Monica Corish – Five Poems

Monica CorishMonica Corish recently completed a year-long residency at the Leitrim Observer. The book of the residency, “Gleanings – Poetry Inspired by the Leitrim Observer” was published by Leitrim Arts Office as part of its Spark initiative. Poems from her as-yet-unpublished second collection A Dying Language have won the 2014 North West Words Poetry Prize and been commended for the 2014 Hippocratic Prize for Poetry and Medicine. They have also been published in Poetry Ireland Review, THE SHOp, The Stinging Fly, Antiphon, Orbis, The North, The Irish Medical Journal and elsewhere. Her first collection, Slow Mysteries, was published by Doghouse in 2012.


Planets to her dying sun
for Mary Corish Foley

She became our centre of gravity again,
our mother, our only child; you became
my other half through that shocked Spring,
pollen-heavy Summer, fading Autumn.
The other nurse in the family, we rarely met:
you left Saturday, I arrived Sunday;
Breda and Michael
bridged the gap.

Our lovers hardly knew us: our bodies
lay between the sheets, minds half-gone
into the land of the dead. We massaged
her feet with oils, listened for the changes
in her breath, explored her skin, inch by inch,
for pressure sores. With each passing week
our love cries sounded
more like grief.

When her illness outstripped the skill
of our siblings, we overlapped: you arrived
Saturday, I left Sunday. We circled close,
planets to her dying sun. Our time at home
grew shorter. Our lovers loved us,
held us when we wept. We could not,
no matter how we wished,
give them the gift of sex.

October came. All the poppies gone
to seed heads, the double-flounced lilac
and wine of her garden, the pink
and the crimson, the single-skirted scarlets
of the road. On the Day of the Dead
our lives untwined: you to your love;
I to mine.


Mater

Touch.
Not a lover’s.
A woman who doesn’t talk
lays oiled hands on my back
and I know Mother,
though you’re dying,
I know Home.

For one hour I don’t talk,
don’t think. Am body.
Am breath. Am child.
Held.


Thunder, No Rain

Heat cracks the sky…
_______Suzanne Sigafoos, Fever Season

In Sierra Leone,
every evening at four, heat cracks the sky;
the heavens open; rain plummets down
out of charcoal-grey clouds for six solid hours;
by bedtime the air is drained of humidity;
sleep is, briefly, possible.

Last night
sleep was not possible. All she wanted,
after I gave her a Xanax in a teaspoon of yoghurt
to help her swallow past the primary,
was for me to look her in the eye.

My mother
looked no one in the eye. Since I left childhood,
perhaps she left childhood, she looked slightly
up, slightly to the left, afraid to be seen –
I never understood why.

Last night
my mother recovered her sight. She held my gaze,
her eyes hazel-green, for a full three minutes.
Then sighed, curled on her side, slept
like a child.

I lay awake,
my heart thundering a confusion of grief, bewilderment,
gratitude. Eyes wide open to the night.
Needing rain.


 Wild Love

When I am an old woman I shall…
pick flowers in other people’s gardens.
_________________Jenny Joseph, Warning

The mother I grew up with
prayed every night
that her sexual, godless children
would return to the straight
and narrow drill
where she’d planted
and baptised them like cabbages,
half a rough century ago.
In her final months
my mother spoke of God
as He-She-It,
as the boundaries of her brain
disintegrated,
as the cancer scattered seeds
of grief and dread,
occasional joy.
My mother’s God of rules
had no dominion over nature.
She picked flowers
from other people’s gardens
long before she grew old.
Stole cuttings.
Imported forbidden roots.
‘Acquired’ seed-heads.
If she thought she could get away with it,
if she wanted something badly enough
to increase and multiply the fecundity of her garden,
the wanton riot of her half-wild beds.
In her final months
my mother loved us all –
cabbage grandchildren,
bolted offspring,
bindweed sister –
with the same wild love
she had once reserved
for her crimson-poppy,
moon-white-daisy,
tiger-lily garden.


My father faced death in full knowledge

Two days before he died – though his death
seemed weeks away to me, or months –
he phoned his bank; took a breath of oxygen
between each sentence; gave instructions
for a transfer of funds;
paid for his funeral.

My father, constant warrior, met death
without a fight: the day before he died,
his oxygen machine stopped working.
Under his direction I disentangled a nest
of tubes and connections; re-routed the line
of oxygen from the back-up machine; extended
the tubing into the bathroom; tested the system
for leaks. Not one sharp word from him
throughout, despite my worried fumblings.
As if he had been, all his life,
a man of peace.

My father asked death to wait awhile.
The morning of the day he died,
he said: It’s time to call them home.
Throughout the morning
he asked for updates on their flights.
His breath was short,
his skin clammy.
I wrapped crushed ice in baby-wipes,
stroked his forehead and temples;
his neck; his wrists and hands.
His daughters and son-in-law arrived.
He greeted them by name.
Mary. Breda. Colin.
I gave them fresh ice for the baby-wipes.
That’s nice, he said.
And then, gently,
That’s enough for now.
Thanks.

My father slept alone for twenty months
and twenty-four declining nights.
We laid him down beside her:
Michael on the right, Teresa on the left,
as in their marriage bed.
My father welcomed the dying
of the light.

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