Issue 18: Medbh McGuckian



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The metropolis  is obsolete, ask the army,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.