My aunt, nothing like my mother,
used me as a sounding board, captured,
ten years old, in her stifling kitchen,
smelling of chicken soup
I was licking the cake bowl dry,
that the Russians sent bad weather,
tell your father that, the commie,
insisting I pray for Israel,
and that I must never eat shellfish
on pain of death from God
My aunt, never one for irony, was firm
that I should trust my instincts
and be myself,
but even then, I thought being myself
might mean downing small pink shrimps
from seaside stalls,
striped in pink sweet rock colours
I should shun men with slinky hips, especially
those with guitars
I had never met one of these wonders
but from then on, I would look for them on every street corner
Be careful what you wish for
I wished for Cadbury’s dairy milk,
and that her daughter,
younger than me, whose life’s work was snitching,
would be kidnapped to a desert island,
clutching her Hebrew scriptures
as her book of choice
Things happen for a reason,
I knew she meant
as I mixed chopped fish in her yellow cracked dish
My father died later that year
My aunt was a lodestar
a beacon to what not to do,
an upside down road map
from childhood to flimsy maturity
In middle age, diagnosed depressive,
I missed her declarations
In old age, visiting my dying mother,
she picked wild flowers for her bedside
Janet Sillett recently took up writing poetry and short fiction again after decades of absence. She has had a poem published in the Galway Advertiser and is about to have her first flash fiction piece published in Litro. She works for a think tank.
I can’t remember when lunch muscled in
shunting dinner, in our house, from one to six,
and spiriting tea away altogether, but recall
it was the same time as kiwis, broccoli,
Telecom Eireann, a flat beige phone in the hall.
No-one missed luncheon-sausage that was
Already dead; rancid slices of blood moon,
or tomatoes, quartered like seasons, falling
backward over lettuce, or salad-cream
blobbed across sulphurous eggs, tinned
salmon, Welsh Rarebit, beetroot from a jar.
Baked beans survived but the toasting-fork
fashioned from a coat hanger was banished
to soot-black tiles at the back of the range
where dour chimney brushes hung
like artefacts from a frightening age.
Corned beef took off to America.
Bananas endured with bunches being
purchased as before but not eaten so much
between slices of bread; more relegated
to the fruit bowl from where they were
abducted, stuffed into Tupperware
to be eaten at school (but only with friends
whose mothers acquiesced with reform)
while we looked down our noses at those girls
who still went home at lunchtime for dinner,
and continued to speak of tea as a meal.
Bern Butlerwrites poetry and prose. Herwork has featured in TheRopes Anthology,TheGalway Review,North West Words, The Blue Nib, Abridged 0-60,The IrelandChair of Poetry,Ink, Sweat & Tears. She has an MA in Writing from NUI Galway and will be a guest reader at Cuirt Festival GalwayNew Writing Showcase2021.
So how is life in your new job?
It couldn’t be simpler
Your brush stroke always black
Not a hint of light
Only your face calico white
Do you still magnify a molehill?
Huff and puff it into a peak
like the Reek and talk is cheap
And have you climbed it yet?
Oh! and don’t forget your umbrella
And whose ear do you burn now?
You’re a gossip blogger, I hear
Always knew you as a luddite
But then you usually found someone
useful just around the corner
By now you must have genius status It takes a lot of time to be a genius,
you have to sit around so much
doing nothing, really doing nothing
Teresa O’ Connor-Diskin’s poems have been published or forthcoming in The Galway Review, Skylight 47, Dodging the Rain, Vox Galvia, The Irish Farmers Journal and she was shortlisted for Poems for Patiences 2019.
One of her poems has been added to Poetry in Lockdown collection at the James Joyce Library UCD
Your underpants offend me.
I don’t care for the designer label,
I’d be happier if you felt able
To pull your sodding jeans up.
Up round your hips where they should be
Not sagging down towards your knee
So the rest of us are forced to see
Which may have a print of smiley faces
But fail to raise a smile on mine
And ‘no’, I’m not a moody swine,
My mood was actually quite fine
Until I saw your arse.
Which really doesn’t pass
For fashion sense or class.
If that is creativity
The art in it is lost on me
For all I see is PANTS.
And ‘yes’, this is a rant,
But one I feel is overdue,
For far too many men like you
Have got their underwear on view
And I don’t think it’s right.
It’s not a pleasant sight.
And even though you might
Claim your look is ‘hip’ or ‘street’
Your jeans are bagging round your feet
And seal the fate you soon will meet.
For suddenly you trip and fall
And face-down on the pavement sprawl.
Your jeans now well below your arse,
There’s nothing you can do to pass
For trendy, hip or cool.
You’re just a flat-out, fashion, fettered, fool.
Eckphrastic after The Picnic Basket by Dawn Timmins
I’ve just made a huge mistake
This man’s not mine for goodness sake
He’s bonny, brown and looks the part
but life is more than simply art.
Sat here on his bike I’m cold.
We’ll not be lovers when we’re old.
Mermaids don’t eat cheese, drink wine.
When I’m on land I know I’ll pine
for gentle currents, wafting weeds,
for whale songs drifting through the reeds.
My sisters, combing out their hair,
if they were here would simply stare
and tell me not to be so daft.
But they weren’t here when he laughed
said “Ma choupette, come, marry me
the good Lord will bless you, set you free
to be my wife, bear me a son.
I’ll teach you French, we’ll have some fun”.
He really hasn’t thought this through
but he’ll have a tale to tell his crew.
For the moment I’ll sit here
My nipples hardening in the air.
And later on I’ll tell him “No
We really can’t – I have to go”.
Maisie went crazy out in St Tropez
And got sunburned wearing her thong
And when calamine cream caused it to steam
She knew something was terribly wrong
The waiter he brought her 10 pints of cold water
He just thought she was drinking a lot
And despite a quick look in her trusty phrase book
There was no translation for “I’ve toasted my Bot”
When Maisie got home she was right on the phone
A doctor must really be sought
Though the pain had subsided the redness increased
And poor Maisie was quite overwrought
For her bum like a beacon shone through her clothes
Through satin or linen or silk
It was most disconcerting to have a red bum
Which at one time had been whiter than milk
The Dr he uhmed the Dr he aahed
His diagnosis struck poor Maisie dumb
He said that one day the red might fade away
But for now she had St Tropez Roseacea Bum!
There was not much research the Dr had said
The condition was rare in these climes
He asked for a photo to show in the Lancet
But Maisie now fully dressed had declined
Well down in Blackawton where poor Maisie lived
There were equal parts of condolence & teasing
Some said look on the bright side, if you were a baboon
Your bum would be aesthetically pleasing
Well the days they did come & the days they did go
There was wind hail, frost and sunshine
And Maisie’s condition showed no sign of improvement
And she now sat down most of the time
But there was a day I am to tell
When Maisie came into her own
For one night at the WI meeting
It was just time to go home
There was a big bang a clash & a clang
And a terrible darkness descended
A thunderbolt in Dartmouth knocked out the transformer
And electricity supply was suspended
Well what could they do oh what a hullabaloo
As no one could see nothing at all
And the whole of the village for warmth & companionship
Crammed themselves into the hall
Well when Maisie arrived, oh what joy, what a welcome
She lit up the whole of the place
And the heat from her rear gave comfort & cheer
There was a warm glow on everyone’s face
Some toasted crumpets & some lit their pipes
And some just admired the view
And Maisie was happy to help where she could
After all it was the least she could do
Now I’m happy to say Maisie’s bum is OK
It finally regained natural colour
And the St Tropez Roseacea faded away
And the whole of her atmosphere was cooler
But down Blackawton way in Devon today
There’s a statue to Maisie’s good deed
It stands in the square it looks so good there
And everyone stops & takes heed
The surface has smoothed, not with weather & time
But because all the old men as they pass
Just cannot resist touching Maisie’s behind
And they say “That’s a nice piece of SCULPTURE
The W.I. at Blackawton had a social fun evening and I was their entertainment.
All Women’s Institute gatherings have a little themed event whereby the members either bring something homemade, craft work, floral display, painting etc. The guest speaker must judge and give a 1st,2nd,3rd,.
The theme that night was to write an amusing poem.
The president asked me as I was the speaker if I would also write an amusing poem about Blackawton !!???.
I am sure you will agree that was a fairly testing subject.(probably not for you being a full time pro) but for me it took a bit of thinking about
I decided to come at it from a different angle and make it about a lady who had gone for the high life holiday in St Tropez and had come home to Blackawton to face the consequences.)
it started with a Body / of evidence
a combined cadet corps / d’esprit
a white outline on the Parade ground.
Mysteriously // in the preceding chapter
it had been in the / Library.
There was no lead Piping
but there were some Soldiers / the nanny
and the little Princes in her care
were feverishly licking them / to get
as High as they could // before high Tea.
the simple Fact is that / the only thing
that starts with a Body is a Birth
and even that starts with // Two bodies.
Even the Sacrament / of corpus Christi
started with Blood as well // as a Body.
the Train of Essence / was in fact
set in perpetual Motion / by the difficulty
in identifying Somebody // as Nobody.
it all Started with no Body / and nobody
can always be recreated in their // Own self-Image.
if Death is so Bloody thrilling
then King Lear must be a // Thriller
but Shakespeare wrote it / and that makes Him
a Killer / so it didn’t Start with a // Body
it Ended with one.
in a Seminar on mary shelley’s / Frankenstein
Sheila asked Shirley / how she was going to approach
the Essay. ‘i’m going to look at the / Body’
she replied with a Face as straight as // the back
of a Hairbrush.
Author’s Note: NB primary research revealed the Body Shop does not sell // Bodies.
I hadn’t seen her in years.
Her name was Jan, Jen or Jean,
I couldn’t remember which.
My face lit up like a fruit machine
when she caught my glance
as we passed each other on Southwark Bridge.
“Hi, Tom,” she said,
and as if she’d pressed PLAY,
I felt compelled to take the chance.
The names began to spin inside my head –
Jan, Jen, Jean.
I pressed STOP too quickly –
I had little choice –
and settled on Jean.
“Hi, Jean,” I said.
I pressed COLLECT,
and got a sick feeling in my gut,
as the name Jan,
for first prize,
flashed before my eyes.
Thomas McColl lives in London. He’s had poems published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Prole and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and has had two collections of poetry published: ‘Being With Me Will Help You Learn’ (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and ‘Grenade Genie’ (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020).