September’s winning poems
Lauren Lawler is a poet living in Baldoyle, Dublin. Her pamphlet ‘Physical Education’ was published in 2022 by Green Bottle Press. She works as a research librarian in the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Tonight, my daughter has
a pulsing appendix, angry
as a little finger slammed
in a door. The doctor says:
I hope you haven’t left it too late.
As though her body is a bomb
and I’ve tripped a wire.
This draughty Victorian hospital;
the cold reddens my daughter’s nose.
There’s a chipped acrylic of
a one-eyed Peter Pan
and his faceless Wendy.
A nurse distributes suppositories
from curtain to curtain
rattling the metal bowl
with a jolly shake. In the next bed,
a mother tells me they are lengthening
her child’s legs. Her cut bones
are scaffolded with metal rods.
The mother’s job is to move them:
It’s just like turning a key.
Before they take my daughter away,
the nurse assesses her body
like it isn’t mine. She drains
her veins like it’s not my blood
and pricks her perfect wrist.
She asks her: Can you sit up?
Blow into this, see if you can raise the bubble.
She cannot do it. Let the child decide.
They tell me the corridors
are too small for a trolley, so
they must carry her to surgery.
I hear her cry with each jostle.
I can’t own her pain, though I feel
her scream catch my throat.
My neighbour gave me a lift to school
with her violent son in her creaking
red Fiesta, on the strict condition that
I got up early to attend Mass.
The church was three timber prefabs
laid out in the shape of a cross.
My neighbour said I didn’t have
to sit with them. I sat behind them.
I didn’t know the prayers or responses,
didn’t know the ash on my forehead
would win me approval with teachers.
The incense made me speechless.
When I shook damp hands with the son,
I thought of him beating his dog. I lied —
said I quit sugar for Lent, but when
I tongued out the jam from the donut
my red-rimmed mouth repeated:
Lamb of God
Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world.
New Irish Writing, edited by Ciaran Carty and appearing in the Irish Independent on the last Saturday of each month, is open to writers who are Irish or resident in Ireland. Stories submitted should not exceed 2,000 words. Up to four poems may be submitted. There is no entry fee. Writers whose work is selected will receive €120 for fiction and €60 for poetry. You can email your entry, preferably as a Word document, to email@example.com. Please include your name, address and contact number, as well as a brief biographical paragraph. Only writers who have yet to publish their first book can be considered.