Helen Fallon – Four Poems

Helen Fallon was  born in Monaghan and now lives in Maynooth.  She was selected for Poetry Ireland’s Introductions series 2022.  She has published poems in A New UlsterSkylight47,  Chasing Shadows edited by Noel Monaghan, “Future Perfect: Fifty Award-Winning Poems edited by Mary Shine Thompson & Sparks of the Everyday: Poetry Ireland Introductions 2022 edited  by Anthony Anaxagorou and Paul Linehan. She retired in 2022 from her post as Deputy University Librarian at Maynooth University. Prior to that she worked at Dublin City University and the University of Sierra Leone.


Ice pearls drip from eaves;            
snowdrops, pure white, push up from sodden leaves.

Wan light slips through gaps
in hawthorn hedges, warms our claylike bodies.
We lift worn spades, slice
wedged ground with angry stabs. Grubs slither out.

Crows screech, dip and dive; 
sharp beaks slit the soil, snatch worms, wing skyward.

We push further down:
uncover old empty potato sacks,   
a faded blue sock,
and then – a box, tiny bones, shrunk and calcified. 

Knickerbocker Glory

Mass over, we tour the Catholic houses.
I wear my First Communion dress, and black
patent shoes. I grasp copper coins the women slip
into my small hand, put them in my plastic purse.
In Pinks Ice Cream Parlour, we perch on plastic stools,
take turns to scoop, with long thin spoons, from slender glass.
Scarlet syrup streams down swirls of snow white sherbet.
The waiter, in black suit and bow tie, watches on,
while you and I savour slinky squares of tinned pears,
layered with honey, dusted with dark chocolate.
Metal tinkles as we scrape torn shards of mint leaves
from sides crusted with swirling rainbow shades.
Now, you pick on crustless pink salmon sandwiches,
sip sparkling wine, shake off the voice you once spoke in.
You say you don’t recall anything: none of it.
But I still celebrate the newness of those tastes.


Alhaji asked if he could come with me.
He said he’d mind my mother’s herd of goats
and study at my university.
I left him my radio and fifty leone notes.
Al Haji – he who makes the Haj – it means.
Five times a day, he bowed low in prayer,
asked God to grant his education dreams,
as muezzin’s call echoed across still air.
I heard he joined the rebels, went to war,
attacked Freetown, torched houses to the ground,
scorched the earth his people nurtured,
always listening, alert for any sound.
I dream him still, tuned to the BBC,
Kalashnikov held tight against his knee.

*Muezzin – a man who calls men to prayer from the minaret of a mosque

Pink Salmon Sandwiches

She picks tiny bones from pink salmon,
watches butter melt into warm scones,
shines tea spoons, lays doyleys
on the pure white table cloth
she crocheted late at night.

Tyres crunch on gravel, engine purrs,
then pauses. She quickly unlocks the door,
their weekly ritual begins once more.
They talk of local things, meat factory closure,
Saint Teresa’s bones on tour,
the parish pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Sandwiched and sconed, China cup refilled – twice,
he rises, says the scones were grand.
She presses a five pound note, a mass offering,
into his blue-veined hand.

When he is transferred, she misses him,
wonders who makes his pink salmon sandwiches.
Years later, she sees him, on the Six One News,
hears about the money paid for silence,
feels the bile of fish rise in her tightening throat.












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