Breda Joyce – Three Poems

bredaBreda Joyce’s poem Mute was one of ten shortlisted for the 2016 Kilkenny Broadsheet. Her poems Moments and Autumn Opera were published in the 2015 edition of The Galway Review. Her memoir piece, Magic conjured in huge silver tin on the shores of Lough Corrib, was published in The Irish Times in February 2015. Her poem The Void was commended in Poetry Ireland’s Poetry Project Award in November 2013. Her memoir about her great-grandfather, John Henry Joyce and the Nine Irons, was long listed in the Fish Publishing contest in 2013. Three of her poems and a memoir piece were published in Musebox, 2011/2012. A non- fiction piece Flying Aer Oileain was published in the Junior Cert textbook Safari. Her story, Thresholds was published in The Ireland’s Own Anthology 2010. Her poems have been twice shortlisted for The Writing Spirit Award.

Dirty Linen

for the Magdalene Women

In the laundry room,
you unspooled your story to the others,
scrubbing at stains that held you there,
admitted that you had committed
the unspoken, the unforgivable.

Under holy orders, in dim light,
you sewed new vestments and mended more
for priestly men who saved you from ruin;
blue ribbons for Children of Mary
red banners for Corpus Christi
beneath the holy nuns’ dictate.

Heat from the glass roof made you feel faint
but you dared not leave your station
till the gong said so.
They found you in the room
when the van men* called;
forced to kneel in shame
they snipped your golden hair.
When the day of your confinement came
they gave you nothing to ease the pain,
told you to offer it up,
you had only yourself to blame.
You held him while your milk came in
before they snatched away your sin.

They buried him outside the rails.
Dirt still stains their fingernails.

*Van men picked up the laundered linen from the Magdalene Laundries in large baskets in which sometimes Magdalene girls tried to escape, often with the collusion of these men.


Night begins to outstay
the shortening Autumn day.

October apples overripe and old
crouch against the cold.

There is a pause, a speechless quiet in the air
while a cherry tree still debonair

diffuses light in flames of carmine red
that hang like tongues above the lazy bed.

Sunflower heads, now heavy and low,
make a rather sad tableau.

Indoors, the clock ticks out the tired year,
time hides beneath a mellow veneer.

A wasp taps against a window pane
waiting for the day to wane.

Like children we plead the light to last,
resist the weight of the eyelid dark.

By the rookery where the garden bends,
black birds portend the end.

Picking Blackcurrants

In Spring we barricaded the bushes against blackbirds
‘till in late July, swollen with summer,
their perfect purple globes
wrapped like rosaries around a crown of thorns.

Ripe and rich like sweet red wine
they stained my hands and then my tongue
with the taste of childhood summers
in my grandfather’s shrubbery:
the sweet smell of his black beauties mingled
with the lemony scent of elderflower.
He gave us jerry cans and challenged us
to be the first to fill.

Now as I plop these aubergine orbs
into my basin, I hear the sound
of easy laughter; I taste the smell
of burgundy balls that shine like marbles,
their glossy sheen reflecting light
in heaven’s eye.
The first tenacious bunch will not fall easily
into my waiting basin but cling like children
who want to play till late,
store last sunlight in pupils dark.

I top and tail, my hands bleed purple red,
then store the sweetness
that will fill the jars of winter.


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