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Breda Wall Ryan – Small Histories

P Breda Ryan LE P&W Vol 2 2019

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Poems by Breda Wall Ryan

Breda Wall Ryan is a poet and creative writing facilitator living in Bray, Co. Wicklow. Her interest in the natural world and woman’s changing place within it inspire her work, which has been widely published, broadcast and translated into several languages. She participates in panel discussions, and has been a featured poet at Cúirt, Dromineer Festival of Literature and Cork International Poetry Festival, among others. She collaborated and participated in Oceans: Four Poets and a Harpist, a celebration of all things oceanic and coastal at Maritime Museum, Dun Laoghaire 2017. Among her many awards are The Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize; iYeats Poetry Prize; The Dermot Healy International Poetry Prize. In a Hare’s Eye (Doire Press 2015) won the Shine/Strong Award for a First Collection 2016. Raven Mothers (Doire Press 2018) is her second collection.


Small Histories

What’s not to love?
The tray saves on legwork:
it ferries washing from the line
to the airing cupboard.

Upside down, it saves the hair
from sudden downpours.

The dull patina preserves
ancient teapot rings
and watermarks.

It flips from serving-tray
to wall art in a tick
by virtue of a mounting hook
and still life découpage
from gallery catalogues.

Scribbled on the back
are doctors’ fees in guineas,
costings for christenings
and a funeral tea,
a former owner’s weekly spend
on bread, milk, tobacco,
coal and Friday fish,
a laundry list.

1964 the 10th of June the day
my life changed forever
is a mystery in copperplate.

Why Morris Minor Jan ’53
we’ll never know. And never
understand what prompted us
to buy, unexamined,
‘Lot 105, Good Tray’.

We’re glad we did; we’ve tied
a pencil to the handle.

Christening Party at Creevy Pier

For Robert Arthur Ryan

The sea festooned in its froth of waves
echoed your great-grandmother’s lace
that tumbled over your broderie gown
from piqué collar to where your toes
submerged in stiffened cotton.

The breeze ruffled your starched hem
and banished the wispy rain at sea,
and someone called to the children,
‘A trawler, look!’ Then silence,
while everyone turned just as the ocean
conjured a pod of sleek dolphins
ploughing a course for St. John’s Point.

That day, we gave you a name that means
Bright, Shining, all the world at your feet,
earth, sea, air — and later, a lighthouse
to sweep your path clear
under the fire of stars.

Here is my wish for you:
may you always meet kindness,
and carry kindness enough in your heart
to douse the greed of bee-killers,
seed-stealers and plastic polluters;
may you one day pass this teeming ocean
to your own child, pristine
as great-grandmother’s lace.


Sidelong Glance

A steam-gush escapes
the boiling kettle,
purls in kitchen quiet,

twists a yarn that ties
washing-up bowl
to ceiling,

a vapour rope
the mind climbs skywards,
clear of anchored day.

More Questions that Keep me Awake

I asked Google, ‘Do dolphins sleep?’
Google answered with a page of links
to academic sites. ‘Do whales sleep?’
I asked whalefacts.org late at night.
‘Yes’, came the answer,
‘one hemisphere of Whale’s brain
sleeps, the other powers the beast,
reminds it to swim and eat,
to breach and breathe.

‘What if I dream of whales?’ I asked Moon.
Moon answered, ‘Sometimes, a dream
is just a dream.’ Then I asked Ocean,
‘Do dolphins dream?’ The waves whispered,
‘Hush, curious human, sleep!’


© Bred Wall Ryan