October’s winning poems
Shannon’s work has appeared in places such as ‘Poetry Ireland Review’, the ‘Irish Times’, the ‘London Magazine’, ‘Body Prague’ and in conjunction with the Embassy of Romania in Ireland. She is a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast.
We are many, the girls you forgot about,
splattering paint on the dim basement walls
of the abandoned orphanage at the top of the hill.
Everyone says this building is bad luck,
haunted by sick children and prisoners past, all
institutional green and burnt-out lightbulbs on strings.
But we’ve made it home, in the shadows,
empty bottles beneath our cots, the radio humming
perpetually low like a chakra cleanse frequency.
Here is time, here is space, here are 100 years
of neglect. No light makes it through the narrow windows;
on the other side, the city is up in flames.
Flames from the hill we thought were fireworks,
we celebrated from our damp hideout, we ate
the entire can of beans, smoked the whole pack
of cigarettes. The lightbulb flickers, the bomb
explodes up the street, shakes down the house.
We drown it out with the radio loud, the songs
our parents asked us not to listen to. We dance
in a circle, all knobby joints and channelled fury,
invite in whoever lurks, ideally handsome boys
our age from good families, wild boys for wild girls
trapped, like us, in this place. We live in between,
we wait for water, lamb-chop days. Our time
is coming. Our mouths are made of metal,
we grow dangerous and wise beyond our age.
Gore, snajper! Get behind me, gunman!
A shrapnel hailstorm, the instant death, our eyes
have adjusted to the dark. We intuit your names,
we scryers. We remember. We lie in wait.
I sing to you, cheap refracted moon, misguided
albatross who beats her tail against my windowpane.
A memory of thyme in the garden when the breeze
goes; here a storm, there a superstition. Women
rounding the corner where the bridge went out,
in search of spoils. This is war — a swarthy morning
bleeding in my sheets, the rain that comes and goes
and holds time static. Her eyes were not grey but
γλαυκῶπις, were birds and flashing and terror,
all of which I feel as I gather up the washing
and wait for a break in the green air. My eyes
are colourless which is to say the English language
lacks a word for what I am. I’ve wandered
through the neat rows of tornado alley and learned
the words for things that crowd at your periphery,
the sirens scattering burnt soil at the day’s end, windsong.
I’m coming for you with my dungarees and confused
landlocked identity; I’ll save you from this shipwreck yet.
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.