Jennifer Horgan – Four Poems

Jennifer Horgan is a poet living in Cork. Her creative work has appeared in various online and print journals including The Honest Ulsterman, Ink Sweat and Tears and Howl.
Her debut collection is due for release in 2024 with Doire Press.

Launch Night

The petrol station is closing early. Shane says it’s because the guy who works the late shift is in hospital with a wounded eye socket.
Got into a fight with someone from school. Never saw eye to eye he says, without irony.
As I turn, the clack of the shutter jolts my shoulders back. The night feels blacker.
Maybe because the shop should still be open at this time, should still be spilling light.
Maybe because I’m thinking of the raw horror of an unplugged eye. The violence.

The taxi arrives, slides to a stop and inside it, I laugh with the driver about everything feeling so topsy turvy, flies and wasps about.
I jump out early to reach our launch on time. Nearly slip because my worn-down shoes are losing grip.

In the bookshop, I feel a terror in my heart that makes me want to put my hands onto what we’ve made together.
Place my fingers down on either side of its spine, make two splayed wings and launch it higher than my body should remember.
Higher than this tar-sick, black, and warm November.


I reach for my phone
disappointed not to record
you three
my children on a beach
tousled hair wet sand your colours matching

I am determined to remember
this day this low tide
and you three slicing miniature cliffs
into a stream thundering down the beach
and out to sea

Sections giving way unaided
and your three white faces flinching
at first drops of rain
turning to me without question
             as if
I might know the answer

imagine this street young

without moss, sage lichen blotches,
these iron gates unstained by winter gales,
algae, pigeon droppings
imagine this street born yesterday
a Georgian terrace looking new
imagine rifling through a bonfire of thigh masters,
broken lamps, ghetto blasters, raver jeans, rusted trikes,
encyclopaedias, deep fat friers, holy medals, inscribed sepia photographs,
epitaphs, leather bags, re-heeled shoes, stitched letters, pressed handkerchiefs,
manuscripts, figureens, cracked brown bottles, magazines,
same, the taste of boiled vegetables from plates, same,
the smell of dogs’ coats after rain, the generous petals
on even the lowest hanging peonies.
imagine this street, where you stand, rock yourself as in a cot –
between the bleached white linen, the digital clock.


Each child born is born a Janus, made of two. A dual engravement on new life, both sides, pressed tightly, compressed, the soft gold of flesh, two smoking scars left by lightning.
On one side there were too many of us, for any of us, to make even the smallest claim. Our grandparents’ death avoided the mess of trying to tie together a family unravelled across age gaps and ways of being, seeing, a family that got drunk too often, fell out and in of fortune.
That lost a small girl to inches of water, and two generations later, a boy to a blind corner. Branches snapped with the green sap still dripping. On that side, their parent’s death had a neatness to it, like a full stop.
No-one had to care for their elderly, and us cousins never fought for shared affection. To this day, we share so little.
Arriving on the other side was a quiet passing through, like there should have been more there to see it. It was abrupt.
Their parents’ death came like a flash flood, and we were born soaked in it, stunned. It came when they, their children, our mums, were still children, months from sitting in their father’s garden, hugged by his crafted hedges, pruned rose bushes, a paradise of baby girls in hats and summer dresses, and dogs sleeping on their mother’s skirt who smiled sideways into the camera, blinked away the sun.
Quiet, the three floors of the aunt’s house who took them, the aunt who became ours, years later. Smiling by her brass bright fire, one floor above basement dark, above the story of a new puppy bought to cheer the youngest, a trip to Wales to buy a dress at Christmas, bookshelves lined with books nobody read, and a deep, wet, rusting sadness.

Each child born is born a Janus.


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