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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
Best of Irish Poetry 2010

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Songs of Earth and Light

Songs of Earth and Light
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MICHAEL McKIMM

 

 

Michael McKimm

 

Michael McKimm (b. Belfast, 1983, now based in London) won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2007. His poetry has appeared in PN Review, The Warwick Review, Horizon Review and Best Irish Poetry in English 2010. His collection Still This Need (Heaventree Press) was published in 2009. In 2010 he was an International Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ice Harvest

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

 

At that time of the year the river froze

and the men entered my life, young and old,

men who thought no difference between

felling timber and sawing blocks from ice,

who carried hats in their hands before

my mother, and had snow in their beards,

huge furls of snow that came with them

from Iowa, Illinois, wind-harried, twisted

ghosts, laying down on the ice, day after day.

I took them soup, eggs when we had them.

When their fingers blued or bled I used

warm water, salts, tried to eke a smile

from their sunken eyes, and if there was

a fiddle night I’d dance, short silly jigs.

Each afternoon I went out with their lunch

on a woven sled. The ice creaked under 

the weight of men but did not budge, seemed

to like the stress and heave, the give

and the not-give, its interminable strength:

Look what I have done to your great river.

Stopped it in its tracks. I went from man

to man with bread and coffee, watched them

guide the horses on the grids, the one-armed

saws going in, picks nudging loose blocks

into the channel. They laughed at me

shivering. That’ll shrink your balls. Boys

not much older than me had sawdust

in their hair and on their undershirts

when they returned from the ice house. It fell

like quavers of snow to the kitchen floor.

They taught me cards, forbidden games.

I did not tell them of the part I’d play

in the coming months, when they were gone,

when ice that was not loaded onto trains

was hauled around the summer streets,

sold to cool the drinks in the big hotel.

I did not tell them this, or other things,

just pretended all was dory when the trees

began to drip and we welcomed in the thaw.

 

 

 ©2011 Michael McKimm

 

 

 

Author Links

 

Michael McKimm home page

5 poems by McKimm in Horizon Magazine (Salt)

The Messages, another McKimm poem in Southword

 

 

 

 

 

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