Seanín Hughes, Opal and Brine

The Birds Are Silent

& then the lights go up to reveal
it all –
the beat of fist deep purple in every chest
a tremolo,
each knot of bone wet with blood,
bodies upon
bodies upon bodies sharing the same
wild shake,
a writhe of hot molecules. We know
the truth
now on this godless tilted spin around
the sun,
around ourselves in frenzied circles:
the end
is here, and all the birds
are silent.


I know only this: that he was a war hero, decorated
For serving time at sea. That his hair was slicked
Into tight yellow-white curls across his scalp, his neck
Noosed by a smart navy tie, Sunday best dressed
At all times. That he was fond
Of flashing silk stockings at children, one of them
My mother.
I know only that each room
In that house is a wide open casket, a home
To the ghosts of girls
Who knew too much.
There are infinite possible worlds
And in every one, he is the same.
Those waking ghosts
Call to me; a flare from tailbone edged in red,
Cherry-choked and ravenous for want
Of a warning.

Self Portrait as a Mermaid

The desire
is to have her skull scooped clean
and empty as a vase,
the swollen rivers of her veins
split open —
for her sea-cave mouth
to birth a coral skeleton
dressed in spider silk.
She’ll name it Neptune,
sprawl supine
across its ribs, home
among the cling of anemones,
the suck of silver flowers.
She’ll swallow pearls
and spit them out
as poetry, opal and brine.


The robin is in the bramble, its breast
a flare from beyond our reach.
Count your living, count your dead
among the grounds
of church and chapel, their steeples
in heavens-high standoff,
seeing all.

The Americana never looks open
for business, but will sour discreetly
the livers of those who toast their loss;
a rasp of magpie mourners filing
down the hill past a tattered tabloid

thumbed by the breeze
to reveal a shimmer
of pearl on gold, a slick sin
for angular boys on bikes
with adolescent appetites.

Seanín Hughes is an emerging poet from County Tyrone who will shortly commence her study of BA Hons English with Ulster University as a mature student.

Seanín was first published on Poethead in July 2017 and was selected for the Crescent Arts Centre’s Poetry Jukebox, launched in October 2017. She has work published or forthcoming both online and in print from various journals, including Banshee: A Literary Journal, The Stinging Fly, A New Ulster, Abridged and NI Community Arts Partnership’s Poetry In Motion anthology.

Seanín is a shortlistee for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing, 2018, and recipient of the Poetry Ireland Acess Bursary for Cúirt International Literature Festival, 2018.

To read more of Seanín, click here.

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