Maeve Ferris lives in a seaside village in Co. Kerry with her partner and three rescue dogs. She holds an MA in Human Resources but left the corporate world in 2016 to move home to Kerry and pursue her dream of yoga, runs journaling courses and an online wellbeing programme at http://www.ebbflowyoga.ie. Having written prolifically as a youngster, she more recently rekindled her passion for writing through courses and workshops with UCC, The Dark Mountain Project, and The Guardian.
The Chapeltown Creamery Stone
Where time and tide evoke, I met you for the first time!
That morning’s mist shrouded low, concealing
grey sky merged with still glassy water, lake-like at low tide.
The single walled Norman Castle, the seabirds’ stately home
stood guard at the harbour mouth
the dewy air tanged with salt and sea
brent geese squawked their disturbed warning
spring birds practiced call and response
forgotten shells crunched underfoot, kept company with the sea’s whisper.
You, picking your steps through the dawn
peak cap, threadbare shirt, torn geansaí, overcoat collar drawn tight,
your gnarled hand closed around a frayed rope swung back slack to an aged donkey.
Creamy white cargo, still warm, sloshed and swilled in the churns aboard
a left turn off the seaweed strewn strand to the lane
where the milk lorry emerged from the new-born light.
Palms shook, a few lonely pence slid carefully to an empty pocket.
A neighbour might have beckoned with an age dappled hand, “Lig do scíth”
your weary bones rested on the damp, pock marked Creamery Stone.
Did you huddle into stories and cahoots of laughter?
Or tip your cap and lean away, without meas for tall tales?
Bided time slipped away, and a day’s chores beckoned
with a ritualistic pat of the stone, you faced again for shore.
Your handprint on the Chapeltown granite was cold three years
before I stood upon the relic and sang nursery rhymes with my father, your son.
Though you knew of me, we missed our chance in this chink of time.
On the tideline below the salt marshes, I traced your boot prints home.
I am of here.
Decades of my footprints on swirling sands
south westerlies whirlwind; ghosts of memories.
Rivulets of ice-cream, tumbled sandcastles
squeals of delight, sandwiches in the car boot
milk teeth chattered, salty legs swung.
I know hills and valleys of sand, like my hand
the waves thunder a frequency young ears hear
hypnotised, year after year, we gathered
older, brand new.
Vanished from slumbering homes
concealed in warrens of dunes
friends made; love interests met
first smoke, first drink, first kiss
silent nights, unholy nights, moans of delight
I know the highest point, the stories it holds
moonlight, swimming, parties fireside
the urgency of youth, a drive to fit in
breathless laughter, heady intoxication,
mouth so close, heightened sensation.
Never believing I was just – quite – enough…
I want to whisper – I always belonged.
Remind myself – slow down, don’t rush.
For simpler times and one oath
‘return before dawn’
Growing up was borne here and away
the call of far-flung places faded,
the iron in my veins magnetised.
I faced due north.
The 11am Sunday Service
White horses gallop towards the shore
dark rocks rise from the sea
storm clouds born on the horizon.
Footprints tell tales of journeys’ past
whirlwinds of loose, tangled hair
tornado around my head
tears stream down
wind stung cheeks.
The whisper and crash of waves
voices calling Rex, Rover, Ronán
threads of laughter on the breeze
purple legged swimmers galvanise me
heart thumps in my ears
the wind’s roar silenced,
by the squeak and snap of my swimming cap.
Invisible grains whip translucent skin
sand stings bare wet feet
jagged stones jab frozen soles
sharp slap of icey water jolts!
Breathe, shock, sucked in
cold, contracting pains dart
numb, blood starved feet
throbbing, white fingers
swollen knuckles screech.
Frozen brain suspends my worries
morning cotton mouth cleansed
by the chilling, briny sea.
Easterlies exhale a farmyard’s acrid stench
dawn-lit stove smoke wafts over dunes,
the Coffee Van’s chocolate, tobacco, caramel brew
tempered by the tang of salt and sea
Shivering, shuddering, stalling, stuttering
from behind the car emerge
re-robed, rewarded, renewed.
Steamy, milky mocha trembles in a blue claw hand
a sticky glazed cinnamon bun on upturned palm.
Congregate here for salvation, every Sunday morning.
The Monster Under My Bed
A monster lurked under my bed
I pretended not to see
leaped from door to duvet
without pausing to land.
Beneath, hammerhead teeth glistened
snapping and salivating – a prize fighter
curved claws of shredded steel
sharp as butchers’ blades
dark brewing cauldrons for eyes
nose pulsated; staccato breath rasped.
Poised for fight
or to furl in deeper.
Its breath chilled the nape of my neck
urged me forward: must – keep – moving
A swirling storm cloud shape shifting
It threatened – rain.
I hid under covers of distracting busy patterns
avoided peering into the abyss
neither time nor desire to tame then
terrified its bite would pierce my core
rip my insides out and drag me under.
I pushed it deeper under the bed.
In the dark night, it devoured
my trembling reluctance
suckled from my cervine soul.
By day, I fled,
but still it churned and whirled in my peripheral
hissed snatches of words I’d spoken
– broken, not enough, failure, shame.
I retreated for a while to forget the monster
to days of sunshine and sand
later, to quiet solitude
here I found my sword and warrior grew.
Decades of days later I returned
to peer, to know.
Breath held across the rooms safe distance
I stole a furtive glance under the bed
daunted by its depth, unable to meet eyes just yet.
Time crept by and slowly,
I edged closer
braver now and murmured,
“What are you”?
“Who are you hiding from?”
Our exhausted exhale…
“I am you.
You put me here
in a box hidden from you
a box we finally outgrew”.
In the half-light of morning
more cowering dog than rabid beast
skin welted from self-inflicted beating
eyes heavy with hurt
wincing, too timid to stand
equally desperate for and afraid of
I crouched down, offered outstretched hand
“Safe to come out now
There, I began slowly unpacking what I’d hidden all my days.
To set my monster free.