Issue 29 – 2018 – Medbh McGuckian

Medbh McGuckian


Sometimes So Yes

For now, the mirror was stronger

than self-strangeness; arms as white

as snowflakes had become brambly

as plum flowers in the long rainbow.


The unpossessable earth qualified

as grievable: the makings of its moon

harvested the universe; stars are

there, message plus raindrops.


Unusual storms on Saturn

cut a necklace of earth, wave

riddles, essence of day

on the veined water.


Girls collecting leaves

or possibly fire, troll-girls

in ghost-homes form womb-

scapes, women-made afterbirths.


Thinking about the poetry

of the moon, or even its smell,

is, no one is saved if all are not,

all things are full of Jupiter.


The flavour of souls is Mediterranean

with its calm roof, consciousness

from within goes on moulding the face,

we may not be able to name you,


One root in heaven.  Lake –graves

and grave-fields of their own

surround the Virgin with the Rosebush

with marigolds for obedience.


The white is a field

before the year warms

in the breathless summer,

is very chaste, miswanting,


Like a hard woman or a hurt one,

the resurrection of stars

when the moon was burnt.

There are no anguished angels, 


Or, the present does not exist

for an angel.The copper sky

is a way of saving silver from

the inside, as fields rise up over hills.


In the once where he’d been from,

the shadow of a world turned shallow

peeled the city away from itself

at the seams, with the flip of a wall


Clouds became containers of space,

inflating without any effort,

and home to a series of ruins,

each leaf cut open of even the distant trees.


I seemed to have grown these faint

and unnamed stars-names were the least

of the bruises. Angels do indeed cast

shadows, as clouds allow absence to be present


With or without snow.In the cocoon

of natural eternity,the glossy horizon

reminds us of a sunset, the back view

of a fan.Shapely cloud  or moulded wave,


Pearl-coloured bone flower in the final

layer of moon rock. Rain that has crushed

the rose, leaving snow-green shadows

on the yellowest petals. One must see


The light through them, not on them.

Her outer pyramids as silver as the moths

of fact, the house woke up to a sky

done up in pale yellow silk. Ghosts young and old,


threadbare, wingless angels help them rise

weightfully. I allowed myself to blur

her into my mind, with the sunblasted

Jesuses she loved, cinematically blue.


A mountain of tumbled gauze touching

every inch of air. The stars seemed to be

facing elsewhere, the trees seemed to push

the sky further back. Her small heart


Is observed by the worst angels

of our nature, inoculated armies

in a dark crowd. There is shooting over there

in the fog (nothing Irish is simple)


Or polyamorous. I sell my blood

to spacecraft that can turn to look

at earth, at light backscattered towards

its source in the three-storey leaf-shaped


Window. The chemical  wedding of sun and moon

cleans the sun’s dark complexion. Her angel

is given black wings like an unsaved

creature. Truck engines revved to mask


the shooting at Yellow Star houses. She wore

a common hue, the violet ribbon was trapped

in the coffin lid: her own wish to be haunted

by occasional , weeping stars.


The body of a man is as superior to a woman’s as the soul is to the body.

St. Augustine


Pink Dandelion

Weather is not a girl thing, is it?

Though home is where the weather is,

the weather temporarily absent from notes

I had made from snow-producing weather.


Ours is a textured home, one gardenless,

under a cloth sun, in a well-preached parish.

the moon was shocked at the symbolic spine

of the house, its world upside down of trees.


The light, is never just light:the faint

younger sun is whimsical and flowing

over the secret shape of the city.


Yellow, the least spiritual, the most earthbound

can never have the profound

meaning of bramble, mystic.  


You were receiving the Last Sacraments

in oatmeal and water, a morsel of feather

and a single thread of silk, anchored to a hatpin.


while fossils of dragonflies with wing spans

of half a metre were my stories

for the years you were away from me.


Chance is a Black Cat

 Those being-in-love summers

(or am I really thinking

of just one night?)

a pint of bitter between us

keeps the hard-up hours tipsy.


Hymen silts the harbour:

we study the ferries and freighters

handsome and flirtatious

in their mutual serenade.


Down at the Devil’s Churn

teenagers dive headlong and surf.

Nightfall is a hum of nothings

from courting honeymooners.


Our first tiff-  you insist

the blackbird in the kitchen

can talk-  I deny

that such a thing could exist.


And our bickering mellows

till it dawns on me

you don’t mean a blackbird at all

but a ‘mynah’.


Which I must admit is black

as any other bird.

Slips of the tongue

put the heart across us.


We’re both so young

our thoughts seem but branches

of a tree, rooted

under the forever


spell of a loveseat

in a beergarden on whose lawn

a blackbird is conducting

an orchestra of birds


to a passionate climax

as if they were celebrating

our golden anniversary.

But a ripple of thunder


is curdling the heatwave,

a delicate net of slander

is being trawled behind us.

Our own Devil’s Churn is over there


where fate like a black cat

under the elder tree in the corner

steels its claws and peels its eyes

till my hair grows silver with despair.



Medbh McGuckian was born in Belfast where she lives with her family. Her collections of poetry include: The Flower Master (1982), Venus and the Rain (1984), On Ballycastle Beach (1988), Marconi’s Cottage (1992), Captain Lavender (1995), Shelmalier (1998), and Drawing Ballerinas (2001). Her Selected Poems 1978-1994 was published in 1997. Among the prizes she has won are: the British National Poetry Competition, the Cheltenham Award, the Alice Hunt Bartlett prize, the Rooney Prize and the American Ireland Fund Literary Award. She has been Writer-in-Residence at Queen’s University and at the University of Ulster; Visiting Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley; and Writer-Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.