Lynda Tavakoli is a Northern Irish writer whose poetry and prose have been widely published in Ireland, the UK and the Middle East. She has been winner of the Westival International Poetry Competition, the short story and poetry prizes at Listowel, and the Mencap International short story competition. Lynda has been interviewed on RTE’s Poetry Programme and her poem ‘You’re beautiful’ recorded on the Words Lightly Spoken podcast. Her debut poetry collection, ‘The Boiling Point for Jam’ was published in 2020 by Arlen House.
Do not speak to me of silence
It has been a week
since I held your voice,
its absence filtering
between that final curve
of breath and now.
I search for its sustain
in the fragments
of you remaining,
shadowed in the sculpture
of my empty palms.
I will not know
this silence you have
tricked me with,
for even now
your voice conceals
itself in crevices
I have yet to find –
that cruel punchline,
waiting to catch me
“Please will you come and see my war crime?”
this is what finally broke me –
the request small, polite.
The body of his dead boy
in a coffin-car of cold and bloody dark.
This one old man.
Day room days
This morning the shell of you
waits in the day room,
a shrinking form more
tortoise-like than yesterday.
Nipped between finger and thumb,
a biscuit, the warm chocolate
already sculpting patterns
into your grooved palm.
Hibernating eyes shift.
‘What’s this for’ you say,
not even a question,
and there are no words
except perhaps the ones I should
have said before they wouldn’t matter.
Now they rain as shadows, puddling
the space between us.
In this day room
I must peel away the scaly layers
of your casing to unearth
some remnants of your life,
the blessing of little things
gifting themselves to memory,
carving their shapes in my mouth
like a river’s erosion.
And this I know –
everything you gave to me, remains.
For even as the particles of sand
sift through their hourglass,
no grain is ever lost,
and I will see you as you were,
your tortoise shell shouldering me
and shouldering me still.
How she left the house
It was as she left it, unknowing of her absent return,
everything ached in neatness because
for such a while, there had been only her.
She went out to buy milk or walk in the fields
or take a drive or meet a secret love
or catch a breather from her inside world.
It did not matter why. For dead is always
going to be dead and everything remaining,
They would wonder at the question marks
now hanked for the unravelling
in lonesome rooms. Those leavings
soon to be dismantled or misunderstood –
an indistinct initial on a calendar perhaps,
a half-aired bed, the clatter of a thousand
bits and pieces of her precious ordinary life,
ghosted in the shadows of an empty house
she never meant to leave behind.
This small room, its bay window hunched
from long years of partiality
to traffic noise outside -my sibling sits at a piano.
Hers are the hands I covet, those fingers
air-kissing the keys, that finely knuckled bridge
so effortlessly poised to play.
She goes first, being older and better to please
our teacher before the stumpy hammerings
of my own octaveless stretch.
Always on the table, while I wait,
an encyclopaedia, innards long succumbed
to seepages of wayward scales and dubious melodies.
I know the page, monochrome, edges sepia-singed with age
and here they are – ribbon, forked, staccato, bead, sheet –
imageries of sizzling electricity,
better than any piano lessons
or teachings in the rooms of my growing up.
Wonders unforced – lightning strikes to my reluctant tutelage.