Daniel Mulcahy is a third year Creative Writing student at the National University of Ireland, Galway, with a keen interest in performance. Daniel has been writing poetry since 2012, and was awarded the National University of Ireland, Galway, Creative Arts Fellowship for his early work. In studying under poets Gerry Hansberry and Alvy Carragher, and befriending writer Luke Morgan, he has found tremendous good fortune. It is this young writer’s hope to follow the shining example of those that came before.
Beneath a pair of silver plum trees in a burnished field
a man in burnt blue dungarees fills a wooden bench.
One leg splayed under the squat round table top,
the other stood on a stack of papers.
Head half-swallowed by a beard, bushy, red as the foliage,
a brown and low-slung farmer’s cap blots out his eyes.
In quiet study en plein air, he wants for nothing.
Books and sheet music spread before him – straining,
you can just make out a work by Heinrich Mann,
the score to a German folk song.
Untouched for some time, the bottle of red
with its glass half-filled.
Butts long cold lie nested in the ashtray
below the hand which holds the latest.
All about is lined and scratched except the soft-brushed autumn leaves.
Every surface amber-stained: the very air looks singed.
Her signature levitates, a thread of hair, charred and thin as exhalation.
out of utter black
an owl emerges
filling the frame
built of soft chalk
shades of faded orange
gaps speckle forehead
a dappled throat ruff
gown of front-furled wings
eyebrows cleft from socket to skull
grey strands wizen each feather
beak a silver thorn above
a feather moustache
the tilt of swollen lemon eyes
with solid pupils
guarded and glinting
wedged in a corner
a talon or branch
To the camera’s eye, grass blurs to a backdrop –
the focal point: a bloated orange spider.
This close, it is alien. It might appear an acorn
or spiny sea urchin if not picked out
so crisply by the clinical lens:
legs almost transparent, banded in beige,
spineshod and bristling with fine white hair;
carapace contoured in brown and yellow
that paints a staircase up its underside;
an abstract pattern puts me in mind of
some faceless Willem Janssen angel
or the forest spirits in Mononoke.
‘Sky Road’ hangs pencilled in the space between frame and photo.
The spider sits patiently, indifferent to metaphor.
In the far corner, unobtrusive,
a fresh fly.
along the path between the gap-tooth walls
I search for wild poetry.
on the lookout, eyes primed,
every tired bend arrives new-spectacled.
at the tap of footsteps,
letters lift in feathered clusters off hedgerows:
a scatter pattern of noise and movement.
with no pen to capture
I let their shadows collect on my lashes.
from distant lines of grass,
the shape of a stanza emerges perfectly formed,
legs taut, liquid flank rippling with breath.
I am not the first to catch its notice.
at the slightest gesture
it shies away.
buoyed on a podium of sound
a single swollen symbol floats, pollen-heavy.
its silver hum worries the surrounding space.
with an old wooden box, I could trap it perhaps.
but this creature is a rarity. I leave it
wander its delicate flight paths,
hoping it does not get lost.
empty-handed, I make my way home to where
ink runs in shadows across warm floorboards.
for Síle Courtney
I remember my Nana who lives by the sea
in a bungalow sheltered by mountains:
an old blue house with a red roof perched
on a grassy slope above the waves.
On one side the water has cut the ground
up to thirty feet from the south veranda,
a room where my Nana brings visitors
when she wants a bit of privacy,
where wooden seagulls hang suspended,
and my father wrote his father’s eulogy
on an old box computer.
The veranda lies off the largest room
which holds the piano, bookcases,
rats in the floorboards,
the frames of sombre ancestors and
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Brecht.
They laid my Granddad out
where normally you would find the scratchy
African cushions that give me breathing problems,
the coffee table covered in books on prayer.
The dining table by the crystal cabinet
too heavy to move – it was cleared
of the many boxes of photographs
I have yet to open.
My Nana’s house has many rooms,
but only two feel lived in anymore.
The first, of course, the kitchen.
We gather around the table to talk, play scrabble,
and wait to be served the home-cooked meals.
We watch my Nana’s flour-caked hands
as she kneads the dough,
nibble at scraps,
and as long as we’re not in the way,
stand in the warmth of the oven as the scones toughen.
It is the room of soup, jam and brown bread.
The room of family meals. The room with a view
of the many bird feeders on the porch,
a view downslope to the sea and Black Island:
a shoulder of moss-covered stone not fifty yards
from the shoreline at low tide.
My father and uncles swam out on warm days.
From those cold waters my Granddad would emerge.
Further down the beach, a stump of stone and soil
where monks were buried in ancient times.
Me and my cousins would clamber here as kids
and trample on the graves,
throw rocks on rocks and get a thrill from
the little explosions.
It was on this strand they showed me how to
skip pebbles, although I never got the knack.
It was here myself and Diarmuid óg
passed a ball along the firm strip of sand
between the stones and the ripple lines
left by the waves.
The second room I cannot dress in memory.
Down the narrow corridor that splits the house
is my Nana’s bedroom.
I have never seen its curtains fully open.
The bed a cocoon of heavy quilts,
the shelves and cupboards cluttered
with lace and the artefacts of an old woman’s faith.
I know very little of what happens in this room,
only that it smells of Nana’s perfume
and that it is here she retreats at regular intervals,
when we must stay very quiet and
keep the hall door shut.
Whenever we enter that house,
it is always to the round embrace of a woman
whose silver hair now brushes my chin.
Whenever we leave
she stands in the doorway or the open window,
eyes wet, smiling and waving
till our car creeps past
the apple trees and evergreens,
up the quiet botharín and out of sight.