Sinéad McClure, Lost hours


I’m not expecting angels
or cherubs clutching clouds in chubby fingers
or gates adorned with pearls
stolen from oysters
who need them more.
But I wouldn’t mind a forest
dark and deep to dwell in
with edible mushrooms
and acorn-hunting-squirrels,
red chasing grey.
Away from here
but somehow familiar.

There would be spruce
left to grow tall
and a giant oak centre
with willowed edges
grey, and sallied but not weeping.
I will sit beneath an ash
its branches making windows overhead
see the swallows dip in the sky,
the buzzards roar into summer,
catch the leaves that spill from autumn, in green arms.
Make a quilt for winter,
and wait.

The borders will be first
rushing ahead, heckles flat and soft
and then through a thicket of blackthorn
you will emerge, immune to its barbs,
strong, healthy and smiling.

We will erupt—
as bluebells
wave and bend
—spin until we fall.
Hit the forest floor,
two half moon shadows
curving together.


As a child, my father envied
those rich enough
to trap a bird in space
and only set it free
at noon, or six, or three.
He dreamed of cuckoo clocks
and a life of time
stretching, endlessly.

Later, he became an expert on how time moved;
breakfast, 9am, a walk by 10.30
dialysis—eleven to twelve—
dinner at one, a quiet read at three,
tea at five, Pavarotti at six, TV at nine.

But time became a trap.
He was the automaton bird
waiting behind its wooden door.
Nightmares so bad he would rouse himself from terror
as if an invisible cuckoo
plucked him from his warm nest
wake up chest against carpet.

My father lost time near the end.
Breakfast at 3am,
dressed for dialysis by 4am,
stick-in-hand-ready by the door.
Before my mother cooed him back to bed.
“It’s the female cuckoo who does the deed,”
his whisper shuffled ahead.

This year the clocks push forward.
The lost hour subsumes itself
as we all lose time.

Instead we listen
for the cuckoo call,
crisp on early April frosts
his brittle echo
high above the tree line.

Sinéad McClure is a writer, radio producer, and illustrator. Her poetry has been published on Poethead, Live Encounters ~ Poetry & Writing, Crossways Literary Journal, and The Ekphrastic Review. She was shortlisted in the Hanna Greally Literary Award for the SiarScéal Festival in October 2020. Sinéad is also a writer for children and to date, she has written 15 dramas for young people for the National Radio Children’s Service, RTÉJr Radio.

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