Clare McCotter, Miss Remembering

Miss Remembering

Miss remembering the big square radio
at the front of the classroom
can see their faces
staring like a nest of scaldies
when the sound fades out.
Standing in the middle of crackling static
she twiddles the nob
little to the left
little to the right
finally finding that winding road
where a traveller
pulls his gabardine close.
The wind’s long silvery sough turned howl.

Pointing towards a shiny contraption
the woman in the blue uniform says
hold on here, now pull yourself up.
Then after a moment
forward not back, lean forward
lean forward, now pull yourself up.
Then after a moment
forward not back, lean forward
lean forward, now pull yourself up.
Then after a moment
why are you doing that,
why are you pulling against me,
are you trying to injure my back?
Sighing a long hoarse sigh the woman leaves.

Then a round, bright face floats in
through the dayroom door
and two hands,
reaching towards hers, say
you dancing.
Without a thought
Miss slowly stands, the old thin sun
taking the floor in the young sun’s arms.

Her Shadow

Fifty six beds under the one roof and to think
they call this a home.
Perched on the edge
of a wingback chair
she is alone in her room, head tilted forward
a thread of saliva pendant from her lip.

Desperate to find her –
they have tried to lure her out
with news of births, deaths
marriages and snow
but she has retreated further in
moving away from that voice telling it’s time

to rise, eat, void, sleep, join in:
Armchair Keep Fit
Movie Morning with Fred and Ginger
The News in Franklin Gothic
Music-one-size-fits-all-Therapy
(three tenors on a loop, a maraca well shook).

Six months later the trying stops
the dementia they say is moving at a pace.
Putting her three bed semi on the market
her son clocks her things
first time in years:
the Parker Knolls, the candlewick bedspreads

the spider plant in a wicker basket
her collection of Motown Classics.
Next visiting time
with white strings dangling
from her ears
she inches her rollator through a crowd

of shadows. Lengthening bit by bit
as the bass line slips in –
snare and tambourine
silvering soles
till his voice flares through it all: Ooh,
I bet you’re wondering how I knew

‘bout your plans to make me blue
with some guy you knew before …
haloed in a dark bouffant
a young woman
wearing Capri pants and pumps pushes a pram
along the wall.

Waltzing Margaret

Once a week in the magnolia room
past all the wounded memories
broken down nurses
the piano player singing
of prison ships and free birds flying
is not enough to distract
her sixty-year-old fingers
from a bundle carried everywhere.

That trademark of travel
enfolding an unwrapped clove rock
stuck to a striped cotton top,
a torn telephone directory,
underwear from various lockers,
the poesy of bone china roses
bought for her hall table
flowering now in a Wonderbra.

Worldly possessions wrapped up
in knotted incontinence sheets.
Held tight as her watch resumes
beside two panes of plate glass.
Etched eyebrows
straining in a grimace of hope –
impenetrable vigil
at a door no jailor will ever unbolt.

It Is Not Your Chair

He steers across bright buffered
floors through two dayroom
doors into the long corridor
u-turning at an exit guarded
by codes and a fire extinguisher
set on a metal hook
where a woman waits
with wild cat’s cradle eyes
as the swathe of silver widens
in her chemically auburned hair.

It is not your chair manoeuvred
tonight in a yelp of fluorescent
light while a man screams
I should be at work and
another is as he scratch coats
a wall with a broken comb
beside the cream screens
shrouding specialised seating
and the wide yellow sign
reading Nurse’s Station.

It is not your chair he guides
rather a Déesse in dove grey
every dovetailing part
making it a cathedral car
or some high-crested creature
come from the sky
with hydraulic suspension
and variable ground clearance
and under each glass cowl
a pair of scowling moth ocelli.

Nurse, it is not your chair
that leaves Cill Chiaráin
Straith Salach and Rinn Mhaoile
behind while a girl
in the back counting horses
spots the rarest of all out here
a deep-chested cremello
turning its head towards
the purple hills as he drives
into the west on into the west.

Clare McCotter’s haiku, tanka, and haibun have been published in many parts of the world. She won The British Haiku Award 2017, The British Tanka Award 2013, and The HIS Dóchas Ireland Haiku Award 2011 and 2010. Her work has been included in the prestigious Norton anthology – Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years. Her longer poems have appeared in over thirty journals, including Abridged, Crannóg, Cyphers, Envoi, The Honest Ulsterman, Iota, The Interpreter’s House and The Stinging Fly.

Awarded a Ph.D from the University of Ulster, Clare has also published numerous peer-reviewed articles on Belfast born Beatrice Grimshaw’s travel writing and fiction. Clare was one of three writers featured in Measuring New Writers 1 (Dedalus Press). Black Horse Running, her first collection of haiku, tanka, and haibun, was published in 2012 (Alba Publishing). Revenant, her first collection of longer poems, was published in 2019 by Salmon Poetry. The poems in this issue are taken from Deer Medicine, her forthcoming collection focusing on memory loss and dementia that will be published by Salmon Poetry in 2022. Clare has worked as a lecturer, a teacher of English, a psychiatric nurse, and a full-time carer. Home is Kilrea, County Derry.

Read more of Clare here.

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