My thighs pressed at the edge of cold faux-leather,
I crackle back, stare at the blank screen between us.
The sonographer frowns, trails icy gel
between the poles of my hips.
Friends will come, awkward and silent,
tulips nodding from their fists
long after we skid from the car park,
rain gingerly ticking the windscreen.
You jam the car in the drive. I hurl these notes
to the bitter air, scatter her finite story.
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)
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.