Issue 9 – Winter 2005 – Catherine Walsh

Catherine Walsh


from Optic Verve

surcease of contact

the surcease (of contact)
    to mature in his imagination

to mature in his? imagination
—world of want and world of plenty  — she was
consequently free to live, naturally —

                                 un desconocido


un libro      en rústica
                              haber sido engendrado

resaca           ensayista

el y lo que es descarnado                           su realismo implacable
despojado del tiempo      de su infancia


desterrado de su tierra natal

               no me viene  a la memoria
la calzada

                              es un sinverguenza
el mucho hablar

                         llegaría con tiempo sobrado
saboreando el paseo

la tersura   apenas demarcados por setos bajos


To find oneself constantly in kitchens. Bathrooms too. It does seem to predicate a sort of liking. Affinity is too strong a description, acceptance too passive, fondness too sentimental. Familiarity states the case without evoking anything of the complicated responses provoked.

Perhaps one hundred or so years ago I would have simply put my naggin of whiskey on the shelf, my pipe in my pocket and sat outside the door in the Indian Summer sunshine, scrubbing the potatoes or mending the trousers, watching the very late last blue damselflies and wasps whirr round to die.  A dance macabre, hung on the solidity of an air wrapped in minute particles of dust and mould, with the wet sharp green of nettle beds and the musky odour of half-rotten tree bark in my nose.

Or perhaps I would have gone to town in the pony and trap, selling eggs or butter, buying flour, meat or sugar. The pony and trap could have brought me to teach at a school or in a private house, or visiting relations or friends at a time of extra work or need.

My maternal granny was thirteen in nineteen thirteen, the year she started boarding school, the year her father died and she finished boarding school, returning home to a governess/companion, the year of the Great Lockout in Dublin. She remembered it all vividly well into her eighties.

My own father now just turned eighty is equally at home in a landscape of a bygone era, in Dublin as a student pharmacist; pictures of him in tan khaki Bermudas and a many-pocketed flying jacket (in the seventies to us kids a ‘bomber’ jacket − but a real one). Small round wire-framed spectacles, hair brushed, it seems, straight up and back, already receding slightly, if spectacularly. A bicycle and a gaggle of friends lying on the grass in the background. He looks happy. Or outside a small farmhouse in Mayo, my granny seated on a súgan chair, dressed (it is the nineteen forties) in a floor-length dark skirt, a high-necked blouse, a shawl. Her stern aquiline beauty shy of his camera.

Photography had fast become a big hobby of his, once he had his first job, pre-Dublin. He took photographs, developed them and negotiated a deal with local shops so he could print batches for sale to tourists. Lighting, grain, tone, angled composition. A small Box Brownie bought second-hand at first, I think.

‘Everything is the same and everything is different’, N decided during the Summer. Nearing eight seems to promote such pronouncements. In Spring we had ‘there is really no such thing as a perfectly straight line.’ Talking, questioning round these aphorisms, much like his elder brother at a similar age. I remember that feeling, excitement, discovery, speculation. The realisation that the world I knew was not a fixed unit in stasis, or the same as anyone else’s. Freedom.

Tentatively, infrequently, an emergence.





Whose gift was it? To say what is my name is not tantamount to saying I don’t know who I am.

Whose name was it? The gift, of course, objectively, is from a particular name to another one. Whose gift, whose name, would tell us what, significance.

The signifier applied to the signified in question, or doubt, would formulaically lead, in turn, to a speculative or possible conclusion of the matter. Which in itself, of no matter, merely waves. Respondent at the nerve ends, establishing the verification of the connective tissue would take some time.

And right by me, verging, casting shadow and too much rustle and breath is coming a, man, hands on hips; “TV3 News says they’ve started knocking down Fatima Mansions today.” “Have they?  At last, or at least. And all those people gone, or dead, or maimed in the heart of things.” “They were built in 1951.” “Yeah, Tom said they started when he was still studying. Before that he was cycling past fields, vegetables, cows.”

How odd, perhaps, not to have it all there, just as usual, forever. Like death. Will everybody get the flat or house or maisonette they need? What will they build next? Will the quality of planning and design reflect the people’s needs? Will the quality and durability of construction last even as long as the old lot? Undoubtedly it will bring its own set of hiccups. What about Oliver Bond St. and Theresa’s Gardens, why don’t they have such a public makeover? What will they call it? How can it not be Fatima? Right there, by Maryland? If there were no Luas line nearing completion (or bankruptcy) would anyone with access to power have given such a damn?

Whose place was it? To say what is its name is not tantamount to saying I don’t know what it is. Naming is not a speculative art and not necessary, in the way many seem to presume, to actual comprehension. Understanding. Naming makes communicative interaction a lot less tedious and time consuming. A coded shorthand of the specific. A necessary component of the everyday dialectic of our lives.

Whose place was it? To say what its name is is saying I don’t know whose it is. There’s a girl somewhere, In London or Birmingham, Madrid or Barcelona, who says what its name is every time she tells her story. She says its name in her head, to hear the vowel sounds echo right; aloud they must be adapted for the pertaining local influence, to be understood. Superficially.

There’s a boy in Cork or Clondalkin, Amsterdam or Australia, with a history of hard times, hard work and an attitude that tells what sucks. Straight off. He says the name, the block and the flat number in the same unpunctuated blurt, to get it over with, that he learned when he started school.

Winter. About a year ago, the junk-addicted son of a widowed flat-holder in Fatima died twisted up, wrapped in an overcoat, huddled on the doorstep of his recently deceased mother’s home. Dublin City Corporation (that same one that so publicly bestows titles and accolades on the strategically needed deserving) did not recognise him as a tenant so he was locked out. Alliances. He had been living there all his life. Home.




                                               then summer

(to be)
barefoot                                                                                    lay on the
in the                                                                                         step
rain                    scent         rhythm and tone                            you fed
sandals in                  flat                                                                                bread
(my) pocket         spatters of sycamore                                                       biscuits
boys                            back of a t-shirt
shorts                    mossed                                                                             cleaned his eyes
indiscriminate                tangled    wavy                                   hurry!
beigy                                 fair
                                                                                                    put your shoes on!
light                                   grinning
bleached by                         squinting                                     wash your hands!

sun                                      tousled                                        in the scullery
time                                    curly   dark                               with the new spring water
brine                                       yelling
                                                sprinting                                 running hard
picking in home                       scabs   briar
over the yards                       scrapes                                 (she goes to the
stones                                                                                    step and calls
hungry                                     clear                                     su pper
                                                voices                                   a calm high
the purring                                                                      carrying voice
dog     we said                                                                for the slow air



  stop the sound
               which exactly

  only know

  break it down



                      stop      this road is going
  no    where can the

      signpost be       here see

  way out
               by      on balcony

  standing spot light hall
            it is tuesday          for speech

  lads these saturdays a nightmare for art





  brilliance                                         shaping conformities
                                    around a rectangular block

                       current fluctuation
  slow                     retain necessary deposits
                for an 


Catherine Walsh was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1964, and currently lives in Limerick with her partner and two children. She co-edits hardPressed Poetry and the Journal with Billy Mills. Her books include Pitch (Pig Press, 1994), Idir Eatortha & Making Tents (Invisible Books, London, 1996) and, most recently,  City West, (Shearsman 2006). See