Therese Down – Five Poems

writer 2Therese Down is currently working as the Head of English in a Sixth Form College in Birmingham, England, and has been teaching English Literature and Language for over twenty years in a range of schools and colleges. She holds a MA in Employment Law and spent several years as a Human Resources Manager with a Communications company in London. Therese was born an O’Dwyer and her mother hails from Wexford, her father from Tipperary. Therese is an alumna of what was formerly The Sacred Heart College, Presentation Convent, Ballingarry, Thurles in Tipperary and is now The Presentation Secondary School, Ballingarry. She has written a novel,  ‘Only with Blood: A Novel of Ireland’ which is due to be published by Lion Fiction in June 2015.

A Mother’s Song

I marvel at the chiselling of time;
six-pack, undulate of pecs and sculpt of shoulders;
the certain voyage of cells like travellers on Swiss trains
to terminal anatomy.

I remember evenings when I grabbed your foot
through my own skin as you wrestled me for room.
I imagine now your brow creased with irritation
at the brace of ribs.

Later, you pushed your head through cot bars,
turned your shoulder till you slipped between them,
thumped to earth as animals are often born.
I watched you arch your back,

lock dimpled arms and push yourself to standing,
testing how the parts connect,
calculating how to walk
from nursery to slope of stairs.

You went off piste too soon; twelve and startled,
searching lines of pine for landmarks,
men who might be tracking not indifferent to
your thudding heart.

A man now. Tall and brave you toy with love,
a bra pinned to your bedroom wall
a flag to all – but mainly me – that you have come of age.
But steady, son!

You cannot push your way through love’s bars.
Nor will she turn to wave you down the
safest routes and wait in case you ski over a


John 4: 15: The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water
so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

An ordinary day. Wake late. Usual tomb-close gloom.
Striped split of light, stale meat stink on my tongue.
Him, still sleeping but the snoring just a goat snort now,
not the camel calls of younger hours.

I twist my hair into a snake and wind it round itself,
stoop to grasp the pitcher, grudge into sandals,
tread through dust, push the door onto more dust,
swat stares like flies. Now I only burn beneath sun.

A man is sitting on the well. It’s too early
for the up down eyes, tongue dart through bearded lips.
I smell. Haven’t washed the sweat away or him.
I just wanted water. Wasn’t planning on living forever.


I found a photograph of you,
a sweater on against the cold,
aran knit and sky-white.
From marram grass
you contemplate the sea,
just beyond the lace of
its most skeletal reach.

I bet this is Northam –
grey gulls, scudding clouds,
gale-forced sails,
deafening shift of stones as
the sea loses its grip.
But you could have been brown
beneath a curacao sky,

Polaroids eclipsing
an equatorial sun,
where seas lie down
on sand to dream their fish.
Ghosted by indifferent light
we are watching something
come quietly to season.


The furthest she had ever been was you,
with your uncommon plumage and gold eye.
You glazed her planet’s scenery,
as though moisture were primordial.
You were spawned dry-skinned, whip-tongued
to slit an eye, tax its aperture to fit
a narrow point of view.

You shed that prey-bird majesty and slipped
into yourself. Shark eyes, no lips,
you siphoned her from inside.
Skin stretched across bone,
she couldn’t close her eyes to sleep.
At last, she could not sing above the rasp
of limbs in icy sheets.

Polar Bear

It’s easy to lose sight of things when all the world’s white.
Lost a cub down a seal-hole once;
all that niceness, soft paws, gone; him bawling under pack ice.
Back to pacing miles of silence.

Curling into snow is colder when you know you’re lonely.
Useless watching holes for bear cubs but –
fought the ice all night from healing up that birthless maw.
First seal, one paw, split its black head.

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