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.

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Ten Minutes

(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
and dumbstruck
with her silent groom beside her
twisting his wedding band. Throats tight,
the minutes tallied–
one minute,
two minutes,

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
–four minutes,
five minutes,

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
and crosses
standing stark as two pole-stars
–seven minutes,
eight minutes,

A soldier stood by
with a fixed bayonet,
prowling the edge of his watch.



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After Summer


The burnt breeze has come
too early,
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

trembling up
from a haze of brambles and bonfires,
brown weeds
and tangles of parsley-green
keeping their wet distance,

blank wigs of smoke
to ribbons

slyly fugging
these rooms of citrus
and gin–

exhaling around me,
mimicking breath.

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Lonely Heart


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.

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For all involved with the Dylan Thomas International Literary Residency 2014. Tack så mycket.


April air mizzles cool, jewels
and drips along telephone wires
netting the dull streets together. We left
as quickly as we took root, one minute
brilliant yellow, the next a puff
of exhaust-smoke–
daffodils cracked from wet roadsides,
dust in a jumble of lights.

At the echo of my popping heels
the gulls wash upwards, crying
outside the station. Car horns.
Welsh accents. I breathe through
the fug of my knitted scarf, soak
in that steely rain, remember

Tranås, mosquito-sticky. Forests
of vertical shadows, the fir-brittled
lattice of light. Remembering
how we’d looked up, laughing
through the sweet smoke
of barbecued meat,
spilled wine, waved the lace
of nicotine smoke
through sputterings
of poetry. Chewed pipes
in a clatter of tracks.

I shut my eyes in the Swansea rain.
Inside the station, a train coughs awake.
I strain for its rattle, its quivering speed.
Remember Sweden.

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It comes beneath scudding sky, the slug of sea
singing green as glass, sucking and spraying

slate turrets, the jagged throne of Rhossili rock
where a boy squats, pink-chested

with a spade in his fist, turning pebbles.
A bumping heap of slow crabs, their wet scuttle.

Twirling a ribbon of seaweed, his grandfather bellows
in baritones, ‘Lavabread: salted, fried–

da iawn, mun’– coughs with a copper lung,
carrying both bucket and boy

to where a woman with loose brown skin
swings babies through the shallows,

towels their pudgy feet. She squints up, eyes
her teenage son sweating and frowning

beside the changing cubicle, half-aware
of the awkward snap of swimsuits,

and dead and thin as a fish, a rubber
floating pale in the Atlantic. He knows–

casting his net in the blue of his mind,
seeing the cradle of rock in salty dawn

shoving hard each morning to the mists
that he must spend years now hauling them,

the pearl-eyed, scaly monsters, his young skin
damp with stranger fish, his wide sargasso mind.

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The last time I felt it, my body small
and hard as a gulls’ egg
washed and brown by the bay, my sister
moved wide and spinning
through a white whirlwind of sopping foam–
dropped down,

on hilltops, me bigger now,
confused, but still following her little feet
whispering through daffodils.
We crawl to the edge of the earth.

I do it now–
  crawl. Push my awkward body
stupidly beneath picnic benches,
through sticky firs,
trek circles around war monuments,
knees shunting through the grass.

I drop to catch my breath,
hot and ashamed, the green rasp
against my palms I call back,
  call and call
beneath a cry of creamy gulls,
a woman now, silky-thighed
with poppies inked on her ankles,
  searching for home.

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