Medbh McGuckian

Ireland's gift to this world, the poet Medbh McGuckian, lives in Belfast and is the author of a number of distinguished collections.


A halt of her husband ahead,
Useless legs, one so oddly protruding.
Why was she on her knees, crouching
Instead of lying flat on her stomach?

With a slight drag of one foot,
Woman, what have I to do with thee?
That a person should have to lock themselves
Into their clothes in a trusting mood after sex.

Her gratitude to God whom she did not
Believe in, like a T-shirt with no message on it.
Her eyebrows now very scanty,
The cheapest box, into the ground immediately.

One longs to go to a hospital and have something
Cut out, the whole church is lined with heartbeats,
It isn’t cathedral enough. We seem to be
Driving through the landscape of a missal

Or a when-valley-was-in-flower book.
Lawns as brown as doormats, burning
And being burnt, other semi-tender
Shrubs, perfume of hemlock woods.

Rooms and their reasons, in an honest
House, as sad a room as the shut-up best
Parlour. The lamps have found
A clever way of coming together,

Peach-bloom porcelain, directly in front
Of you, the heart-shaped hooks,
The willow armchair, mother-of-pearl
Buttons for the servants’ bells.


It is snowing gossamer
On all the cavities created through death.

There have been forty days
Of true pardon
Since the pre-beginning and the post-end.

The dark dove,
The dark light,
The after sight.

The copper river was dreaming
Of crystal ships
And a hand shadowed with solar roses

Who tasted poison every day
From tulips and chimneys
And thus managed to last.

Perhaps put two summers together
Like a mender of nets
Linking silver charms on a silver loop

Only after he has ritually washed the rope.
Between his inner and outer skin

THE UNANXIOUS ONE (It seems she killed an officer point blank)

The unintended beauty of this map
Of bomb damage crosses lines
With the names of the winds. Brown
Mountains rise in chains and brackish lakes
Reveal the river’s past, its dark tints.

Cherubs look through a telescope
From outside the sky, through a layer
Of different coloured stars, or flown
Stars, bits of a star gone wrong, placing
Weapons there, the wreckage from retired satellites.

Master of sleep, she gave me her limp hand
and returned to the oiling of her automatic,
Her revolver, which she kissed affectionately,
Then a rude crucifix made of black metal
Till a lip of metal formed, beads on her forehead.

Leaflets of green paper with black edging
Remoulded the breast of the menstruating moon,
Dark even in India. Blind flowers scorched
The quaint psyche knot at the crown of her hair
At the price of cutting Ireland in two.

The lake’s moodswings and its tame listless saints
Put me in thinking of a field of kinland I once owned
And its seven different names, its heaping up of stones.
It was free draining and could be ploughed dry
Even after a deluge.

Poems copyright © Medbh McGuckian.