Poems by Eileen Casey
Originally from the Midlands, based in South Dublin, collections are published by New Island, AltEnts (Poetry) and Arlen House (Prose).Work features in anthologies by Dedalus, Faber & Faber, New Island, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Ireland/Trocaire, The Nordic Irish Studies Journal, Orbis (UK), The Jellybucket (USA), Correspondences, among others. Awards include A Hennessy/Sunday Tribune Emerging Fiction Award, The Oliver Goldsmith International Prize and a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship. She holds an M.Phil (Creative Writing) from The School of English, The Oscar Wilde Centre, Trinity College, Dublin. Currently facilitating creative writing in The Irish Writers Centre and Ardgillan Castle. Berries for Singing Birds (Arlen House) recently published (October, 2019).
No graceful sway of silver on her head
water for her children’s thirst.
Instead a sack of coal, a slake of black gold
beneath a crust of greed,
burning earth she walks across.
Down in the mines, poison hisses up
bubbles its uncontrollable fires.
It’s as if she is walking on the backs of dragons
pawing the ground beneath her feet,
waiting to rear up on hind legs.
Years ago, I brought you home from The DSPCA.
Your markings reminded me of mackerel,
fresh from the sea at Howth.
Children squealed to see you but you hissed
when I tried to stroke you.
Sharp teeth bit into my wrist, talon claws
left me sore and bleeding.
Children knew to leave you be.
‘Love will teach him new beginnings’, I said.
They shook their heads.
In dressing gown and winter boots, I took you to the garden
just as light breathed through the trees. Tethered
to me by a harness tied with shoelaces, secured
by a dog’s lead, you didn’t take fright, run.
Shapes and scents pricked your ears.
You savoured caress of grass, chewed Montbretia
stalks. Leaves skittered from the trees.
Wind tossed clothes on the washing line.
A crane flew overhead, cowered you against the shed.
I soothed you with soft murmurs, called you ‘baby’
and ‘Lovely One’.
I wondered who or what it was
took away your feline grace? Silenced your deep
purring engine? Days passed over like drifting clouds.
Three months it took before you knew my scent,
trusted I would not break your heart.
So you could slit your eyes in dozy sleep,
curl up and dream your cat dreams,
my mackerel striped, acrobat cat.
When I clean the grate,
you lean close to smell the cinders, an ancient smell
that takes us both to other fires.
In these exquisite moments, your long tail
winds a curling trail around the moon.
I marvel at black lightning stripes
that streak down your beautiful mackerel back.
Margaret Atwood’s Hair
(Hawthorn Tree at Muckross Abbey, Killarney, 2019)
Bare branches defy gravity, shape this wise,
prophetic woman, hair electrical, upward
currents (like the photograph, The Sunday Times
Branch-shafts crackle like Michaelangelo’s
Creation of Adam to a sky pierced ice-eyed blue.
Only a stone’s throw, the gravestone
ruins of men, Muckross Abbey lit by dawn.
No chick like fuzz or muzzy growth.
Sinewy. Bone. Leaves fallen rustle
September grasses. Quilt slumbering
fields. Until scarlet berries offer poultice
to a splintered season. Spring’s flowering
testament. Longevity. Endurance.
These vertical tendrils don’t tumble towards
sleep dewed earth. Sprinkled by stars, moonlight
weaves silvery paths along protective
twig-lines. Halos of shade and light.
Hawthorn branches cast long shadows.
Guardian. Healer. Soothsayer. Thorny.
Cows keep their distance.
© Eileen Casey