This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Stephanie Erdman, is from How Bright the Wings Drive Us, a collaborative work by Morag Anderson, Barbara DeCoursey Roy, Maeve McKenna, and Audrey Molloy, released by Dreich in 2021.
The Deep End
By Morag Anderson
Flaccid light and piss-reek
seep in from the communal hall.
It takes both cold hands to form a grip,
turn the key, unlock the door.
The kids still asleep in a pleat
of thin limbs under sheets and coats,
and a lanced heart nailed to the wall.
I take the pack of sausages
from the waistband of my skirt,
bend carefully to pick apart
damp knots in oversized boots
but still dislodge the bloodied wad
of my makeshift sanitary-pad.
I slide down the wall, pull my knees
to the ladder of my ribs, and bleed.
By Maeve McKenna
Mid-March, stunned by another 6 am,
I have been awake, in parts, two hours.
Flecks of dust settle on the window pane.
A fox across the open field, one I announced
as having claimed us, now seems unfamiliar;
chameleon of rusted amber, then furious red.
These are the loneliest minutes of my life. I am
happy here, most mornings, watching dew dissipate,
fearless dandelions slipping their wet shields,
grass-frost, its white innocence warming to silver,
then vanishing. And her, our vixen, scavenging
the dark length of night, stalking death by paw,
unaware of preened coats panting at the lair,
newborn cubs blinded, unhearing. Her breath
pins a trail of fog I follow with my eyes; shafted
light sculpting shadows. Then, a sudden
spiral, a staggering at my wrist.
I make sense with what I have left, until I can’t.
After Brigit Pegeen Kelly
By Audrey Molloy
In a batik purse encrusted with mirrors
is a drawstring bag of fine kid-leather
and, in the bag, a nugget of stolen time.
It is tarnished black despite the lack of oxygen
but a brisk rub on the hem of your dress reveals
a gleam like a trout in a wind-brushed lough.
No one knows who took it, but suspects are many:
the first-time mother in the milk-stained blouse
who sleeps only fitfully between feeds;
or the part-time telephonist, squeezing the outer skin
from the pale green innards of defrosted peas;
or a surgeon; or someone from long ago.
The purse has been ported on longboat and curragh,
High Nellie bicycle, barrow and cart,
through drought, inundations and mud.
It has even been carried by swarms of blue bees,
dangling its long, swinging strap in the semblance
of a bright green snake. Oh, that’s all been written before.
By Barbara DeCoursey Roy
Dainty dogwood, wistful redbud, wild phlox, blue
as your teenage daughter’s hair, a fat clump of May
apples border this thin slice of earth. Second growth
a jigsaw puzzle with a thousand small pieces.
A hundred different wildflowers on as many acres,
every extra hour of daylight a promise writ yellow,
the primeval alchemy of fungus and root, the last
redoubt of innocence, witness to its undoing.
Cue the supernumeraries: raccoon with sly smile,
furtive fox, his tail a red banner, opossum with her
opalescent skin, owl and hawk. Who thrive in nest
and den, with teeth and talon, not questioning
their true nature, playing their part, tending the tinder,
heeding the shriek, the howl, the mating call.
Our next of kin, in darkest wood, thieves
and murderers all.
Morag Anderson is a Scottish poet. Her chapbook, Sin Is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s (Fly on the Wall Press, 2021) is a Poetry Book Society recommendation. She was placed in the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition 2021, the Edwin Morgan Trust Competition 2021, and selected for Best Scottish Poem 2021. Her work has been widely anthologised and appears in journals such as Finished Creatures, Gutter, Popshot Quarterly. She is currently working on commissions by the Scottish Poetry Library.
Maeve McKenna lives in rural Sligo, Ireland. Her work has been placed in several international poetry competitions and published widely in print and online. Maeve was a finalist in the Eavan Boland Mentorship Award 2020, third in Canterbury Poet of The Year 2021 and a Pushcart nominee 2022. Her debut pamphlet, A Dedication to Drowning, was published in February 2022 by Fly on The Wall Press. She is currently working on a second pamphlet due for publication in September 2022 with Rare Swan Press.
Barbara DeCoursey Roy is an American poet living in the woods outside St Louis, Missouri. Her poetry has been published in The Galway Review, Headstuff, Skylight 47, Pendemic, Open Rivers (an online journal of the University of Minnesota), Popshot Quarterly, and The Galway Advertiser. Along with three other poets, Barbara won first place in the 2021 Dreich Alliance. She is a founding member of Poets Abroad, an international poetry workshop.