Issue 19: Daragh Breen

“on reading that Paula Rego suffered horrifically from depression”

I was surprised at how saddened I felt

on reading that Paula Rego suffered horrifically

from depression,

literally crawling away from her own self

on that couch,

and thought about how

the mirror of her own hauntings

had been hung with black Victorian fabric,

and the too-loud fabric of her own winding-sheet

so frightening

like the crinkling of night’s dowager hump,

its deformed egg of pre-light

fabricated in the tin pot

of a Billy-in-the-Bowl.

The same tin pot that so many

of her women, condemned to bleed

and endlessly breed, squatted over

with their melon swollen thighs,

so many spilled rabbit parts

slinking into the hickory dickory

dock, as all the mice scurried

up around her neck,

which at the end of the interview

she began to squeeze and squeak,

her child’s face suddenly revealed again

above a necklace of mice

that her granddaughter

had made for her.

Do Not Despair/Do Not Presume

“Do not despair, one of the thieves was an astronaut.”

When Armstrong secreted some fragments

of the one true Cross in the pristine soil of

the moon, little did he know that 33 years

later, 3 enormous Crosses would have risen

to stand like ships’ masts on its curve, and

as if fly-fishing, ever so slowly, casting the

line of their shadow, day-in and day-out, as

light navigates about them in a tidal dry flood.

“Do not presume, one of the thieves was a heron.”

When they unpinned the large cloths of its wings

the halo of its own neck continued to hold it

aloft on its miniature Cross, the ruffle of pride

for which it had been condemned when Milton

shuffled his cards and let them all fall, a wealth

of wings and shadows like a dark snow, their

back-draught raising a chill that extinguishes the

candle and hunches him further with his scarves.

The Bearing of the Dead Across on the Dursey Island Cablecar

O’Sullivan Beare, Captain of His Nation, Chief Irish of Ireland, Lord of Bere, of Horse Island, Hog Island, Fort of the Pigs, Pig Moor, of the herds of herring ploughing through those waters as the ocean’s temperature rose, their tide dragging with them the spires of Spanish fishing fleets.

A Lordship defined by the ghost-wards that the fish inhabited, bordering the rock that was frozen beneath the moss, beneath the peat, and the rivers that leak silver and copper through his land. Ghost-wards dense with cod, haddock, salmon and mackerel all through summer. Herring and pilchard in autumn. Monkfish and plaice all year round. Beds of oysters. Nets spilling cacophonies of lobster, crabs, muscles and cockles.

Ó Súilleabháin, Osulevan, Osoleuan, O’Sullyvan, O’Swylyvan, O’Sulevan, Sullivans, Swylavan, Swylyvanm, sylvian in that remote and barbarous country that the Crown wanted for its coastal trade, burning the corn of Bantry and Beara. Called to the Tower of London in 1589, and 1592, and again in 1593 to resolve dispute after dispute, as they continued to survey the region for clearance.


And in the mist-muttering distance, the incomprehensible dry hark of calling to hunt the West Carbery Foxhounds from across the snow-smothered Estate of Somerville, where a congress of foxes hides beneath the pews of a church as the last shards of winter-light, that Harry Clarke has made literate, spells out their moods across the stone-flagged floor.

            “… and Violet has taken to dressing like the gardener in an old trench coat, her hair wild and unkempt and frizzing in the constant drizzle. She had dismantled the hoarse car-horn from the Daimler, I found it secreted in her coat’s bottomless pockets, those tattered pockets that leak constellations that give a mid-day sheen to the whole white, bright, pelt of the snow…”


January comes wearing wolf masks, the trees are garbed in armour and bleed fruits of crow, the shattered sleet breaks through the air and is trampled beneath into frost, the exhausting mush and slush of dragging wrapped ankles and shins that freeze in those rags of frost-flaked shivering silver. They killed twelve of their own horses, making currachs from their hides, packing their prepared flesh for meat.

North through O’Kelly Country, sleet mapped the already dead all the way back to Glengarrifffe; the snow so deep, as heavy as dead horses, its weight everywhere, dragging on everything. Sleet so vivid and cold, like the exposed workings of night. The cold shoals of stars crowding the night. Their fires shattering the blackness of the forests. The snow falling to the rhythm of slow bells, the moon’s light echoing on its surface where it lies.


            “…poor Violet has caught a severe chill, she just can’t seem to warm up. I found her on the grounds, chasing shadows across the snow in her night-things. She says that she saw a procession of about a thousand bedraggled souls marching beneath the moon, she wanted to help them. She can only stomach porridge, and even that she has a problem trying to keep down. She just can’t seem to get warm…”

As the Daimler that Edith can no longer afford to pay petrol for sits delicate as a moth beneath frost on the snow outside Somerville House, inside, the gramophone plays a sad gin-soaked New Year’s Eve song for poor Violet, and all the lights in the House have been switched off in a final bid to economise.


With a Spanish Church bell ringing of white pointed hoods and meshed veils of black roses, his death echoed as he was stabbed, and the winter of 1601/2 once more flowed from his side, along with the trampled footprints of the 965 who had carried his blood and the glass altar of his Title through the Irish frost and snow and the medieval dying light.

And poor Edith, out on the lawn, lost in the Centuries-old fog, still looking for Violet, and Violet exiled on the moon, unloading the ships, their hulls full of snow and ice.

Daragh Breen’s most recent collection is What the Wolf Heard (Shearsman Books, 2016). His poetry has appeared extensively in Irish literary journals, including The Stinging Fly and Poetry Ireland, and he was also included in Poetry Ireland’s 2015 anthology Everything to Play For: 99 Poems About Sport, edited by John McAuliffe. At one time a herder of ghost-wolves on the Beara Peninsula, he is now responsible for the lighting of their commemorative seasonal bonfires in the wake of their second passing. These are sometimes visible on Google Earth.