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Creative Corona: Day 16

Rachel Andrews is a journalist, cultural critic and essayist.  Winner of the 2018 Hubert Butler Prize, Rachel  has written for n + 1, Longreads , the London Review of Books, the Dublin Review and The Stinging Fly.  She teaches on the media module of the MA in Creative Writing.

 

from an essay “The Turning” 

My daughter tells me something I didn’t know. The most ancient starfish in the world is 400-million-years-old and comes from dinosaur times. Then she tells me something else that is new to me. Glitter pens are dangerous for fish and for the sea. That’s because the glitter breaks off and gets into the ocean, the fish eat it and they die.

She says this in a light tone, her manner matter-of-fact as I resolve anxiously to jettison glitter products from our lives, another in a series of attempts to mitigate a calamitous future I can intellectualize but cannot yet fathom. My daughter, eight-years-old, lives primarily in the present, although lately she has begun to imagine her way into a time to come, which currently involves marriage and children of her own. She is extremely interested in some of the workings of the female body: how an egg slowly grows into a baby inside of mother’s tummy, how mother must work long and hard to push that baby out. She is fascinated to know she was blue when she was born; she asks me time and again to re-enact the sharp, frightening cry she emitted at the moment of her arrival into the world.

My daughter is starting to find her way into the trouble of existence, starting to conceive of life as something wrought in bright and shade – and sometimes only in shade. For the most part, she continues to turn to me for explanations and for comfort, even though as I struggle to process the reality of our degrading planet, I am increasingly looking around for my own explanations, my own comfort. When I am fretful I might look to art, to literature, for a way to fully conceptualize the situation we find ourselves in.

*

Cathy Fitzgerald, who grew up in New Zealand and lives in rural Ireland, developed an eco-literacy workshop to help artists look at changes they can bring to their practice in response to the environmental-social emergency. Fitzgerald conducts her own eco-social art practice: it involves the transformation of her small local forest from monoculture plantation to mixed species woodland. It’s a way, she says, of “softly subverting” the stranglehold of industrial forestry, as well as the legacy of colonial land clearances. Fitzgerald holds her forest close: she looks for ways she can support its diversification by slow and selective thinning of the conifers, which opens up the space for native Ash seedlings to grow; she values its capacity to keep going in the face of the deadly fungal Ash-dieback disease that has swept from Europe across the Irish Sea. Her art practice also takes the form of blog posts, of photographs and videos. In the short film she named the black space: (resilience) of the ash night, she walks through the forest at night, rain tumbling, the black of the video images a reflection of the blackness beginning to engulf the earth. Yet all the while her camera captures the straight slim shoots of the young Ash trees coming up from the ground. All that “quiet, relentless growing,” writes Fitzgerald in a blog post. All that pushing upwards, despite it all.

*

Thatcher said there was no alternative. Fukuyama announced the end of history. I grew up at the feet of those who worshipped individualism, you versus me, humanity ascendant over the planet. I got the hard sell, as Naomi Klein has termed it. But my daughter thinks about the world around her in a way I did not. That she has been on the schools’ climate strikes, that she has carried a home-made sign that depicts the planet on fire, that she asks me if the earth is healthy and I have to reply that it is not, means her consciousness, if nothing else, is elevated – and mine can only rush to catch up.  The philosopher Glenn Albrecht has invented the term solastalgia, to give expression to the very real distress caused by negative environmental change. As the modern-day plague and the burning sun come gunning for us, I feel the experience of solastalgia up close and present, a dread rising. At the end of The Great Derangement, which Amitav Ghosh wrote to try and understand why literary writers, along with artists, have not addressed the issue of climate change, he offers no false hope, but, unlike me, he eschews despair. He sees the future in my daughter’s generation, wants to believe that as she and those who follow her come into awareness, they will see the natural world for the living presence it is, will reach out to other beings, respect them, find kinship, make connections. It is this vision – which is not a new vision, but is surely new for our scientific, rationalist, technological age – that, he says, will find its expression in “a transformed and renewed art and literature.”

At her workshop, Cathy Fitzgerald suggested something similar. If we are to face the uncertainty, then we can only do so by turning one towards the other, by linking arms across consciousnesses both human and not. We must walk together with the land, inside the darkness and the resilience.

Rachel Andrews

TOMORROW: “Arctic “by Cathy Ryan and “Head-Land” by Elaine Desmond

 

Creative Corona: Day 15

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Two poems celebrating Cork locations reminding us of the lost freedom of the city.  Jessica Militante is a student on this year’s MA while Christine Kannapel graduated earlier this year.

 

Lost Marbles

I remember them rolling recklessly down Western Road

A seagull laughing as I chased after them

This was before the doubt took up permanent residence in my chest

And blamed me for making it hard to breathe

At Mardyke Street, they split away from each other

One sailed into the River Lee

Waving cheekily as it rode away on the waves

I followed the other down the lane

It lodged deep into a crack in the pavement

Just out of reach

Each attempt at rescue sent it deeper

Before it disappeared

The seagull tilted his head to the side

And I walked home without them

Jessica Militante

 

Echo

A man is singing in the city centre

by a park with apple trees. I sit lost

in an orange room of pale light, typing softly

his rhythm, listening, to know it better.

When I am grey and nearly stone, I wonder

will I too sing – but this man will out live me.

From his corner, he’s seen all there is to see

of autumn incensed night and flat skied winters.

 

It’s not autumn yet, but summer is old

and I thirst for years of my life, for song

to appear on the street, to share my soul

like drum beats.  I find the man wary, amongst

piles of newspapers that couldn’t be sold.

“Echo!” he sings – a pitch for sale, all day long.

Christine Kannapel

TOMORROW:  “The Turning” by Rachel Andrews

 

 

 

 

Creative Corona: Day 14

Cork novelist and short fiction writer Billy O’Callaghan read in the Department of English reading series with John Banville last November and gave a master class to MA students. This extract recalls another kind of lockdown –  the muffling effects of illness, isolation and being snowed-in.            

 from Old Love,  a novella-in-progress     

The pain started, or became noticeable, back on the evening of the first of March. Tommy can be so precise about the date because earlier that same morning the initial flakes of a blizzard had hit, after days of anticipation. In the pubs and shops and even on the radio, a white-out was all anyone talked about. A week or so earlier, some wise-ass on one of the Cork stations, in prognosticating all kinds of weather-related horror, slightly misquoted the line from Joyce, “Snow was general all across Ireland,” either deliberately or by accident corrupting the tense from past to future, and it quickly caught on as the go-to phrase, even out here on the island, initially as a kind of punchline but then as a doom-laden statement of impending fact. Late February had been such a thin, cold month, the small days decked out in grim frocks of cloud and fog, and then March came roaring in, a couple of hours on from its first watery dawn, and by the time he had sat down to his porridge, somewhere around nine o’clock, the sea a hundred yards back from the cottage could no longer be seen and the snow, not yet intense but with a certain fine Siberian heft that he’d not experienced before, had turned everything in that westerly direction the pepper-dull colour of the sky.

            By evening the whole world was whiteness. Somewhere in the day, after eating a couple of boiled potatoes and the leftover half of a can of baked beans that he had in the fridge and quickly fried, he’d banked down the fire and settled himself with a copy of the Examiner some few days out of date.

            The dog’s snarling woke him. He lifted his head from the back of the armchair, stunned to know that he’d been asleep, and for perhaps ten or twenty seconds felt a tightness across his chest, as if he were bound to the chair by a coil of heavy rope. His mind was still mostly off in some warm place, in the smoky moments after a better springtime dawn with the sensation of another beside him in the narrow bed, a body naked except for the spill of shadow but already turned away, there and somehow not, and the rags of the dream made such a confusion of the room around him that he struggled to register the actual hour as late rather than early, with the light having all but drained away. The fire to his left had burnt down to a ruby smouldering, and the newspaper had slipped from his lap and pitched itself in a loose spread of crumpled and collapsing tents beside his right foot. Over near the door, the spaniel crouched sphinx-like, belly to the ground, alert and keeping guard, and when Tommy strained to listen, he caught the faint scratchings and the occasional thud of something small careening against the old wood and guessed from having known this happen before that it was a rat, probably smelling the heat and desperate to get inside, especially with night coming on. He stirred in his armchair and the dog noticed he was awake and began to bark, as if delivering news, and instantly, because of the meanness of the sound, the scratching stopped. “Good dog,” Tom whispered, though it hurt his chest to do so, but when he started forward a little, with the intention of getting up, a new pain screamed through him, a vicious stabbing sensation deep and slightly to the back of his left side, so suddenly intense that his vision darkened in a kind of swoon and bubbles of sweat blistered his forehead.

            He slumped back, helpless, and waited for the worst of it to subside and the details of the cottage to regain their shape. Then, when he could, he leaned forward with caution, got himself to his feet and walked in a slow, unsteady loop around the room, avoiding the small table and the part of the floor where the dog was still crouched, wincing into every step and breathing in tight quivers but pushing on, telling himself that what he was feeling could only be due to the way he’d been sitting, that in his sleep he must have tweaked some muscle or pinched a nerve, and there were few such pains, even ones as overwhelming as this, so serious that they couldn’t be either walked off or stretched away.

            But a dozen paces were enough to force a surrender, and he reached out for the support of something solid and settled in a half-sitting lean on the windowsill. Outside, the accumulated snow cloaked everything down to the sea in thundery blue-grey dusk, low stone walls and fields lay smothered, distant rises were rubbed from view, and still it fell, relentless, so fine and dense that it formed clouds of itself, spinning in small tides wherever pressed by a breath of wind.

            The dream lingered. It was everywhere, superimposed just out of focus across the latening surface. He couldn’t catch detail, but didn’t need to, because he often woke with the taste of it on his tongue, the fantasy-infused recollections of hot Iberian mornings, the flavours of strong coffee and peaches, the fruit so ripe that when he brought his lips to it he could feel the suggestion of its stone sitting deep within the flesh. And having a bare shoulder to kiss, or burying his face in the jet black tumult of hair, rooting for the hidden back of a neck with his mouth until he could draw awake small moans that were equal halves irritated and thick with giggles. All that he could have had and chose to miss.

Billy O’Callaghan

TOMORROW: “Lost Marbles” by Jessica Militante and “Echo” by Christine Kannapel

 

Creative Corona: Day 13

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Partings are considered in these  two poems.  Some tough love from Molly Twomey, a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing, and something a little more tender from Maeve Bancroft, who was conferred with a PhD in Creative Writing (Fiction)  earlier this year. 

 

Dearly Departed

Babe, since you’ll kill yourself if I leave, 

could you rip out your veins?

I need a new ring.

 

Throw your body into the Lee,

so I can sail on your back under Mary Elm’s bridge.

Pretend I’m in Venice and its thirty degrees. 

 

Can I keep your Nike sweater, the grey one,

it looks so good on me. What about your red

blood cells? You know I’m anaemic.

 

I’ll sip them in a martini,

your eyeballs floating like two salty olives.

At your funeral, 

 

do you want me to sing?

The Pretty Reckless or Taylor Swift.

I’ll pretend to be you, clinging

 

to a bottle of gin, dribbling,

I’m sorry, I love you, don’t leave,

as if this isn’t the fourth time

 

you’ve stopped me with a butter knife,

the empty packet of your mother’s pills,

claiming you don’t need therapy,

 

and didn’t mean to sleep with her.

It was just a symptom of this weeks

disorder on DiagnoseMe.ie.

 

Listen, I am going shopping for a veil,

a little black dress, I’ve left a knife, a rope,

a litre of petrol and a lighter in the shed.

 

Molly Twomey

 

Departure

 You tie your shoelaces at a quarter to eight

Head bowed, I see the ragged morning

Light strike your hair (turning grey) as night

Rolls to day. You turn to leave – Cedar aftershave lingering.

 

I touch the soft hollow of your pillow, discarded glasses,

Coffee cup warm your breath trapped within.

Tender words float upon fond glances.

The door swings shut. My blood runs thin.

 

Too soon, the cup will be chill as stone

And your hair will stop turning under a blanket

Where day and night and light are one

And we’ll always be apart.

 

I slide across and lay my head

On the beloved’s side of the bed.

 

Maeve Bancroft

TOMORROW:  “Old Love”  by Billy O’Callaghan

 

 

 

 

Creative Corona: Day 12:

Mary O’Donnell is the author of 13 books of poetry and fiction.  She has worked as a theatre critic, broadcaster and a teacher of creative writing. Earlier this year she was conferred with a PhD in Creative Writing (Fiction) at UCC.  Here she writes about a familiar experience for any student writer. 

From: STOLEN, a short story

He gets along fine with the others on the MA programme, and likes most of the tutors too, although he still wonders about the red-head—the ‘multi-genre writer’ according to the bio on her website—who believes she can stretch him in new reading directions.

Even so, he tells himself to go with the flow, to accept what comes his way. Whether his sense of expansion derives from simply being away from Leinster for a year remains to be seen. At forty-nine, he has man-breasts, thin legs and no arse to speak of. He’s not one of those guys who drift around with a sheaf of poems sticking out of the tweed jacket pocket, or who carries a Boxer pup as a babe magnet. At least he has abundant hair, tied back these days in a rough ponytail with a piece of string.

One of the other tutors is renowned for his verbal flayings of students whose non-fiction memoir isn’t up to scratch, and creates a terrifying atmosphere in the classroom. A broad-shouldered, brown-haired, long-eared chap whose essays appear frequently in a big-wig journal in England, nothing the students write can meet a standard so lofty Karl thinks it must give him altitude sickness. Karl, who hasn’t read the journal in question until now, doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. Unlike the red-head, Long Ears doesn’t believe in praising the positive and not over-emphasising the negative. They are all incompetents, with no hope of making it in the world of writing. In the presence of Long Ears, some of the younger guys sweat. The women seem more able for him. He’s pretty free with his language too. Wanker. That arse. Oh for fuck’s sake. Dropped from his mouth as a matter of course, although Karl too has begun to use similar language as he moves around the house, sometimes knocking into things when he’s drunk too much, even more so when he has to re-draft his work.

Even so, he has discovered oxygen blowing into him again after ten years in Dublin’s planning offices. There was safety, yes. Collegiality. Regular salary. Green plants shivering beneath the AC system in summer as he and the others worked through the applications, some of which made the cut, it went without saying. Even so, the magisterial nature of decision-making had begun to drain him and he felt the ancient pull of wanting distance, especially since the break-up with Anna. It has been a quest for great plains, something new to pit himself against after Anna announced two years ago that she was bisexual and had met someone else. You mean you’re gay, was his bald, stunned response. No, I mean I’m bisexual, Karl. Bisexual? If you can take that on board. That really raised his hackles, apart from the shock of it. Splitting hairs, trying to have it every way. She was leaving him for another woman, so how the fuck did that make her bisexual? Was she leaving the door open, in case she changed her mind and wanted to get back with him, or be with another man?

He’d always wanted to move away from Leinster, with its city-defined attitudes, its aspiring garden-trimming-coordinated-fucking-furniture-leaving-cert-child-buggering-dinner-party ambition, have a larger house, live more cheaply. Their home had been neat and modern. Dining-room linking to sitting-room on the left. Small office to the right. Downstairs loo he could hardly stand up in while he pissed. White walls everywhere and neutral furnishings with the odd flash of a Moroccan kilim and a turquoise cushion. The usual polished granite kitchen island—a prerequisite in every Irish kitchen when someone decided that food preparation could no longer occur on worktops facing a wall, but must be performed on a space the size of Texas. But Anna wouldn’t budge from her commuter route to the city. And then she met Henni, from Finland.

It wasn’t like the old days when you stuck it out and put up with one another until the man died and the wife entered a new phase of coming and going as she pleased, of bridge, hiking (that made him laugh, thinking of all the under-exercised flesh trailing up and down the Sugar Loaf mountain), evening courses and weekend breaks to Kerry with ‘the girls’. Even so, the stomach-sickening, pile-driving shock of discovering that she loves—absolutely loves—a woman, pretty much in the way she’d once loved him, took some digesting. He developed irritable bowel syndrome, found himself practically skidding to the bathroom to shit his guts out, all because of heartbreak. Now he was truly emptied, and that heart was just—just—beginning to grow numb, scab over. To heal, in therapy-speak. Since taking up with Henni, and implicit in this, while recovering from life with him, Anna has been having monthly therapy, suggesting recently that he should try it too.  

Mary O’Donnell   

TOMORROW:  “Dearly Departed” by Molly  Twomey and “Departure” by Maeve Bancroft        

 

Creative Corona: Day 11

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Margaret O’Driscoll and Peggy McCarthy, currently students on the MA in Creative Writing, write about the family in crisis and the ties that bind. 

The Day Daddy Cried

 I only saw my father cry, once –

bolting past us in the kitchen

to the coal room out back,

his sobbing a runnel around our house

after getting the message from Dunne’s

shop to phone his brother.

I coiled against my mother,

what’s wrong with Daddy I whispered,

she blamed it on the onion he had been chopping earlier.

She swore it, so I rummaged for that onion

in the bucket kept for our hens, found one

under peelings and withering cabbage leaves,

I needed to keep stomping it

flatter than my sandcastles.

When my father emerged, shrunk into himself,

red-faced, his two eyes like trapped birds,

I took a few steps towards him

squeezing the onion tightly in my fist

in case I burst, then backed away.

Margaret O’ Driscoll  

 

REAR-VIEW MIRROR

It was the view in the mirror that scuppered her as she drove away.

No more false starts and idle planning. Months and years caught in the bind of wanting to go and needing to stay. She was still young enough, it wasn’t too late, not nowadays. She knew she could find a new life somewhere else.

It had always been just the two of them. The years had piled in slowly and maybe he walked with a little less vim these days, but he was still solid and strong, stronger than most men his age. Since he’d retired, he’d become quite a good cook, obsessively watching every cookery programme on television from the mundane to the exotic.

‘I’m a man who knows his way around the kitchen,’ he’d boast.

He could drive, sometimes ferrying neighbours to and from hospital appointments. When he was caught for speeding last November, he strongly resented having a licence that wasn’t ‘clean’.

He protested to the garda, ‘I was driving lorries up and down the country before some of you bucks were born!’

So today was the day. She was finally set to go.

Just before she rounded the bend and home leaked out of sight, she caught a glimpse of his waving left hand drop slowly across his eyes as he sank down on the low white-washed wall like a balloon deflating. Jerry, she had always called him, not Dad. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel and shifted gear.

Peggy McCarthy

TOMORROW: “STOLEN” by Mary O’Donnell

Creative Corona: Day 10

John Banville is the Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at UCC. He is the author of over 20 works of fiction, including the Booker Prize-winning The Sea.  Under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, he has written seven crime novels, the latest of which, The Secret Guests, was published in January.  His reading with Catherine Kirwan on March 24 had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.  Here he writes about another period of self-isolation and the first glimpses of a different kind of virus. 

UNDERNEATH

As this time of isolation goes on, I am reminded of the couple of months I spent at the University of Chicago in the autumn of 2016. I was there to conduct a seminar on the novels of Henry James, at the splendidly named John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought—alumni include T.S Eliot, Saul Bellow and Leszek Kołakowski.

My accommodation was a spacious upper room in a fine old townhouse on campus, in the bosky neighbourhood of Hyde Park. There was one pub within my range, a melancholy dive that I shunned, while the only restaurant deserving of the description was a forty-minute walk away—it was all right going there, but the return tended to be a little wobbly.

The first American campus I knew was Berkeley in 1968. Times have changed. Hyde Park in 2016 was as quiet as a Sunday evening in Belfast. My days, then, were uniform, tranquil and uneventful. I lost track of the days of the week. I woke, I wrote, I ate a sandwich, I wrote, I ate a bowl of spaghetti, I read, I had a drink, I went to bed. One morning my eyelids snapped open and I said aloud to the ceiling, ‘I know what this is—this is Groundhog Day!’

A virus was rampant in that time, too. I had seen the early signs of it throughout October. People shouting racial slurs at each other in the streets. Hate-filled insults were hurled back and forth in political debates. Shameless lies were broadcast as television news, by journalists, or ‘journalists’, who should have known better. The world according to Fox News as against the world according to CNN. One afternoon, sitting in a taxi stopped in traffic, I saw a white man, purple with rage, leap from his car and stride back past a line of no fewer than six vehicles to deliver a kick to the door of a pick-up truck driven by a black man.

I recall the first time I heard the term ‘alternative facts’ spoken by a political adviser—on CNN, in fact, not Fox. It was a stroke of genius, I thought—worthy of Joseph Goebbels or one of Lenin’s useful fools.

The populist epidemic reached its crisis point in the United States on November 9th, 2016. Never in recent times had a presidential election so sorely infected the nation. And like all viruses, this one spread rapidly, not only within America but across the world. Populism is not a pandemic—see the Irish leader Leo Varadker’s television address to the nation on St Patrick’s Day, a model of dignity and restraint—but the infection lurks within the body politic everywhere, biding its time.

Blaise Pascal contended that all of humankind’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. Everywhere today there are people in rooms who have no intention of keeping quiet. As Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man observed of his kind, ‘Though we may sit forty years underground without speaking, when we do come out into the light of day and break out we talk and talk and talk.’

John Banville 

TOMORROW:  “The Day Daddy Cried” by Margaret O’Driscoll and “Rear-View Mirror” by Peggy McCarthy     

Creative Corona: Day 9

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.   

Catherine Kirwan is a crime writer.  Her debut novel Darkest Truth, drawing its inspiration from her day job as a solicitor, was published to acclaim last year and was chosen as Cork’s One City One Book. Catherine was due to read on March 24 with John Banville as part of the Department of English annual reading series, one of many events that had to be cancelled due to the virus. 

LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS

For a while after, I used to walk to the Eurospar away up along, so as I wouldn’t have to go past. And then, says I, sure I’m not the one who should be ashamed. So I started going down the hill instead. I make sure to stare in at her when I’m passing, though, and when I see anyone I knew coming out or going in, I stop and tell them that I’ve taken my custom elsewhere, and that the bread is fresher in the place down below. I’m getting fit from all the walking, my waistband getting looser. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, says I.

              Until one night, a few weeks later, a knock came to the door. Late for anyone to be calling, says I, and I peeked sideways out through the net curtain on the landing window. When I saw who it was, I had the door open in five seconds flat.

              He’s Dan to everyone else, Danny Boy to me. He calls in regularly and he has a terrible weakness for a Kit-Kat normally, but he refused one that evening so I should have guessed there was something wrong. We had the usual banter back and forth till he drew down about the incident, wondering how I was feeling.

                ‘I’m not letting it get to me,’ says I.

                ‘You’re dead right,’ says he.

                ‘But you remember me that day,’ says I. ‘In an awful state so I was.’

                ‘You were,’ says he. ‘Tis a thing to put behind you.’

                 ‘That’s what I’m doing,’ says I.

                 ‘I’d say the Adult Caution is the way to go, so.’

                 ‘What’s that?’ says I.

                 ‘It’s a system for people to avoid having to go through a prosecution when there’s no need. It’s just admitting that wrong was done, and then it all goes away, nice and quiet, like.’

                  ‘Tell me a bit more,’ says I.

                   ‘Not much more to tell,’ says he. ‘It’s a slap on the wrist, not even that…’

                   ‘But she’d have to admit she was wrong,’ says I.

                Not a word out of him then for a good while, though he started looking hot in himself, loosening the collar on his shirt. The blue of the uniform suits him so well, I was thinking, with the dark hair and the rosy cheeks on him, and if I was only a bit younger, and all that.

                     ‘Em, Eleanor,’ says he. ‘You might have, maybe, taken me up wrong.’

                     I laughed, thinking he was joking. He wasn’t. He said that it was nothing to do with him, that it was the fecking Superintendent, that he, my Danny, was only the messenger boy. I wouldn’t hear of him running himself down like that.

                      ‘You’ll be a sergeant in no time,’ says I. ‘Amn’t I always saying it?’

                      ‘You are,’ says he.

                       ‘And you know how fond I am of you,’ says I.

                    ‘Well,’ says he. ‘We’ve had our moments. That time there was a complaint against you about the slashed tyres on the cars parked on your grass verge.’

                       ‘Not a scrap of evidence,’ says I.

                       ‘No. No. But there was that letter from the school that time you …’

                       ‘Freedom of speech, Danny,’ says I.

                       ‘And there was the keying,’ says he. ‘The alleged keying.’

                       ‘Danny,’ says I. ‘I’d love to help you with the Superintendent but this is one favour I can’t do for you. Right is right.’

*                                        

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a small bit of a hop when they came to serve me, not Danny, another guard. Two. One stayed in the car, and the other, a big brute with a Kerry accent, nearly took the door down with the hammering he gave it.

                ‘Summons for you, Mrs Kelly,’ says he.

               ‘It’s Miss,’ says I, and I slammed the door in his face and crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it into the recycling. I went up to bed for a while, but I was twisting and turning, and then the children out on the green started their usual roaring, so I got up and made myself a cup of tea and I went out to the back garden and sat on Mammy’s bench, under the apple tree.

                   What would Mammy do, says I to myself. Well she wouldn’t run away from a fight anyway, says I, and I got up on my hind legs and went back into the house and I dug the summons out of the recycling bin and I flattened it, and read: ‘Assault causing harm contrary to section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

*

The next time Danny called, I said it straight out. 

                   ‘Your Kit-Kat days are over in this house.’

                   ‘I suppose because of the summons,’ says he.

                   ‘You suppose right,’ says I.

                   ‘Ah, now, sure,’ says he. ‘The black eye would have been hard to ignore.’

                   ‘It’s not what you know, Danny,’ says I. ‘It’s who. Mammy always said it.’

                 ‘Eleanor,’ says Danny. ‘In my training for the community guard role we were taught about the Two Cs. Contrition and compensation. I could nearly guarantee that, even at this late stage, the complaint would be dropped if you would pay a token amount to show …’

                     ‘Get out,’ says I.            

*

I’m wearing the suit I had for Mammy’s funeral and I’ve a taxi ordered for afterwards.

                      It isn’t every day of the week that justice is done. 

Catherine Kirwan

TOMORROW: “Underneath” by John Banville 

Creative Corona: Day 8

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Beau Williams is an American performance poet and the author of two collections of poetry.  He is the creator of  Virtual Poetry Marketplace where members of the public can commission a personalised poem.  Both he and Breda Joyce, whose first collection, Cadence, came out in 2017, graduated from the MA in Creative Writing this year. 

 

Call The Locksmith

Outside, a siren rounds and ebbs through Dublin 6.

Nobody knows what this means.

In the midwest (Oklahoma, Dolly Parton, meth),

that same sound rattles through livestock

and the locals move to cover,

watch pregnant clouds spin-on

as they genuflect and tongue psalms.

 

The siren climbs our spines,

nestles in our ears,

itches.

 

All the bars have spit us out and

apartments swallowed us whole.

 

A slender black house cat struts

every sidewalk on the planet.

Links its way through fence posts

and slips through window cracks.

 

Rubs its neck on every

door knob and neighbour.

Makes us lay one rigor mortis body

between us and every other body.

 

6 feet is a brother

is a science teacher

is a movie star

is a casket.

 

This cat has chewed up all our toilet paper,

has buried our soap

and raked our bones.

Has hollered from the street corner

and from every balcony in Venice.

Has drowned businesses.

Has gutted towns.

Has burned chests.

Has washed sounds.

 

This slender beast has reset the clock.

Has snapped the key in every lock.

 

Beau Williams

 

No Covid Blues

 

No one told the daffodils about social distancing,

that they should no longer bunch together;

their brazen yellow heads just nod as I stroll by.

 

No one told the cherry blossoms not to cluster

in groups of more than two and in the plantation

bluebells defy the ban on congregation.

 

And no one thought the air would ever feel

this clean, that a teeming choir of birdsong

would welcome in the day. I catch the scent

 

of hyacinth, wild garlic on warm afternoons.

When sunsets ribbon the evening sky,

a strange light catches me off guard and I dance

around my kitchen. I’ve banished the covid blues!

 

Breda Joyce

 

TOMORROW: Life Gives you Lemons by Catherine Kirwan.

Creative Corona: Day 7

Dr Graham Allen is a poet and Professor of Modern English in the Department of English, UCC. “A Question” is from his forthcoming book with Salmon Press, No Rainbows Here. “It’s obviously about Palestine,” Graham says, “but it seems horribly relevant today.”

A Question

Imagine there was no place for you,

nowhere to rest on this fertile earth.

Tell me my friend, what would you do?

Dig a hole in the dust and disappear?

Grind your teeth and wail at the moon?

Curse God and teach your children to throw stones?

March together in hopeless defiance,

fists raised high against tanks and tear gas?

Or would you stay still and silent and die,

crammed into the one small box they allow you?

the men with dark glasses and heavy machine guns,

whose faces stayed blank when they murdered your boy.

Imagine there was no place for you,

nowhere to rest on this fertile earth.

Tell me my friend, what would you do?

 

Graham Allen

 

TOMORROW: “Call the Locksmith” by Beau Williams and “No Covid Blues” by Breda Joyce