We grew apart in inches, not miles.
The house hummed, an empty theatre,
our mother pushing the vacuum
between our silence. Hacking
clots of broken words, your lungs
drained themselves into your pillows,
fists thumping softly
until you sucked in again, stained your breath
from a chilly window. Where are you–
I knuckled the question into the wall
which dragged on between us, searched
with my palms for your warmth.
A blank inch pulled you away, and I listened
to those hisses, those furious sobs,
heard the weight of them
bending your spine. The vacuum
tumbled to a stop. You stopped hissing,
opened your window, blew quiet smoke
After my father left, I found him
five days later, working
with cables. As if nothing had changed,
squeezing cool pliers, a handful of tape
to stick himself together
in rags of summer blue.
I crouched there, hunched like a ragdoll
forgotten, spying and ashamed.
As he tugged and grasped
I watched him twine the slim asps
round his knuckles, clip colours, and I saw
for one moment only, his frown
through the weepy steam of his tea
rainbows spring from my father’s fingers,
a split-second sparkle, I’m sorry.
(During the events of the Easter Rising in 1916, Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford were married at Kilmainham Gaol in the presence of two wardens. The newly-weds were given ten minutes after the wedding to see each other before Joseph’s impending execution)
The bride stiffened, frilled
with her silent groom beside her
twisting his wedding band. Throats tight,
the minutes tallied–
the guard huffing into his collar.
Stars crammed above the Liffey
where later, it will arrive
with its mouth wide open
to kiss the flailing sea
the newlyweds twisting their rings.
In Kilmainham we bent
shivering in the doorway,
palms pressed in the other’s hand
and saw in the stone
Joe on the floor with a blanket
pulled round him like earth,
a candle nodding on the table.
‘Thank you, Father,’
puffed into his fist,
throat blackening into prayer.
For ten minutes,
we walked between gallows
standing stark as two pole-stars
A soldier stood by
with a fixed bayonet,
prowling the edge of his watch.
The burnt breeze has come
skewing in through the wide
shock of a patio door.
I sit on the thin, stained carpet
and make myself breathe
the canned-heat shimmer
of nobody’s yard
from a haze of brambles and bonfires,
and tangles of parsley-green
keeping their wet distance,
blank wigs of smoke
these rooms of citrus
exhaling around me,
How often, when she walked that route
through shivering huddles of smokers
and the chinking, steamed-up restaurants
or stopped to text, hot-faced in her skirt
and leaned for a moment at the harbour wall
had she thought about herself, penned into a small box:
4 desperate lines between the vinegar-stains
of yesterday’s newspaper, stuffed away behind the globes
of page three’s Lucinda, her lean legs
now wrapping a heap of battered sausage and chips.
She thought about how she’d replied to his text,
nervously, let her hands grow hot on herself
and crawled to where he said he’d be, in the backseat
of a taxi, imagined herself touched gently, grinning, his hand
coasting her thigh beside the slow smack
of windswept shore. She watches now, brunette–
53, caring, eyes baby-blue, seeking a male
for long romantic walks and maybe more. The tide
washes gently at old shingle, plastic bags,
a sheet of newspaper circling the wind forever.