The towels give you away. They surface like fish
across bedsheets, bath mats, the space you claim─
belly piercing clinking against the sink
in front of the hairsprayed mirror. Sometimes I hear them
beside baskets, heavy as mud, their damp thud
at the foot of your bed. Grinding each high heel
into the fibre, fake tan smudging your feet,
your shadow unravels from bath towels,
tugged from a sour heap. Stunned to see
I have some of you left, I heap them into my arms,
mine them from mildewed corners. Cuddle their stale folds.
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)
Grace counts a knuckle
for every minute,
the dull thud of his pulse
in her hand.
stiffen their fingers.
the guard puffing clouds in his collar.
Stars cram above the Liffey
where children crouch
or scuttle back home
to the dark.
the rivers bend and kiss.
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 stammering grace.
For ten minutes,
we walked between gallows,
as two pole-stars
A soldier stands 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,