts.
I’m not interested in theirs. An unsheathed figure half-glimpsed
from inside a dark shell. I slam it shut. Feel the weight of it
hidden inside my bag, heft against my hunched shoulder.
I earned an A minus, having chosen to largely ignore the third panel. I honestly felt
Bosch had done the same. Casting a dark cloak over shame, obscuring the hellish claims
of moral punishment in a sliver of lip service observance—Hieronymus and
my high school art teacher
standing side by side to cast aside
my white veil, a miniature replica of the scallop-edged
mantilla my grandmother wore each weekday morning,
to join midstream the murmuration of women
weaving up the main street to eight o’clock mass
under the vast spire that overlooked our tiny seaside town.
(An ekphrastic poem responding to The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych painting by Hieronymus Bosch.)