Issue 6: Mary Noonan

Bright Day

There is a sea of people

in the church the ceilings are high

I have made the long walk

to the golden railings on my spindly legs

in my white Communion shoes and socks.

The crowd pushes to the big swing doors.

Outside it’s a bright, bright day

the white sun flashes at me and I want

to fall, the cough I was keeping

at the back of my throat starts to bark.

My mother looks at me, at my white face

at the black rings circling my eyes

she has a question on her face.

She stretches out her arm, her hand

cups my elbow, her other hand clasps

my wrist – helping me across the road.

The sun’s daggers are flicking

at cars as they pass. My spiky elbow

rests in my mother’s cupped hand

in the soft pads. Her roly-poly fingers

press through the nylon of my white

summer cardigan, the elbow folds

into the blanket of her hand.

From elbow to wrist, she holds the long bone,

carries it across the road.

Little House

In the September haze I find you

running, a child with broken shoes

haring through the smells of fern

and wood-smoke, sprinting through

the piebald sunshine, singing Oh

to have a little house, out of the wind

and the rain’s way, flapping round

the streets and fields of Fermoy,

scooping blackberries from the hedges

and callies from the Blackwater, plucking

kindling from Glenabo, roofing apples

at Glenarousk, Coolagown, up and down

the town’s hills, skipping to the pipe band’s

promenade in late summer streets –

Emmet, Redmond, Clancy – in the low

gold light, fife and drum up Barrack Hill

and down the lane, the stone wall

to the iron gate, cows in the field beyond,

nearer my God to Thee, Kilcrumper cemetery,

the sweeper at his work, brushing moss

from marble flags, and under your feet

clumps of abandoned bones are waiting

for the pippin light of autumn to release

their ghosts into the sheets billowing

from the yews.

Night Traffic

for Matthew

That December night, she raced down the unlit path

to the frost-covered gate, shouting to him to hop across,

to duck and dive in the traffic and he called back that he

ran the risk of being flattened by cars, by the black stream

flowing between them. But the rush-hour and the dark

and the shouting and the wind and rain were not enough

to run him, with his two bags, into the next parish

and he landed in the yellow hallway, in the bright kitchen,

brushing sleet from his jacket and dust from a bottle and

words into the oak of the table. Into the candle-flame went

talk of Mexico City and the high-wire circus of Budapest

and the German outposts of Transylvania and the lure

of pepper (chilli, paprika) and three bottles of French wine

and the touch of his hands. Stepping from the taxi now,

she looks across at the icy gate, at the blacked-out eyes

of the houses beyond, glimpses a flickering presence

peering too, pondering the plunge into night-time traffic.

Mary Noonan is an Irish poet and academic. She lives in Cork, where she lectures in  French literature. Her poems have been published in The SHOp, The Stinging Fly, The Dark Horse, Wasafiri, Tears in the Fence, Cyphers, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, The Cork Literary Review, Penned: Zoo Poems (2009), The Alhambra Poetry Calendar (2010), in Best Irish Poetry 2010 and in The Captain’s Tower: 70 Poems for Bob Dylan at 70 (forthcoming 2011). In 2007, she was selected to take part in the Poetry Ireland Introductions series of readings in Dublin. In November 2009 she was invited to read at the Poetry Hearings festival in Berlin. She was awarded the Listowel Poetry Collection Prize in June 2010.