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Orla Fay – Mother of Pearl

Fay profile Dec 2020

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Volume One, December 2020.

Orla Fay edits Drawn to the Light Press, a new online magazine of poetry. Her chapbook Drawn to the Light is available from Amazon and her first full collection is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. She edited Boyne Berries 28The COVID Issue. Her work has appeared in Poetry Ireland ReviewCyphersThe Irish TimesCrannóg and she has a poem forthcoming in The Ireland Chair of Poetry Commemorative Anthology. Twitter@FayOrla

Mother of Pearl

or, A skin for broken things

Darkness begins to fall after four in the afternoon
so, when I leave the supermarket the streetlights
spill orange and yellow paint across the carpark.
I think of more northern places, Scandinavia
under a green and dancing aurora borealis
and Alaska where a vampire movie I’d watched
had been set. 30 Days of Night.
It had been a dread-filled fight to keep the demons away.

An email pings and I open my phone to read it,
a poetry submission has come through
from a young man who writes that his decisions
haunt him daily. I feel a kinship of conscience then.
He finds no port in a porous lover’s embrace,
intimacy much like the moonless, immortal kiss.
I realise then that I have been dead for too long,
anaesthetised by fear and without faith, lacklustre.

My mind is made up to be wholly myself,
this devil must abide her angel, the wired glass
of the shattering fall to earth. When you see me,
I will be self-conscious, blushing, consumed by emotion,
trembling before the leap, innocent, shy, sweet,
resilient, miraculous as a mollusc exposed,
salted daughter of the ocean, a rock crystallised by fire,
a sight I could stand myself to watch.

Grim Affairs

Berries on bushes drops of blood
on handkerchief, paths into woods
charmed by the ages in hawthorn,
rosehip, blackberry, and elderberry.
As winds rise and blow the turning trees,
from the chestnut a horse, Falada, is thrown,
his cantering beats out a tempo
“Goose Girl, Goose Girl!”

By dusk the owl opens her saucer eyes
in which lesser creatures have come to know
a faithless moon, a fateful moon
they sail to death’s shore on.
She opens her wings, night’s sovereign,
a monster, queen of the damned,
the starlight on her feathers is witchcraft,
a cloak of bespoke pentacle.

Jorinda and Joringel by the castle fall,
rue the day they courted by garden wall,
she, cursed by the enchantress to croon
caged as nightingale. He dreams passion’s flower
with pistil of pearl, seeks it out with conviction.
With such intention the seven thousand avian
are freed to dance again in the sun,
to whirl at dawn, dervishes.

Over glass mountain the princess climbs
with three pins for picks, across three swords
she rolls in a plough-wheel, and a wide lake swims,
to find her prince whisked away, betrothed to another.
From walnuts she magicks dresses for her rival,
reversing misfortune, denial of one true love,
the fairy-tale ending, the keeping of her heart
in an iron box, a treasure chest of plunder.

Snow Dream

There is a lake in Finland frozen over in the coldest months. I go there because it is a clear space away from the forests. At night I sleep on the solid water in my cabin on skis. I lie on a warm bed looking through a glass wall on the aurora borealis.

Green, purple and blue
the sky is a laser show –
somewhere an avalanche

Wind shakes icicles from spruce and pine. They tinkle like windchimes. The sound travels. An arctic fox is crying out the pain of humanity. The stars are piercing. Orion’s Belt is the string of pearls AlnitakAlnilam and Mintaka. They are lilies on a midnight pond that stretches to an eastern morning.

Puffed clouds on waking
scurry in a plane’s descent
hyhmä on the shore


hyhmä (Finnish, snow floating atop water)

© Orla Fay