Sarah Murphy, Coming Home


We discussed the Anthropocene era,
Over a Thursday evening glass of wine
In an upstairs bookshop. Someone mentioned that
An iceberg I had never heard of had collapsed
The day before, never to refreeze:
Shock, horror and the clinking
Of rented glasses filled the room.

That morning I had been bombarded (voluntarily) by
Words and numbers of endangered species:
Cheetahs are at 7000 and falling.
My heart beat on as the beautiful poet with
White hair said: “It’s really an exciting time
To be alive, if, you know, you’re
Not exhausted by fear”.

I am the kind of drunk you get from exhaustion and the
Terrorism of this fear that follows me through the day.
Fear that my girls will never know trees,
Wild fields and laughing until they cry.
Wanting something more for them than
This grotesque reality: these layers of plastic
We are leaving behind.

When did the Anthropocene begin? 1880? 1930? 1970?
The academics haven’t decided yet. It doesn’t
Matter of course: it was all over by the
Time we got here. And yet despite our
Sedatives, our analgesia, anaesthetics,
Our delicious distracted denial, this
Ancient survival instinct will not go to sleep.

Can I Write About This Too?

Can I write about this too?
About this one’s babyness? About that one’s
Toddlerness? About this time? This mess?
About scraping food from high chairs, four,
Five times today? Changing nappies of writhing
Sometimes giggling, sometimes screaming babes.
Putting small socks and shoes on uncooperative
Miniature feet, taking them off again and again?

Days blurring. Crying for an old life, trapped
One moment. Then overcome with joy the next:
The fullness of this love overwhelming. Craving
Their luscious cheeks. Their sweet clammy hands
In mine during stories, and second, third stories,
Knowing that these little people are my
Best work. And dreaming too –
Guiltily – of other work, of (occasional) escape.

The older woman saw all of this
In my face, tired, having chased them
Around the supermarket, returning their
Spoils to the shelves. Insisting I take her
Place in the queue for the check-out
She smiled: “There’s some rearing in
Children. Best time of my life though.”
(So she wants my place?)

Can I write about this too?
Or should I wait until things
Are less noisy? Less messy?
Until my notebook is my own again
And not a crumpled canvas for a
Four year old’s buttery drawings
Of mermaids – Until I too
Am my own again?

We learned at school that the fight
Had been won – the canon blown open
To include washing machines and housing
Estate greens, bottles of milk and ironing skirts.
The old legends prised apart and recast by
Wise women to include suburban characters,
Domestic heroines, ordinary daily loves and
Mundane (earthly) devotions (are there any other kind?)
So that we too could step inside the power of these
Stories, wear their symbolism on our
Sleeves, from wherever we stood,
However tired, however messy that place.

And though I am grateful, still
These details of today do not fit
So easily, so proudly, it seems,
Between these lines. So I will
Keep drawing and re-drawing them
With salvaged broken crayons
In the hopes that yes:
I can write about this too.

To You at Four

I want to remember everything
About you at four: your soft
Nut-brown hair falling over
Your eyes as you do your work
At the kitchen table.

The clarity in these blue-blue eyes
As you give yourself over to
Your pure task, of expressing yourself
With scissors and glitter; glue and paint:
Writing who you already are, who you
Have always been, so sure and
Confident. It astounds me.

While you ask your questions –
“Can I ask you something, Mama?” –
You are wise, so quietly and
Completely yourself that I feel
Less your guide than your student
And wonder at this role reversal
That has landed in my lap.

And like the glitter that I find
On my hair and clothes when you
Have gone to bed, some of this clarity
Has rubbed off on me, like magic dust,
And I have you, my love – at four – to thank.

Coming Home

Coming home. Tired. Sand between
Our toes after afternoon paddling.
Your Dad drove too far around the
Roundabout just to show you the
Rainbow behind us – I love him for
That – aflame in technicolour, neon striping
Through the greyness, while you both
Make spitting noises to each other
And laugh in the gold light.

Sarah Murphy is a writer and poet originally from Dublin, who lives and works in Sligo. Sarah won third prize in the 2018 Roscommon County Library Poetry Competition (with ‘Anthropocene’). She has been published twice in The Cormorant and its recent book version in 2021 while she was commended in the 2021 Five Words International Poetry Competition for poetry specifically addressing the pandemic/ lockdown and was published in Five Words Vol XIV 2021. Sarah was also longlisted for the 2019 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year with ‘Can I Write About This Too?’ She is interested in voicing experiences of modern motherhood as well as the interaction between humans and the natural world.

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