Clare McCotter, Ghost Children


Same time every morning
the great south sea pearl
sprouted in his hand
fingers on the other
scooping up its light
to anoint cheeks
neck chin upper lip
in a patterning
smooth and fluent as chrism.

Collected in octagonal glass
the side of his face
was a schooner’s sail
billowed with trade winds
as he cut slow
short downward swathes
skittering the blade
after each stroke
over cloudy standing water.

Watching with eyes narrowed
above a well-rubbed jaw
I puffed my face
like a spelled jazz trumpeter
mowing freckles
with the arm of a Cindy doll.
Ablutions practised
not made perfect today.
First day I had to shave my father.

No Direction Home

From Rashidiyeh camp an air-raid siren
scores southern Lebanon’s graffitied sky
as Fatima sits with her back
to her shack’s breeze block wall and recalls

snow white souls of mulberry moths
and the high silvery hum
of leaves on each and every olive tree
suckling young and old on finest green gold

grown in Galilee’s dusty grey ground
with figs and pomegranates and grape vines
entwined on solid two-storey gables
bought and paid for with Palestinian pounds

saved in the tin toffee box she prises open
to show a British Mandate certificate
of ownership for a house in Um Al-Farajh
and nineteen dunam of land

taken by soldiers with scars in their eyes
and arms full of ashes.
O daughter, how goodly their tents
now a new moon scythes a meadow of stars.

Ghost Children

Do not waste your time hanging spirit traps
bright cloths hold no charm

nor offerings of pomegranate
left at the well with a jug of swan feathers.

Those stern geisha faces
cannot be lured out with such trifles.

They will remain dappling rubble
till the bulldozers and daisy cutters return

then carrying jim jams and limbs
and kittens by the scruff

they will leave their bombed out buildings
near sands where shells screamed

and curling up instead among weed trees
roughly rock each other to sleep

telling stories old people told
of homes with arris vaults and domical squares

farms grazed by long-eared goats
of stony orange and lime and lemon groves

fleshy scarlet watermelons
of stars for planting of moons for harvesting.

Covering them over with armfuls of leaves
we slip away before dawn wades in

to rattle spindly rib cages.
Shaking cold from their bones they will rise

some trembling some teasing
the little cephalophore shuffling around

with a frozen horned moon frown.
Dragging themselves up with the city

Gaza’s ghosts will traipse again
down to the glittering sequestered sea

and silently watching know:
memory of a blue flax field shall be their coast.

The Servant Girl

Hunkered at the hearth
putting old headlines to the match

her breath fans a little flame,
releasing from bog fir

an aeon of boarded up sun.
Servant girl

arriving at their farmhouse door
his wife confirmed

she was plain enough to do.
The year she meant to stay

flowing into another and another
sluicing the speckles

from her voice;
the strength from her spine

her heart, her breast
but not from hair

reminding a postman once
of Rita Hayworth.

Going through that performance
in the mouth of seventy

she knew they thought
her half-caleeried

she heard the gibes about mutton
and lamb and the bathroom

commandeered for a holy hour.
Yet kindled snowy roots

monthly until she died, without thanks
or by your leave, dying with hair full of fire.

Clare McCotter’s haiku, tanka, and haibun have been published in many parts of the world. In 2010 and 2011, she won the IHS Dóchas Ireland Haiku Award. In 2013, she won The British Tanka Award.

Claire has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on Belfast-born Beatrice Grimshaw’s travel writing and fiction. Her longer poetry has appeared in various literary journals, including Abridged, The Moth Magazine, and The Stinging Fly.

Clare was one of three writers featured in Measuring: Dedalus New Writers 1. Black Horse Running, her first collection of haiku, tanka, and haibun, was published in 2012. Clare’s home is Kilrea, County Derry.

2 thoughts on “Clare McCotter, Ghost Children

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s