Emily Cullen – Four poems

Author-pic-Emily-CullenDr. Emily Cullen is an Irish writer, harpist and arts manager, currently based in Melbourne. A long-time Galway resident, she was the inaugural Arts Officer of NUI Galway between 1999 and 2002. Emily was awarded an IRCHSS Government of Ireland fellowship for her doctoral study on the Irish harp, completed at NUI Galway. Her second collection of poetry, In Between Angels and Animals, has just been published by Arlen House.

Four poems by Emily Cullen

A Promenade

Clare looks far away today.
I’m a centaur with wheels
instead of hooves,
propelled by gales –
not quite the flaneuse;
a shadow pushing a pram
past Mutton Island.
Behind me: the Prom.

Briny onslaught takes my breath,
jolts me out of sluggishness.
Hair flaps against my cheeks
like brushstrokes.
I am an elongated figure
like a Jack Yeats
only more defined,
but do I still qualify
as a woman of destiny?
Or am I another invisible
muse on the horizon?

I walk towards the Claddagh
into the miasma
of a divided sky
where I will read the plaque
bearing MacNeice’s lines,
impress his words upon
an afternoon slipping away,
intent to stride outside
the strictures of the frame.

The lurid sun behind me
daubs the Long Walk houses
in its unearthly glow.
Boats are already tied
averting a clash
with phalanx of foam.
Not much time left
to make the dash for home.
Sky now opens like the sixth seal –
all in a Galway afternoon.

Breaking Out in the Kitchen

I am a starlet manqué,
can pout and dance in perfect time
with whatever rhythm you throw at me.
My mind is alert, body relaxed,
in perfect syntax with the universe…

Holding a bowl of puréed mash,
in a groove, light fantastic,
I shimmy to Sister Sledge
who have just come on the radio:

We’re lost in music,
feel so alive, I quit
my nine-to-five
we’re lost in music.

I want to sing, in high decibels:
‘I’m fully alive and whimsical!’

My ten month-old
laughs in hilarity
from his high chair,
thrilling to the lilt
as I shake my hair.

We are having a moment,
not quite Dancing at Lughnasa
more like dancing lunacy,
with the same spontaneity.

The song ends and,
as he claps his tiny hands,
in the privacy of our kitchen
on a stark, Monday afternoon,
I recognise a fan for life.


Fr. Burke Park Playground, Galway

Sitting on a child’s swing
in a mild trance of joy,
we listen for the sing song hum
of our playful pendulum:
a kind of donkey metronome.
Thighs no longer feel the pinch
from the chunky chain links
as legs kick out and in.

It is one of those evenings:
the sun still gleams at seven.
My baby boy sits on my lap,
my arm fused to his waist.
His crown nestles under my chin,
eyes smile up at mine,
thrilling to our swoop and rise:
pointing to a white arc,
faint in our blue sky.

‘Moon!’ his favourite word,
he repeatedly exclaims.
I wish I could freeze our frame,
swaying languidly
across the azure
keeping the easy tempo:
so I shut my eyes,
imprint it on my lids;
we are forever stilled

until the clang of a recorded bell
sunders our floating spell,
blasts our lunar reverie.

Mummy Fantasia

i   Prams on the Prom

Sunday on Salthill Promenade:
we are out with our babes,
high-tech push chairs on parade.
Your pram pivots round
on shock-absorber wheels
as you display its gadgetry:
USB port, cable for phone,
holders for sippy cups
and skinny lattes,
built-in generator
that charges as you walk.
‘Never mind the Origami’,
another Mum exclaims,
‘mine has a custom-built MP3 player’,
hairdryer and cocktail mixer.’
You’re pushing with one hand,
shaking with the other.
‘Make mine a mojito!’,
I holler, looking round
for the improbable stroller
with the waffle maker.

ii  School Run Fashionistas

When did the school run
enter the style lexicon
as a plausible mise en scene?
Now fashion-forward mums
are teetering on heels,
pouring coins into parking meters,
accoutred in Armani,
toting Gucci, cascading wipes
from couture catsuits;
throwing appraising glances
at other designer-clad mummies,
rain and wind buffeted
in Vivienne Westwood,
leaking indiscretions at the school gates,
bantering in Blahniks, channeling Versace.

Magazines market to us with phrases:
‘there’s no excuse to be a slummy mummy’.
Should we take them quite so seriously?

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