Clare McCotter – Five Poems

poetClare McCotter’s haiku, tanka and haibun have been published in many parts of the world. She won the IHS Dóchas Ireland Haiku Award 2010 and 2011. In 2013 she won The British Tanka Award. She also judged the British Haiku Award 2011 and 2012. She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on Belfast born Beatrice Grimshaw’s travel writing and fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Abridged, Boyne Berries, The Cannon’s Mouth, Crannóg, Cyphers, Decanto, Envoi, The Galway Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Iota, Irish Feminist Review, The Leaf Book Anthology 2008, The Linnet’s Wings, The Moth Magazine, A New Ulster, The Poetry Bus (forthcoming), Poetry24, Reflexion, Revival, The SHOp, The Stony Thursday Book and The Stinging Fly. Black Horse Running, her first collection of haiku, tanka and haibun, was published in 2012. Home is Kilrea, County Derry.


The Hope Bearer
in memory of Philomena McGill

She is leaving today
through her bones
the departed
rise and fall
sister, mother, aunt
gathering like swallows
in the derelict chapel of her face.

She is leaving today
seeming to see
like never before
liquid blue eyes
drink us in
till we drown
among rose gold iris roots.

She is leaving today
reaching into
the quietness
of her going
we offer words
and water, wondering
what effort such gladness takes.

She is leaving today
the fist dealt
invoking no ire
watchful we hope
exhaustion
will stopper the scent
of summer untangling under the earth.

She is leaving today
holding our palms up
before each breath
we imagine
the teaspoon
an alembic
transmuting a little food to a little time.

She is leaving today
outside our talk for a while
we hope she hears
only the limp
in throats stilled
with dawn mist.
And no more shall she bear our hope.


The Spirit Maker
for Fiona McAllister (née McGill)

Bewildered the night of her birth
diviners stood in silence
watching geese
cross sky moving towards indigo.
In high fields
crouched beside fires
they traced dark portents in ash
lyrics of leaving in a scrawl of stars.

Brought up on a low lying river
she was taught the tiller
and in pine dusks
the tie-up line.
But none showed how to stand
in stone and gorse
shaping from incalculable clay
sixteen golden hands of fiery eyed horse.

And no patterning of bones or stars
revealed the air
she sculpted into breath
loving the acorn littered roads
so soon after
playing an Indian drum
softly the morning
her dark goose rose above a red coral sun.

Leaving her in the sorrowing grounds
arms full of dark
pressed against mouth ribs breast
her eyes searching
for a grain of light
found in the echo of a white seashell.
The call of a migrant
back on its own northern snow quartz shore.


The Gold Miner’s Moth
in memory of Lizzie Mullan (née O’Connor)

Rising like the love song of a great sea stag
the ship’s steam horn
plumes dawn
breaking high above the wooden gangway.
They are sailing to Brisbane
travelling overland to Charters Towers
and a house of timber and corrugated iron.

Its rickety veranda shading rooms cluttered
with sounds from the street: miners
fossickers, swagmen, stockmen, drovers
Annie ‘Bags’ Ferdinand
and twenty five flea-bitten strays
The Breaker Morant
stepping out with dust drenched Daisy Bates.

Never able to reach the other side in dreams
she crawled those streets
sickening for the small roads back home
closing in a mountain farm she worked
well as any man.
Telling him she would like to sift the soil
in old mullock mounds
he said in his own soft way: woman you have
finally lost your mind.

Mornings she saw something in him quicken
leaving to search for bright things
deep down among the roots
of a town called The World.
Stifled in that stilted house
she craved rough weather’s reverie
at an open fire
carrying Cassie it was lumps of coal
their glossy crunch black apples on her tongue.

Sated after the mines stopped flowering
and they went back to the rain.
He bought a pub some thought Kilrea’s best
her venture a roany shorthorn cow
named Moth.
Holding a pail between her knees
in the first and last arc of night
she settled old bones on a three-legged stool
leaning into a warm flank
with eyes closed
drawing out from the dark a trapezoid of gold.


The Wish Maker
in memory of Maggie Blair (née Stewart)

The blue lint moon was full
on Etherson’s Dam
night the old Moran women
carried a bolt of cloth
from the crossroads
past gorse and granite to your door.

On a kitchen table
following no paper patterns
your chalk
was a white swan gliding
wild and serene
in the between geography of seams.

Maestro of the margin
seated on the edge of a lamp’s light
your needle and thread
joining many angled sides
into a prayer
of the neither here the neither there.

That no man’s land
of secret silky coming togethers
discovered turning collars
transporting coat to jacket
remnant to dress
small stitches covering their tracks.

Till field and frost
frayed the crossroads women’s
heavy skirt ends
revealing there
longhand on tiny scraps of paper
gleaming in voluminous black hems.


The Last Vestal

Before the game cock sends up
his carnaptious prayer
she throws back the blankets
plunging feet first
into white bone biting air.
Hunkered at the hearth
raking out the fire
she lifts ash in a pan
grey honeycomb clinkers
between thumb and forefinger.

She will tend this fire closely
like each one
coaxed and stoked
fed and dampened
down the acres of days
since she first came
to their farmhouse walls
a serving girl
with bright Rita Hayworth hair.

The two years she meant to stay
turning to three
slipping into a decade
and more
sluicing the sky in her spine
the speckles on her voice
but not the red
from hair
they thought out of kilter
with winter embers
sniping at the hidden hour
spent kindling
snowy roots
monthly until she died
without by your leave
or thanks for the fire of a lifetime.

 

 

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