Rite Of Passage
I love to hurl my body into the ocean,
gliding over the pier. As if a God
had let me fall I am caught
then saved by that deep, pure well
of another life, the low hum of it around me,
seeping inside me like a sperm to an egg.
On the shore I can only see the swell
it, the tide that opens and swallows
like a great beak. I swim hard,
as if something is being conceived
and I am at the centre of it,
not yet breathing, but alive.
Sometimes I am afraid to open my eyes
to the salt, and the cadence like muscle
against my body as I pull myself forward.
I feel the ocean itself is flesh,
and the delicate psalm of the heart is
beating somewhere in the core,
as if all the earth were a cell
and I am the life in the elements,
breaking out to the surface
at the bottom, my fingers
clawing the base of a miracle,
the cutthroats spawning.
Night after night I turn off the light
having done all I could have done,
yet my sister reaches above our bodies
to turn it on again. Then she toddles over
to the window to draw the curtains,
the lambency of the full moon
exhaling on her small face;
God bless Mommy and God Bless Daddy,
she whispers as she gets into bed with me,
her sleepy weight nuzzling into the womb
I have prepared for her. I look down
and see her staring at the moon,
her white hands clasped tightly,
palm to palm, holding her prayer up
to the burnt out sky, as if all her blessings
were held in that chamber, and she’s delivering
their names to the care of some guardian;
God bless my family and all my friends
and my Nana in heaven
and my Granddad in heaven.
My God, I love this child, one knee
raised as if she is kneeling before
her listener, the steady throb
of prayer from her mouth, wrist,
palm, offering what she knows,
lying in utter abandon with the sheets
thrown off her, as if she is driving
away anything that might smother her,
her chest rising in righteousness, her hands
uplifted like one who hasn’t given enough.
Before I climb into the taxi I turn
to look one more time at my mother.
She looks much smaller, younger as she
leans in the doorway of our house,
one hand on her stomach, the other
waving me gently away. I had never
really thought much about her,
a soul that trembled above me, beside me,
ahead of me. Last night she helped me
pack away my clothes, like folding vestments
at the end of a Mass. I looked at her
whole body, trying to see life without her,
her tapered fingers, her father’s lips,
the old topography of her belly where
I once lay my entire small body,
egg-curled in her palms. Or the nights
I went to her when she wept, climbing
over her into the bed, without a word, \
and drew her into my chest. I stroked
her hair, the nape of her neck I soothed,
her cheek upon my heart.
She had taught me this, this love
of the womb, and I recited it to her,
reading every inch of my life like Braille.
I think of you, Mother, across a road,
leaning against a door frame, standing
in a meadow with your head tilted towards
the sun, throwing up your arms,
taking me into you, kissing my cheeks,
like blood pulsing to the heart, root to thorn
to flower. In the car I glimpse her
in the mirror, still waving, her fingers drawing
a fragile arc as if she were guiding me back.
I sit quietly, moving out to the edge
of the world - the edge I saw when I believed
the world to be flat, before my mother
taught me it was round.
Copyrights @ Leanne O'Sullivan
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I can never find a pen when you come,
snap me up on your lizard tongue and
wrap yourself around me as if I was a spool.
Vague as metaphors you tease
trawling your shadows as feathering clouds do,
shedding infant vowels in your vaporous image.
You will never be perfected, and while you are
half- born I will never sleep.
In pickling ink I preserve all your fruits;
Perhaps you are a prophecy, a
mouthing of the boundless, or some
God or other Minerva festering
like secrets in empty lines.
Years gone now, labouring to drain the
reddest blood from your throat,
and I am none the wiser.
Sliocha Nan Ron
(Children of the Seals)
When I remember my sixteenth year
I hear my Grandmother telling me of Selkies,
seals that took the form of women on land,
letting fall their smooth skin on the shore,
bathing and dancing in moonlight with their new bodies.
After she told me I went to the beach near our house,
I ran to it as if I would never let the dawn take
my smooth, child’s skin from me. On the driftwood
dead starfish lay like garlands of fruit, flowered,
and orphaned from the starless night.
Nothing was clear. The moon peeled the ocean back
and I saw a woman in a pane of water, a hip first, a breast.
What happened between the sand and the ocean
happened in darkness, slowly fingering the base aside,
each jewel disappearing easy as a breath.
The ocean was birthing this new creature to land,
it folded and gathered like a sheet as I entered the soft
pelt of the waves. The ocean had been sailed,
the horizon tender for my outstretched limbs,
my open mouth, my tapered legs moving into deepness.
I moved towards the large waves.
I moved to preserve this child in cold salt.
And as the starfish let go of the driftwood,
as the wind blew the springs back towards the mountain,
the sun began to rise, and the water washed over my head.
The image grew there,
just as a child would grow,
a private hope in that tunnel skin
of my mind. I saw I existed.
I saw two where there should
have only been one.
Divided, the image
climbed into my head
and that foetus flooded my
guilt, until nothing explained
my life better than these
clothes falling to the floor.
I was caught in her eye,
I called her the skinny saint.
I called her the beautiful bitch.
Then she took my real eyes
and tongue and made them hers.
I could barely name myself.
I wear black, because black
is what she wants to see -
a hole, a cover, a hatred that
goes in search of something hateful,
going in search of a mirror.
And I stare, and scorn,
and pinch, spitting through tears,
Woman, I know you not.
A Thing of Beauty
They see from the supermarket aisles,
from school hallways and kitchen windows
she is moving, all bone and teeth, hips winking,
ribs smiling, her eyes are curtains stirring
blindly in the dark, moving in circles.
Sweet emptiness, women glide towards
her as if on air, loving bone better than hunger.
How did you lose it? Your hands exquisite as Sapphire,
the heart drumming like a tap-dancer’s shoes –
you look so well! And thinner still, a daughter,
a sister, a scholar; she is not there.
There are words that rot here, beauty,
or some other venerable word lies on their tongues
like a cherub. Women in short dresses and suits
holding their books and babies, drop their loads to adore.
Many women sing; beauty as soft as downy hair,
beauty bright as bone, eyes dead as marbles.
Mouths are opening, saying nothing.
They are women, mothers, nuns,
bloated by their hungers, fattened by some guilt.
We become sculptors. Beauty is the shape of love.
A skeleton as prone to worship as a Goddess
is by many called beautiful, or worse,
a hunger that teaches power.
We look; she’s gone. Brutally perfect.
The blood crawls from her face. She collapses
and the whole world gathers around in decay.
She’s dying, beauty’s undoing. We say to her
yes, yes, you’re a beautiful corpse,
A Map of the World
I remember this woman who’d sit
for hours in the TV room, staring through
the window at the days and nights,
her winged arm hanging over the sill
as if she were in a car travelling
at a great speed. Once, after I was
forbidden to walk on the grass,
I sat beside her in a shaft of sunlight
as she told me how she had loved
the silk shawl of her garden back home,
walking barefoot there at night.
Then she took my hand in hers, the way
you would touch a flower, and slowly
traced each line of my life,
her fingers moving upwards like blood
from my vein, to the hollows of love
in my palm. I felt myself come alive
with her touch, as if some continents were
pulling together inside me, the core fluid
with tremendous magma. My hand,
a landscape of earth; I walked it,
caressed the map which felt
like birth, death, heaven on earth,
the heat of hell, the blue stems
like labyrinths under a valley of flesh.
I was the ocean orbiting the shore,
a drowned man kissing the land,
surrounded by that strange smell of air.
How to move, I was not sure, my feet
spread on the ground like roots.
I leaned forward to kiss this woman’s eye
and stood up, taking my first step towards
something that would survive me.
Copyrights @ Leanne O'Sullivan
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