To Boldly Go

By Eve Taft

Little blue-green terrarium spins 

Goldilocks distant from atom-smashing ball of heat

Which whirls through the void, carrying with it the eight 

Who depend on its life-giving brilliance

It carries them through the suburb of a starry city 

Build around a hole in the universe

Insatiable, tiny bipeds explore 

Little blue-green terrarium

And then tilt their heads upwards 

They go flying through the dark matter

Searching for new stars and new life

They play capture the flag with their moon

And send out glass eyes to find light

From the beginning of everything

Infinite universe keeps getting bigger

Tiny bipeds magnify its building blocks

And map its edges 

They write stories about the shapes of the stars

And study them, writing libraries worth of knowledge

Blue-green terrarium spins on

And tiny bipeds boldly go

Where no one has gone before

Thank You For Loving Me

by Matt Fitzgerald

He remembered when they first met—

And how her eyes jumped over to him.

And when he saw beyond them,

And she beyond his,

He slipped his arm into hers.

Then one day she closed her eyes and left time in the dark.

Left him alone again.

Veiled undertakers scanned for the fine edges of grief.

Their eyes engaged with his

And clung to him like spores and were away again

As half-formed thoughts.

He saw them to the door.

They lifted her, close-eyed and steady, into the hearse.

No traffic, no after-traffic smell, no cramped streets, no …

Her coffin was framed by the kitchen window.

Then, in the quiet place, he heard what he always missed:

A fat hairy-bellied bee dancing and dithering on the pane.

He cupped it in his hands and felt its wings, its life, beat against his skin,

Felt its legs—plump with pollen—slip into his old lifelines.

He put it back and it slept for a while and died.

He thumbed his palms and said he was sorry. 

The summer stars careened above him 

As he made his way to the cemetery,

Sloshing through the cratered mudholes.

A flock of birds rose up before him and down again.

He squatted to her in the early morning gloom.

Then he stretched out and propped one heel over the other

And he thanked her for loving him. 

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Now

By Catherine Deegan

Busily awaiting the blackbirds, black rooks and rainy days:

expecting an epiphany would come with them.  

I had taken my muse to the cave and glued her eyes with sleep,

promising I’d be back in an instant.

Five decades and seven lives she lay there,

I, on the other hand, had a tryst with Hypnos,

and that lasted just as long.

Until, in that dream she told me the wave was on its way,

Hypnos’ brother would not be far behind.

I’m sinking not sleeping, she sighed.

Rattled, I desperately reached for the laptop 

trying to tap her eyes open.

All the birds and all the rain will fly and fall again,

and again.

But we, she beseeched me, must not wait for what is eternal.

We have work to do and crafts to hone,

 and all we have is now. 

Sun-kissed

By Catherine Deegan

The syzygy of betrayal and kiss.

Coins: minted in silver, bathed in blood,

The infamous event of treachery.

Mother of Jesus, mother of Judas:

The syzygy of motherhood and death. 

How could he do it?

###

But we are as innocent as Judas 

Cash: minted in plastic, thrown in the sea.

Unfaithful to all flora and fauna:

mothers of humans are mothers of greed.

The syzygy of motherhood and death

What have we done?

###

Betraying all Earth’s creatures: great and small.

With shards-of-glass hearts and sun- kissed faces

We mute lilting voices and devour trees.

The mother of you, and mother of me:

The syzygy of Mother Earth and death.

What must we do?

Fish Out of Water

By Matt Fitzgerald              

I never knew me then.

If I were a duckling, I would have been shaking off the down:

For I was doubtful and unprepared for life.

But my grandfather would take me by the hand; 

Show me the way of the breadwinner.

This steely man had broken-in many days.

I saw these days on his face and many other faces.

I felt the toughness of his fingers—like dry fat sausages—

Where the creases, the years, fixed him good.

Through the double-wash, he took me to the boat.

A wholesome odour fell off him.

He was long-wooled and slow-speaking and quiet.

There were short-wooled waders too:

Uncles, fathers and sons, nieces and nephews,

Ghosting under the full speculation of the stars.

There were half-caught words drifting in the darkness.

And as we sculled away in a slightly snarling sea, 

I could see him wincing through curling caps.

Shirking off the nacre water,

Shuffling his sailing combover,

Glancing at the seawings above us. 

The gill floats pitched in the sea like speckled dinosaur eggs.

I thought ahead of him and grabbed one.

“Hook it on,” he said. 

We curled back to shore.

The liquid wash of the sea hummed like a hive.

The strain on his face flushed him pink with each draw.

The shore, an eye-train of lamplit watchers,

Moved to meet us and we to them.

The net came alive with tail-flappers;

The beach came alive with movement.

A host of silvery, slivery muscles surfaced in a silent scream.

What if these fish had voices? I thought.

They tinged with galaxies of reds and browns. 

They were coiled at the throat,

Snouting their last breaths—opening, closing, opening. 

My grandfather offered a reassuring smile which I took.

Then he whacked them off the gunwale. 

Their tails didn’t flap any longer.

If I had a tail, it wouldn’t have flapped either.

Then I met him—

The boy I did not know. 

Brought out by the man who always knew me. 

Knew me better than I.  

Lysistrata

By Maria O’Rourke

Miss Boland burst the football 

That came over the wall from the boys’ school, 

Stabbing it with a knitting needle while the girls cheered.

You and I were well aware

The line of demarcation was not to be crossed

Though no one could figure out why.

You wanted to throw it back,

But Miss Boland had a precedent to set

Of indelible magnitude.

 Today’s lesson on Lysistrata 

 In a country school yard, 

 Is a circle of girls round a deflated, red ball.

Lysistrata

Miss Boland burst the football 

That came over the wall from the boys’ school, 

Stabbing it with a knitting needle while the girls cheered.

You and I were well aware

The line of demarcation was not to be crossed

Though no one could figure out why.

You wanted to throw it back,

But Miss Boland had a precedent to set

Of indelible magnitude.

 Today’s lesson on Lysistrata 

 In a country school yard, 

 Is a circle of girls round a deflated, red ball.

Lysistrata

Miss Boland burst the football 

That came over the wall from the boys’ school, 

Stabbing it with a knitting needle while the girls cheered.

You and I were well aware

The line of demarcation was not to be crossed

Though no one could figure out why.

You wanted to throw it back,

But Miss Boland had a precedent to set

Of indelible magnitude.

 Today’s lesson on Lysistrata 

 In a country school yard, 

 

 

Corona – The Thief of Ritual

By Maria O’Rourke

1

Stealthily, it crept up on us.  

At first, far away and disconnected, 

another continent,

distant, like a man on the moon. 

 Then it smashed its way into our days, 

stealing our routines 

and everything we took for granted.  

Our world was ransacked,

 all our daily habits pulled asunder.  

We were left alone, 

violated and bewildered.

2

Who is this imposter?  

How can we have been so vulnerable, 

our guards down, pervious.  

We who know so much and are so hard to fool?  

Scholars and scientists 

bewildered by its treachery, 

wring their hands and plead with us

 to run and hide 

instead of standing up to fight. 

Circle the wagons around the elderly and weak.  

Lie low.

3          

This thief’s guile

is to obscure itself in tenderness;

a touch might kill.  

A hug, a lethal weapon, 

Judas’ poison in a kiss.  

Your very breath a threat, 

may leave me gasping for air, ventilated, 

dependent on the generosity 

of young, fresh-faced nurses

who didn’t anticipate this.  

It creeps around the hospital itself,

Duplicitously.

4

It thrives on fear.  

Loves to see us scuttling, 

gloved and masked,

holed up for our own protection.  

It laughs at the arrogance of leaders 

who underestimate its treachery, 

and watches their expression change to terror.  

They are afraid.  

This thief plunders and pillages, 

with no respect for borders.

5          

And what of the dead?  

Its trophies.  

It steals our right to mourn, 

cancels the cortege, 

leaves the bereaved bereft 

as the solitary corpses 

pile up to be buried without ritual.  

The graveyard is where it stores its loot.  

A shameful misappropriation.

6

But it will not blackmail us.  

No further embezzlement 

will be tolerated.  

We’re not hiding, we’re waiting.  

Like the tree waits for spring, 

calm and certain 

that buds will appear 

and winter will be defeated.  

We will emerge, blinking, into the light, 

and our fortress will be stronger than before, 

tenderness our strength, not our weakness.  

Victims no more.

Ar Coraintín, Leacht Uí Chonchubhair

By Trish Flanagan

There’s a feeling of summer in the March air,

Yet the town of Lahinch is deserted.

The promenade car park is never empty 

In fine spring weather. 

People gather to commemorate the end of

Another damp, dreary winter.

###

But, the seasonal dog-walking signs have been repurposed, 

With bright warnings to socially distance.

The yellow of welcome sunshine 

Has become the colour of fear and danger.

A patrolling garda asks me where I’m from,  

Keen to keep day trippers at bay.

###

No surfers are in sight, 

The sea is strangely calm. 

I pick my way through the narrow walls, 

Respecting the two-metre distance. 

At prom’s end, we form a diagonal to chat.

And Lucy the Jack Russell, circles the four points.

###

Two children play catch with the incoming tide, 

Their squeals breaking the stillness.

A little girl in a fairy dress, appears with her mother.

Meanwhile, up the hill in Moy, 

Robyn and Ella are hosting picnics for their stuffed toys,

And counting ladybirds on my perimeter wall.

###

* Translates as Quarantine, Lahinch.  Leacht Uí Chonchubhair is the old Irish name for Lahinch – Leacht meaning “grave” or “memorial cairn”. Uí Chonchubhair is the Irish for O’Connor.

Love Shouldn’t Hurt

By Mary Bradford

He searched her eyes for something, anything that would show him her thoughts. 

“I love you, Tess, I love you so very much. You know that don’t you?” He held her in his arms. She smiled, and stretched her body against his. 

It was his signal. 

Smothering her smooth skin with butterfly kisses, he worked at showing his love for her. Tessclasped him to her, letting her sharp, manicured nails dig into his skin, piercing through the patchwork of yellow, green, and purple bruising that peppered his back. Her fingers working deeper, making the old scars juicy with new blood which dribbled down his sides onto her, splattering the sheets. 

Satisfied, she cast him aside and swung her legs out of the bed to stand, cutting their lovemaking short.

“You bore me, why I bother… you’re not even that good.” Pausing at the bedroom door, she glanced back and laughed. 

*** 

The morning came and Tess pulled her overnight bag behind her as she went to the front door. Work was taking her away for two nights, and she would return on the fourteenth.

“Don’t forget Valentine’s, I’m expecting something special, exciting, don’t disappoint me now, okay?”

Standing in the shower after she left, the warm water soothed the cuts, washing the dried blood from the night before. He ached. A swelling appeared where the rolling pin had caught him on his forearm before dinner last night. His feet were marked in different shades of blue, where her stilettos had stomped on them. Wrapped in a towel, he returned to the bedroom. The soiled sheets screamed at him, he would need to wash them before the blood dried in too much. They needed to be crisp, white, pristine – until the next time.

He needed Fiona. 

“Hi, Can I speak with Fiona please?” 

“Hello, I’m sorry, but she’s on another call. Can I help? My name is Bruce.”

“Will Fiona be long?” he heard the panic in his own voice, yet he knew he was alone in the apartment. 

“I can’t say. You seem to have phoned in before, so you know calls are as short or as long as needed. Why don’t we talk while we wait for Fiona, would that be okay?”

“I love her. I love her a lot, but she doesn’t seem to believe me. I’m kinda tired of well, just tired.” His back hurt when he sat against the soft pillow.

“How often does it happen?” Bruce’s voice was calm, non-judgemental, understanding. 

“Fiona knows. She and I are like best buddies.” His laugh was weak, sad. Was he weak? Sad?

“We’re here anytime, no matter how many times you need us. Would you feel better if you came in and shared a cup of tea with us? No pressure, just like a phone-call, just a chat.” 

“I can’t just drop everything, I’ve only two days and so much to organise, Valentine’s Day is almost here.”

“Think about it, please.”

“Say hello to Fiona.” 

*** 

Once the door was opened, the aroma of a lamb stew drifted in, greeting her. She smiled. He was an excellent cook. Unlit candles were placed on the table, rose petals strewn on the floor,a trail leading down the hallway. She followed it, pausing to kick off her high heels. Music at the level she liked was soothing in the background. Peeping into the bathroom, a basket of body cream, bath-foam, chocolates and a rich red wine, the one she liked, sat on a small mosaic table. She undid the buttons of her blush silk blouse, and stepped out of her navy pencil skirt. 

The stream of rose petals led on to the bedroom. He was waiting for her then, she smiled. The thought of his ripped, strong body longing for her, was exciting. She called out to him as she reached the bedroom door, her bra slipping to the floor, ready to join him. 

But it was empty. A dozen red roses lay against the pillows, a note propped against them. Picking up the note, she read his words,

Dinner is in the slow cooker. I should have done this before now, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. I love you, but love shouldn’t hurt. Love is two people being equal, wanting to do things together. Love isn’t lying to the doctor, over and over, about how I got my bruises.Fiona and Bruce are right. When someone loves you, you don’t shiver when they walk in the room, or at the sound of their voice, not knowing if you’ve done something wrong. Love is a million things, Tess, but you haven’t shared any of them with me. 

Goodbye, Tess. It’s over.  

If you, or anyone you know, needs help and advice for any kind of abuse – mental, physical, or sexual – please contact your local services, doctor or the Gardaí. Never suffer in silence. There is help available. 

Mary Bradford can be found at www.marytbradford.com