The Suitcase of Bees
She brought it with her everywhere, its silver, dimpled surface effervescent with the whirr of wings within. In public she would spread her skirt’s thick folds to mute the angry drone, paint a smile across her face, hope no-one would notice.
Once inside her own four walls the vibrations grew so shrill she held her head and hummed. The ambulance crew was gentle as they led her owl-eyed through the gates, bees still rustling taffeta in her head.
The case was silent, a ruse in sly collusion with the doctor who swore she was an expert, knew all there was to know of stings and swarms, their stridency, how to outface the queen.
They built a wooden beehive, surrounded it with lemon balm, sweet basil, mint. And now, except for mild tinnitus, she is calm. [End Page 56]
after seeing Clonycavan Man and Old Croghan Man at the National Museum, Dublin
Your neck’s wrung round for one last look, one mean stare at your executioners, one they’d remember, a look to pierce their hearts the way they planned to pin you to the soggy depths, make sure you’d not be back to haunt them.
The summer was coming to an end, the crops were in, days shortening, your henna-ed hair fixed into place with best French resin, backcombed to a prehistoric Mohican in celebration. You were no ordinary rocker.
Tall as a Dinka, old at twenty-five, your strong arms swing in graceful dance. Now less than half a man, your long legs lost, your headless torso is all that’s left, a child’s bolero crumpled from the wash.
Intimate as an arm across my pillow at first light I study the pores of your umber skin, examine every last hair’s socket, follow the veins roped round your knuckles, wonder at the tailored nails, your unclenched hands. [End Page 57]
The Coping Stone
It’s not a weeping rock the faithful come to kneel at, or a stoup that never dries in the wall of a ruined church.
This slab is more enigma, a mystery dressed by hand who knows how long ago. It lies inert—a fallen cap-
or coping stone—too thick to lift or shift. But, like you, sometimes it happens: water wells, heaves up in lumps
from a source so deep memory cannot tell of it; tears swell through weighted lids, untold grief tips over. [End Page 58]
Heinrich Böll Cottage, Achill
The picture in the window does not move, except for a caravan of snails inching the horizon, except where the sea’s surface crawls. You can make out its curled lip, the slow snarl onto the beach.
Except for my eyes probing the bushes for robin, for wren. Otherwise, stillness.
It is a painting, I another, the two of us propped against the walls of a corridor, watching each other, contemplating the width of our universe. [End Page 59]
When you live on the edge of an ocean, you cannot pretend you did not see it coming.
The leaves are still, birds chatter, the sea is a sheet of steel. But out west
where last night the sun left a sky illumined like stained glass
dirt heaps up, someone else’s dustpan emptied on your doorstep
and a magpie rattling gunfire at first light. [End Page 60]
What if the world did shift on its axis, made bockety turns, sent hiccups through day after day?
The view from our window has already moved. The landscape has split, slipped like the hill above Leenane, or ice.
Ripped. Then silence. No sound returning of bird, or you calling. [End Page 61]
For three million euro —give or take— you can see the sun rise eighteen times a day. It’s true. I heard it on the radio. And where would that leave the moon?
With us, making our descent to Jo’burg, a lost eyelash, brittle and new, snagged on the pre-dawn’s lurid lightshow, orange, green and deepest blue.
Or waiting for us back...