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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
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JIM MAGUIRE

 

 

Jim Maguire in Southword Journal

 

Jim Maguire is from Wexford, where he works as an adult education tutor. He has a background in music, and much of his recent writing has centred around music and musicians. His poems have been widely published and won a number of prizes, including the Brendan Kennelly Award. In 2010 he was joint runner-up in the Patrick Kavanagh Award and received a literature bursary from the Arts Council.  For many years he lived in Korea, the setting for his collection of short fiction Quiet People: Korean Stories published by Lapwing in 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

Water Ghosts

Honorary Mention in the 2011 Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Competition

 

1.

                                          

     Creaming his barnacled feet,

     the home-help sees her hands

     as a wreck sinking to the briny

 

     graveyard. It's not the touch

     makes him sit straight

     as much as the glimpse he might catch

 

     of Trincomalee through the sails

     of her shirt, beaded curtains

     swaying in high-up alleyways,

 

     other-world pungencies

     filtered by night into blue crystal

     mornings, coralline dreams.

 

 

II.

 

Now that she's floated-off home with his bins

out, the fire lit, does he think of her

as the world's way of giving him permission to sink?

         

Has he any inkling of the tidemarked window

in her one-room flat?  How it's shrunk since morning,

the great ash on the green grown to a large shadow

 

of the sea-plant swaying above the star encrusted

bowsprit, rows of jewel anemones

bright as any constellation tracked

 

by the schoolmaster and his antique astrolabe,

teaching us all we needed to know except

how to pilfer rope or whiskey or paint…

 

His disembodied laugh as her evening drowns

in the backwash, in the walls the creaking

of cordage swamping her radio, the brown

 

amplitude of Brahms pausing on the forest path

of his late phase to take in the town below,

its castle so childlike now, so infinitely sad

 

the pianist is left with nothing to do but think

stillness, distance…as far as his own face

trapped in the lacquered deeps of the Steinway lid.

 

*Trincomalee in Ceylon was one of the destinations of crew members on trading ships which operated from Wexford until the early 1960s when the town was still active as a port.  From the 1860s, Celestial Navigation was taught as a subject in the local Christian Brothers Secondary School.

 

 

©2011 Jim Maguire

 

 

 

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