Out Of His Element
If he could fly he would go now
to his spawning pool, instead he
lies drowning in air,
iridescent scales dulling down.
His eyes grow cold and flat
clouding over, the leap and struggle
ended. One leap too far and he landed
on earth stranded on grass
the blue of sky fixed in him,
he dreams of flashing through clear water,
casting his sheen and shadow
onto stones on the river bed.
His gills heaving now as he draws air
his lungs gulping for water.
After, when we had all stopped wanting to be
Anne Frank, when we had spent nights writing
our diaries and were bored with our life stories,
Amy Johnson was our big thrill. We could
picture her still, up there, flying high.
You had to die to be a heroine.
Then we all got interested in boys
put away our toys of childhood, pouted
our lips, widened our eyes. Our friends’ spotty
older brother, whom last year we thought of
as clumsy and a bother, now became
an object of desire. We licked our lips
on lead pencils and wrote Dear Diary
as if our engines were on fire.
I locked my young self in the bathroom
not meaning to, but the lock was rusty
and when the snip went over,
that was that, it could not be pulled back.
No-one had missed me, so I rummaged
in the cabinet and found what I was after,
my father's razor. Too small to reach
the mirror, I copied him by touch,
drawing the blade backwards and forwards
across my face, tapping the lethal steel
on the side of the basin that I always
thought said Virtuous China, and made
it sing like I had seen him do.
Then a strong stinging sensation
on my skin, it hurt and I wailed.
Mother came running and tried to get in,
but the door held, Eventually
father shouldered it, the lock gave
and they came crashing through.
I can still hear her roar as she saw
my face crisscrossed and dripping
with blood. Only then did I remember
that girls don't shave.
The Stolen Sheela ni Gig of Aghangower Speaks
Set high above the doorway, under the flying buttress,
pockmarked now with age and lately turned to stone,
I sat. Know me I whisper, I am woman, I am crone.
With my etched lashless eyes, hairless head,
grinning mouth and triangular nose how could I
The wind and rain are always at me, lashing me,
leaving me lonely. Someone saw me and desired me,
swayed by my crude posturing, my endless fertility.
When I open my thighs the world flows in
and the world flows out. I have spent all my life
so far exposed above Aghagower perched in my place
knowing the world through the spread of my lips.
In the unconditional dark someone dethroned me,
un-croned me, made me young and beautiful again.
I shrieked leave me be, I was happy.
Winner, 2008 Fish International Poetry Prize
Wakeful in early morning, night edging
out of the fields in the half-light the hare sits.
Only the twitch of his silky ears lets us know
he is here, alert, ready to kick off
and jinking run, unlike that crouching hare
caught and framed. This hare
is creating an illusion of motion
separating the thought from the deed.
a deception of making and remaking
himself at acrobatic speed, a dust-devil twisting
that way and this - a will-o'-wisp bowling along.
Light is brailling the landscape hooking him
in place, as he apes the grey dawn. He waits
for the fields to colour up and the empty air
to resume its constant hum. A living language
running on the land waiting for sunrise
to make its move. Waiting for its shadow
to rise up and break for the horizon.
The Shadow Keeper (1997)
Dangerous Dresses (2005)
Lovely Legs (2009)
Fish On A Bicycle (2016)
and two chapbooks:
Working the Flow (1992)
Anthologies I am delighted to have been included in within the past few years.
Books I believe everyone should read:
Ruth Padel - The Poem and The Journey
Chatto & Windus UK.
Mark Strand and Eavan Boland - The Making of a Poem
Neil Astley - Poetry With An Edge
Billy Collins - Turning Back to Poetry
Random House USA.
Fleur Adcock - 20th Century Women's Poetry
Sean O'Brien - The Firebox
Other books I have enjoyed:
Jeffrey Meyers - Robert Frost - A Biography
Mariner Books ,USA.
Jeffrey Meyers - Manic Power - Robert Lowell & his circle
Tim Kendall - Paul Muldoon
Clair Wills - Reading Paul Muldoon
Sean O'Brien - The Deregulated Muse
Eds. W.N. Herbert & Matthew Hollis - Strong Words, Modern Poets on Modern Poetry
Micxhael J. Bugeja - The Art and Craft of Poetry
Writer's Digest Books.
Philip Davies Roberts - How Poetry Works
The Fading Smile - Poets in Boston from Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath
Ed. Francis Bixler - Original Essays on the Poetry of Anne Sexton
UCA Press, USA.
I could go on...!
Jean is available for readings and festivals and as a Creative Writing tutor, for which she has many years experience both in Ireland and abroad. She has tutored in the Irish Writers' Centre, for Dublin City Council and many other County Councils, the Prison Service and as part of the Writers' in Schools Scheme. Her classes can be poetry only or general creative writing, including Memoir and the Short Story.
She was the Writer in Residence for Co. Laois and holds an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin.