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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
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CAITRÍONA O'REILLY

 

 

 

Caitríona O'Reilly in Southword Journal

Caitríona O'Reilly was educated at Trinity College Dublin, where she completed a Ph.D. She has published two full collections of poetry. Her first collection, The Nowhere Birds, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection and won the Rooney Prize in Irish Literature. Her second collection The Sea Cabinet, appeared in 2006, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for the Irish Times Literary Prize. The title poem of that collection, which concerns the 19th century whaling industry in the North of England, was commissioned by the BBC and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She is also a widely published critic. Between 2008 and 2011 she was editor of Poetry Ireland Review and she currently sits on the editorial board of Poetry Salzburg Review. She lives in Lincolnshire.

 

 

 

 

_____

 

Geis

Island

 

_____


 

 

 

Geis

 

I bruise my knuckles

against its smooth white walls.

 

Containment is in

the nature of a house,

 

but I would sooner

the berserker’s filthy pelt,

 

sooner swallow hot coals

as proof against the blunt

 

force of iron, sooner a door

in the two-chambered brain

 

to let the dark in still

and through which the owl

 

might issue its summons.

The wound of the mouth closes;

 

to perish its roots,

a radiant stone is placed on the tongue.

 

 

 

 

_____

 

 

Island

 

 

1. Mirror

 

I recognised her in your eyes,

the way you have of keeping separate,

aware that to wake is to weigh the damage.

From the shore of my own island I saw

her in the shards of your face,

as though she’d shattered her mirror

and left the pieces there to glitter.

Brightness attracts me like a child:

the light-veined sea,

and the threads of light from the sky,

and you whom I see but cannot reach,

intangible as phosphor blushing on water,

cold as the dawn of our one waking.

 

 

2. Hunger

 

Beyond the throw of any rope,

head full of the skuas laughter,

I faced the reeling shore.

You’ve left me thin with saintly hunger,

fed me renunciations delicate bread.

Im used to that.

My chief want

the gold-and-olive chasing of your glance,

a look of nakedness and clear fathoms.

The crystal spider hidden in your eye

cast a single lucent cord,

hung between us the quivering instant,

then shrank to spinning veils.

It pierced me the way light pierces

the tunnel in a tunnel-grave:

only to distinguish the dark.

 

 

3. Viaticum

 

Forgetfulness

goes on with our clothes,

all the discreet lies.

 

Well discard the details:

your tongue scouring my mouth,

our voices, our tears, our selves.

 

Still it hums along my veins

a view I took from the hill

that to you was usual

 

 

beaches gleaming with northern birds,

the wing-bones and skulls

of the waves whitest outcasts.

 

It is bread for the hungry road.

The island is a flower head,

and the swaying sea its stem.

 

 

©2012 Catríona O'Reilly

 

 

 

Author Links

 

Caitríona O'Reilly at Bloodaxe Books

Reading by O'Reilly for Poetry Ireland (YouTube)

Stubborn Tiny Lights: Blog with frequent contributions by O'Reilly

 

 

 

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