I hear the thrush every morning,
high on her branch, she hides in ash,
chirps between sycamore and yew. Night
waits quietly, a mother sings dreams,
her tufted belly plumage beating rhythm,
chants the dawn moment.
Morning moves its colour.
She cackles, tones intact,
sings to man and god.
Since you left, yesterday befell years.
Her dark bill leads your voice,
flute-like in phases, po po po.
She rises in spirit song, gurgling ee-o-lay.
Her voice drifts light between echoes,
upside down speckled heart,
black shaped arrows pointing
upwards, your fine thread, swift
fingers crochet, ivory, pink, white.
We rest in your minor keys, your melodic pause
between notes, pulsating heartbeat.
Mother, love is a birdsong.
My garden in winter sleep
is without birds.
A neighbour’s cat has scared
their search for berries, seeds,
that earthy diet of worms.
I wait for a morning song.
Except that is, those who
through the chimney cowl.
They build nests through
obstacles, drop twigs one
by one. ‘For God’s sake’, I say,
‘your home is halfway
down a fluepipe.’
I listen to the twitch
and crackle as the sticks
smoke out my kitchen.
The stealth of it, despite our
best efforts to keep them out.
Already smoked out once
I’m reluctant to sacrifice my heat.
Even so I can’t destroy
neither bird nor nest
for the sake of my hearth.
The Tuam Mother and Baby Home
(dedicated to Catherine Corless)
At once a sound of crying fills the air, the high wails,
And weeping of infant souls, little ones denied
Their share of sweet life, torn from the breast
On life’s very doorstep. A dark day bore them off
And sank them in untimely death. — Seamus Heaney, Aeneid
1961. St Mary’s. Mother. Baby. Home.
We called it The Grove,
where nature offered refuge.
I look with another eye at the photograph,
once cherished: white, purity, such innocence.
This nun tended me for ten days
when my mother was ill.
Does her smile appear hard?
The vow of silence left us mute,
all questions. Did she coerce? Tyrannize?
Or was her love overwhelmed by the poverty
So many daughters dumped in fear.
What I want to know is whether these hands
that once held me have blood on them.
I see a gimp of starched linen
beneath cornet, coif and veil,
that rigid bib. I think of the vows,
the blessings of Bons Secours.
After school, I nursed in that wing
where I and these babies were born.
Girls, there’s a shadow in this place,
I’d say, We have to let the light in!
each time the walls enclosed us.
The eerie feeling haunts.
I imagine dark rooms,
But then this lover of history,
Catherine Corless, uncovers
rumoured discards. At first unheard,
she persists –
reveals tiny bones, skeletal bundles
and scattered remains, packed
in a tank.
My womb is silent now.
Looking back, I shared a nursery
with these babies, their shamed mothers
segregated from the like of me.
What if my infant imaginary friends
in babbling conversations, ghosting
themselves into my life, were thrown
into septic reservoirs?
I look again at the picture.
Neither trust nor love is possible.
The arms that held children in God’s name
Once more I glance,
this time behind the nun’s habit,
to a dark door, obscure shadows on the walls.
The baby she holds seems to look away,
gazing out to the world,
her eyes facing the light.
I thought you were God
Your seduction a magnet
in need, love a pimple
needing care. I loved you anyway.
Your ears flapped like an elephant’s,
though much smaller, infantile, stuck-out,
heard what you wished. Still you
that mattered, nuzzled my heart,
your tongue cut, dripping lies I cared
to believe. Your bottom lip, fell
forward, afflicted, herpes and sores.
I understood – not your fault.
Your teeth clenched in rage,
insults, never intended,
that radio voice, cheesy,
unreal, a balm to my soul,
one I didn’t know. Either way
I loved you. Your eyes, cold,
took warmth from my longing,
stared into your gorge, avoided
my own. I admired
I think of your love,
your criticism, rejection, invective,
seduction and charm, the empty
abyss of belief. When you left,
God ceased to exist, grew young.
I became old, replaced, still hear
words, mingled with mine telling me
your truth is a lie.
Attracta Fahy’s professional background is nursing and social care. She works in private practice as an Integrative & Humanistic Psychotherapist and Supervisor. She lives in Galway and has three children.
Attracta completed her MA at Writing NUI Galway in 2017 and participates in Over The Edge poetry workshops. She has always loved reading poetry and recently began to enjoy writing her own. Her poems have been published in Banshee, The Blue Nib, The Lake, Burning House Press, North West Words, and The Galway Review.
Philemelos appeared in North West Words.