Medbh McGuckian

My Carmelite Family

It had taken me more than an hour
To come to life, under the rose-encrusted
Influence of the star-driven morning.

A blue a bit too pastel, with all its accessories,
A colour he could not have given us
In a hundred years, familiar but shallow,

Intense but guarded, multipled the sensations
Of his different flesh, though not
My ability to return the increased gaze.

Breathtakingly tactile, his beautiful
Carnal mask distanced the white reserve
Of the paper, yet brought it closer

To his cornerstones, the perfect control 
Of his hands’ immense fresco about to move.
This eye reddened at his blood-red

Accents and the pure indication
Of his heart belonging low that owned
Casts of my arms and feet.

So that the way we sat was a hearth
From which the layers emananted,
Walking into the seacoil of a song.


A Blessing Christ

Only in the short time
When the light was annunciation-strong
Would space be flattened out
To such a ravishing ivory.

Inhabitable would, near dormition,
That has not been fully realized,
As though the warhorse had
A moment before been reined in.

The corner itself is loosely marked
By the tree of sacro-iliac joints,
A movement in, and around,
A whorl at the edges of the field

Like sprinted handwriting
Or a last judgement spread over two fields
Of lyrical bronze. The sylized
Earth requires the physical exertion

Of two curtain-holding, censing angels
And the almost bitter power
Of the interior sprining of their ribs,
The distinction of their hands,

To reach the unflinching candour
Of the direct gaze and perpendicular
Glance the still-living Christ
Directs across her criss-cross stola.

He has lost all rigidity,
And rests his utterly relaxed arm
On her shoulder-no longer a Roman matron-
He touches Mary’s crown.


Medbh McGuckian is one Ireland’s leading poets. Her works include Drawing Ballerinas (2002), Shelmalier (1998), Captain Lavender (1994), Marconi’s Cottage (1991), On Ballycastle Beach (1988), Venus and the Rain (1984) and The Flower Master (1982).