Song Of The Midnight Fox
will come to you
in a cloak of darkness
on a sultry night
too warm for sleep
for the cloud of my breath
on your window,
for the whimper of nails
on the glass.
will lead you
past the boundary of the garden
on a zig zag path
through moonlit fields.
will guide you
to a secret place I know of
where a warm stream feeds
a shaded pool
as you shake the moisture
from your body
I will land you safely back
inside your head.
when you wake without me,
dismiss me as some creature
the darkness made you dream:
I am real as anything
you care to touch.
outside my love
inhale the morning;
you will catch
my lingering scent on the air.
There was no sex in our village there was only
cabbage. Row upon row of it filling the haggards
on high, straight ridges. This is where babies came from
we were told, in all seriousness. My sister still remembers
being shown the exact head that she was discovered under.
We knew everything about growing the small, limp
plants that needed constant watering. Learned how to protect
from root fly and caterpillar infestations. Recognized
the different varieties, from January King to Curly Kale, sewn
in sequence for year-round cropping. Instructed
that it was never harvested until the hearts were firm and babies
were something only grown-up women found. Of sex
we knew nothing. We all hated it; the dank smell of it cooking
that permeated through the whole house for hours
after it was eaten, the sloppy look of it on the plates,
the run-off staining the spuds and bacon. But it was
good for us so we were made to finish it. Remember
how mother would add a teaspoon of soda to the water
to soften the fibers? Years later, I learnt that this destroys
the flavour, disarms the vitamins. The myth was easy
to believe in a farming community until our hormones and
neighbours' sons, who were educated in animal husbandry,
illuminated the shortcomings in our education.
Oh my sisters,
we are the daughters of cabbages and should celebrate our
cruciferae lineage; tough and sinewy of a strong variety,
adaptable to any climate, winter hardy;
never ones to take
ourselves too seriously: when I think on it,
my sisters, all that green we swallowed.
Father, Long Dead
father, long dead,
has become air
of pipe smoke, of turf smoke, of resin
and shade on the river
buttercup, tree bark
lost from the meadow
places of calm
badger at dusk,
deer in the thicket
on the road to the castle
on the turret
dark-haired hero in a story
written by a dark-haired child
a most gentle man,
the leavings of the table
to nesting crows
that screamed and whirled
in a nearby stand of trees.
a branch of sycamore
his newly-planted drills,
by its gnarled legs
one dead crow;
the wind-jigged carcass
in a crazy parody of flight.
a most gentle man,
the dark gods,
elegy of sorts
for want of an ash-tray
I rest my cigarette
on this grey plate,
from some depleted set,
now serving as candle-holder
the cigarette tip sizzles
as it hits a pat of wax
I inhale and taste the tallow
as red seeps down the paper
stains the filter
a last molten drop
from a crimson candle, lit
as votive for an injured cat
the cat now buried
in a sunny spot
by the back wall
a favoured place of his
there was a point to all of this
which now evades me
like that raw evening,
placing his still-warm body
in the grave, how everything
but the weeping
She Sings Of
Once in a time he was the sky clothing me,
the warm earth supporting me,
the all-in-all of every night and day to me.
He was salt waves washing me,
he was wind caressing me, fire igniting me,
the first and last of every cause that moved me.
He was fish that jumped for me,
bird that sang for me, beast that nourished me,
the craving and cure of every need inside of me.
Now he is a bright ship pulling away from me,
white sail gone from me, his rough wake drowning me,
he is shimmer of scales growing out of me;
soon I will sing to him, comb out my hair for him,
draw him back to me, lure him down to me.
contradictions that beset the ex-wifes brain
I got your news I sent a message
saying, I hope you all have a great day out.
This was no lie, but in fairness, it was only
part of the truth. I hope she drags you up and down
and up and down and up and down the beach
in the glaring sun, looking for the perfect spot
to lie in. I hope this pisses you off.
I hope she looks fat and pale in her swimsuit.
I hope there is cellulite. I hope that next doors blanket
has three toddlers who kick sand all day and
squeal incessantly in high-pitched voices. I hope they drop
dollops of melting ice pops on your legs
and globs of egg sandwiches. I hope
there are wasps. I hope her sons are moody and
grunt all day in adolescent monosyllables
no matter what you ask. I hope a jellyfish
bites her on the arse. I hope you catch sight of a woman
way up on the beach and for a second
you think shes me. I hope you spent at least
another hour and a half craning your neck
to find out. I take back the jellyfish,
it seems too cruel and besides her pain
might rouse your pity and move you
to minister to the wound. I hope
there is nothing like that. I hope that after
an hour and a half straining your bad eyesight
up along the beach you see that same woman who clearly
isnt me: looks nothing like me. I hope
you are disappointed. I hope you arrive home
irritable and cranky from too much sun. I hope
you check your messages to see if I sent you one.
I did. I hope you get it. It says, not untruthfully,
I hope you all have a great day out. I hope you know
I was neither jealous nor missing you when I wrote it.
I hoped I could be good enough to send you
that one pure wish and nothing more. I hope you understand
I am too duplicitous to have managed that.
In retrospect, I hope you realised before today
what a black heart you left behind you
when you left me here. I hope you dont think
I want you back. I hope
Im not taking a step too far
writing you this. I hope you get the joke.
she had no use for a glut of cocks
she filched the new-laid eggs from underneath
the squawking fuss of hen. Slipped from her pocket
a wooden peg, threaded through with string.
held it still, above each egg in turn,
until it told, through movement, what she
was there to learn. Clockwise circles marked an egg
as female, a straight line back and forth condemned
egg as male; if the peg held firm,
unmoving in the air, the egg was dead.
She tossed the cocks and gluggers to the brace
of hounds that waited eagerly outside:
glossy coats and sparkling eyes
were admired the parish wide.
of Recurring Dreams
Come and stay in my house of cats,
where the walls are whisper-thin.
bed's unmade, the door's unhinged,
there's scribbles in the dust.
work the ceilings,
The floorboards tend to speak;
eyes in all the photographs
will blink while you're asleep.
stairs go up but also down,
the queen cat will lick your hand.
TV wakes when no one's home,
the windows all look out.
door is open, the door is closed,
the address is Here Nor There.
serve you tea and pretend cake
in my garden of thin air.
edge of a closed grave
is easier to stand by
edge of a settled grave
is easier still
a potted evergreen,
marble chippings that glint
charmingly in the sun
Death, are you pleased
at how pretty we have made you?
you like this calmness?
I see down
past the marble chippings,
the layer of weed suppressant,
the sod, the clay, the sharp
flints of pencil, the wood,
the satin lining
where she is,
do you like this calmness?
you like these yellow petals I hold
up here in a world that never loved you enough,
the world you would never
allow to love you enough
slip through the V in the wall
be kind to my mother
earth, hold her gently
we can talk of
sucking ground under our feet
is fallen rain
the torpid clouds we look up at
are rain about to fall
that smear on your cheek
is rain in the act of falling
slugs proliferate, their tensile forms
the product of rain
say nothing else
but stand with me under the weeping skies
our bodies merging
clear and cold
rain our conduit
into this or any life
the Morning of My Mother's Passing
grey crows gathered
on the bushes
surrounding her house
my father not there
to clap his hands loudly
and scatter them
on my window sill
jabbing for bread
and I too busy with breakfast
to whoosh themn away.
summoned too late
to her bedside I saw
a blue-black crow
rise up from her shoulder
three silver hairs from her head
in its clenched beak.
came to me
voice in my head
like a white flame licking
hands through my hair
like a sweet breeze blooming
name on his tongue
like snowflake melting
mouth on my mouth
like the warm earth yielding
is a seriously sexy man.
Eileen Sheehan has been published by Doghouse Books