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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
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CAOILINN HUGHES

 

 

 

 

Caoilinn Hughes

Caoilinn Hughes is an Irish poet and novelist, currently completing a PhD at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in Ireland, the UK and New Zealand, including Poetry Ireland Review, PN Review, The Irish Times, The Yellow Nib, New Zealand Books, NZ Listener, Landfall and elsewhere. Her first collection, Gathering Evidence, won the 2012 Patrick Kavanagh Award and will be published by Carcanet Press in May 2014.


 

 

 

 

Cynophobia

 

It did not start when my brother held his face in his palms

like a shredded piñata. Even before that mess of rubicund

flesh, I was scared of them. I could not come to his aid for dread.

 

It was not a sin but a precaution: the private war-drum of palpitation;

fizzing sweat glands portending chemical warfare; espohagus closing in on itself

to the size of a straw; tongue parching to blotting paper, drawing out the nerve.

 

It was our Aunt’s Alsatian that attacked: its ancestral wolf sensed a threat;

brought its paws to the plastic gunfight my brother and cousin enacted.

Bang, bang, you’re dead had real-life, bacteria-lined effect.

 

Cowering on the ground and urinating oneself is advisable, a postwoman told me,

if one encounters a Rottweiler; accidentally encroaches upon its postbox kingdom.

I would have told my brother, but his ears were gory. His vocabulary was limited.

 

Dogs like that can sense tension around the commisures, in the buttocks,

the suppressed syllable; that I am neat-limbed, thin-wristed; that all my bones

are perfectly intact; that they are soft and susceptible to teeth as bullion.

 

Once the mutt has got the better of me, I like to think of my brains

as a pomegranate: drought-tolerant, widely cultivated, packed with seeds

embedded in spongy pulp membranes; a grenade in its possessive gut.

 

It started when my mother dropped me off at driveway’s end in a rush.

Birthday candles blinked from a distant window: someone else’s wish took flight.

It started then, between a black Labrador and a shut front door: the extinguished lights.

 

 

©2013 Caoilinn Hughes

 

 

Author Links

 

Caoilinn Hughes poem in the Irish Times

Hughes poem in the PN Review

Hughes poem at New Zealand Books

Hughes interviewed as part of Poetry Ireland Introductions Series

 

 

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