Four poems by Jean Andrews

SJean Andrews was born in Co. Clare and educated at NUIG and the University of Nottingham where she teaches Hispanic Studies. She has translated the Cuban poet, Nancy Morejón (Black Woman and Other Poems, Mango, 2001) and published a first a collection, In an Oubliette, in 2005 (Arima). Her translations of the Spanish poet, Carmen Conde and her second collection will appear in 2013.


Four poems by Jean Andrews




My mother’s was the kind of world

in which something was always to blame.

So, when it came to dying,

without a thought,

she pinned it on us,

swearing we made her climb a huge great tree

when she should have been on her sick bed

and kept her there until she was all out of breath

and the only possible conclusion

was early, untimely death;

that we put her on a patch of green lawn

and made her run on the spot

and jump about until her insides burst

and she fell down

and down into unconsciousness.

She’d change the lock

on the front door when she got home

and that’d fix us,

she said.





an alien name

in a Church of Ireland graveyard,

in the walled, portcullised portion

at the back of the church.


Shouldn’t it be with the Catholic brethern

on the sunny slope at the front?

He was a Polish Second World War pilot

after all?


But Iris was the wife of Lipoczi

and she had the right to be buried there,

even if her workmates couldn’t come in for the funeral

but huddled on the steps instead,

furtive, grieving, defiant,

half in, half beyond



My grandparents lie behind the lych gate

and my uncles who died before the First World War,

also my aunt, their sister,

who lived to see the American bombardment of Kandahar.


Oh, and my mother was one who mourned from the threshold

with her comrades, all those years before.




i.m. Kenneth


I saw him,

younger than I would ever have known him,

in a duck-egg blue, lambswool, v-neck pullover,

slimmer and cleaner of line, hair and moustache

than in my lifetime,

and happier, more open,

alive to a future, perhaps,

before it never happened,

became ossified in irretrievable past,

before he turned into an old cove

in tweed jacket and too many fags,

in a one-room bedsit

with a poster of topless Samantha Fox

on a cupboard masquerading

as a kitchen for a grown, then elderly, man,

trading on a store of jaunty escapades

assembled in an annual fortnight’s

grouse moor, Scotch and pub grub charabanc.


Now in his grave on a bleak hillside,

two decades and more in timber and fabric and bone,

there are hardly any left who remember him.

The tombstone, at his request, reads ‘At Peace’

though most of his life was spent

a long, long way from home.


And yet, this once he brought himself to mind,

safe-conduct from the shadows

one single time:

delivery of a bashful legacy –


from one who proved, to all attempts, hermetic,

unpropagated, while alive.



Easter Monday

i.m. Josephine


You take tiny little petal steps now,

thousands of them every day.

You cannot trust the world anymore,

so you must always be wary of attack,

especially from those who say they care, because

they change shape, almost all the time,

and new faces lie, while old ones

find new tricks to get you outside the door,

into the horror which is the one thing

you know for certain

awaits you there.


They say you loved them once.

Really? What was that?

Another trap, perhaps. You can’t be up

to their devious ways. Keep

on your feet, ever vigilant,

go without sleep, don’t eat,

forget you have physical needs,

you can’t afford distractions now,

in this long battle, an attrition of wits,

between you and this sacred cow

they’re calling duty.


Well, they have time

for such luxuries of mind. You,

of necessity, have left such inconsequential matters

long ago, well aside.


And still, on a dappled Easter Monday

it came that you loved me once.

We were standing on a small bridge

while the dog capered on the riverside.


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