Issue 18: Medbh McGuckian
WOMAN READING BY A PAPER BELL
Our windows are holding their breath
At the price of light; my wraparound
Window is lifting me out of the slanting
Room wherein I slept.
Lame Sappho, with purple breastbows,
You don’t feel the years, you feel
The decades, the endless recycling
Of meaning, the everyday memoryscapes.
This once all-conquering impure,
She is quite undone, she may possibly
Come about again, but she must not
To the opera on a day of miscarriage.
My silver leg has tripped against a star.
The sea is just the two shades eyelash
Of the river’s river writing. The stars
Are entered by familiar eyeshine,
Neon-blue looks and every form of way.
Sunlight filters through an angels skirt
Like the mountain’s wartime shadows
From the cameras dug into its face.
We are too prey to the stop and frisk
Laws, the lemonpeel angelfish, the baffling
Swallow, even the high fantastical
Duchesse of Newcastle in her lightful house.
The skybreak was doubled from the outside
To almost nothingness. We tried to give
This house memories, of the black cloud marks,
The radiant or damp heaven, its untethered thereless.
The unbidden thought is from the dead,
From their newly minted boundaries
When I may shape the dark to a distant
Dearness in the hill of my childhood.
Fallen leaves interleave, leaving these closures
Ajar. The unshared beauty of the door
Between your shoulders is like the skin of caves,
The return that drags us away.
As different as movement and daydream,
Rain bathing the roses,bees undercover,
The metropolis is obsolete, ask the army,
Ask the computer in a plague of echoes.
It is a world without lines for later-born
Theresas, over the fields of the sea,
In the days of sometime. The past returns
Unbeckoned, smooth quick sliding after week.
The planet rolls eager into winter,
Taunting summer for its lateness,
Waking the angels beyond time fallen
On the time floor, spring after spring.
The maternal angel felt herself
Covered by a fine veil of steel
And nine chains to the moon
Holding busloads of angel luggage.
The gestures which you said you didn’t
Have are a costly something or nothing,
Still another thing filled with the intent
To be lost, like the verb ‘to north’.
The sky and its soul of rare
And commonplace flowers has even now
That care. She feels she has become
Illegible, letting a question furrow deeper:
What is a friend in the feminine
And who in the feminine is her friend?
I put my story on hold, life neverbeing
As it is, it has to be here
For the pearl to take shape, the black
Angel that means in her its first white
Flight. The crossed lips of the becoming
Angel bring an unsolicited vision
Of all actual angels, of the many
Angels produced in outright dreams,
God’s secret agents, immune to the night,
The yellowish sixwinged angel
Or the park and the two-headed angel
With its immense collar of clouds
Hinged to an autumn season.
Medbh McGuckian was born in Belfast where she continues to live. Has taught creative writing in Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University, recently retired. Latest collection Blaris Moor from Gallery Press Co Meath. A new selected volume was published by Wake Forest Press, North Carolina.