Gráinne McHale – Three Poems

grainnemchaleGráinne McHale is from County Galway, Ireland. She graduated in 2010 with a BA Fine Art in GMIT Galway and is currently studying for a MA Writing at NUIG. She writes poetry and fiction; has made a number of short films and her artwork has been exhibited both internationally and at home. She is currently working on a novel.


Backward steps
into a burnt-out womb.

The smell of those trees I knew.
There, looking at me,
across from a house
I lived in years ago.
I live near it again now,

beside the landlady’s son
but he doesn’t know me.
I think.

People go by too fast for me to know.
People I used to know in each place.
All gone,
always going.
I know no one now,
no one knows me.
No one would know if I was not here.

If I died that would be some comfort.
If there was someone who missed me
I could wait around for a bit
to help them get over it.
My Mum n’ Dad would be sad,
my brother
but the people I loved
without permission –
The Boys –
like they were my own soul
like they were God’s.

A Holy Trinity –
Connor, Paddy, Roddy.
The last two were mirror similar:
ginger, freckled, ivory, svelte.
A beautiful, self-perpetuating
biological pattern,
like cancer.

Being so displeasing to one
might have been alright.
But three?
No, I suppose it would’ve been
like drinking and limits.
Two’s my limit,
way over with the third.

The third being Roddy,
with the rose petal, crème egg kisses,
belonging to some new girlfriend
or other every time I saw him.
Every time, he stole a kiss
goodbye from my lips
and I’d never see it coming.
To go home and put my hand in the fire.

I left his city
and came back to my town.
Out of fright.
Out of exhaustion.

To live again near the trees
that knew me to see
back then before I left
for the big city.
I didn’t know them then
but remember them now
by their smell.

Breathing Lake

Once I was driving at night
at a speed.
A big fump
and a body careened
into the ditch.
I didnʼt think for a minute.
I stopped and was staring
at the crack in the glass.

Then I was standing over her,
my feet were sinking, getting wet.
The cheaply clad bulk of her
had buckled my fender,
broken my five hundred dollar
rose gold encrusted numeral watch.
With the GPS underwater tracking system.

I put my hand on her
and pulled up an arm.
The face.
A girl,
about fourteen,
hair snagged on a butterfly clip.

I ran my finger over her face,
touched the white of an eye.
Her skin was soft,
teeth white and straight,
The orthodonist beaming from them.

I pulled her up by the collar;
she was dead heaviness.
Both of us drowning
in the ugly weather.
She was ugly to me.

I’ll take her home and put her
in the guest room.
If she wakes up
I’ll tell her she fell
and send her away.
I‘ll drag her down into the woods.
The red lake is rising up to meet us.
It winks at me,
gives me a rock


I always heard a phrase,
“Don’t, gently.”

Because being a him
and I a not-him
he quoted a fire.

I’ll give him a diamond.
Tell him, “swallow,”
and a child can wink from
all his eyes and
put me underneath.

And in a sulky murky fish bowl of terror and The Big Horror
we couldn’t figure the wreaking incision of touching each other.
The affliction of skin because it would not just skim or press or push…
it would tear.

He held himself light as a petal.
Breathing at him would break him
into dust that would be taken on the in-breath,
and I would choke or be his suffocate.

He looks away from the window
and sees me.

“Don’t, gently,
because I don’t.”



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