New Irish Writing: Poetry by Lucy Holme

Lucy is a poet and mother from Kent, living in Cork. Her poems by her have featured in ‘Southword’, ‘Poetry Bus’ and ‘The Waxed Lemon’. In 2021, she was a recipient of a Munster Literature Center Mentoring Fellowship with the poet Grace Wells and she is studying for an MA in creative writing at UCC. Her debut chapbook, ‘Temporary Stasis’, shortlisted for The Patrick Kavanagh Award, will be published by Broken Sleep Books in August. She is on Twitter @lucy_holme

I’ll Take My Time

As a child I loved a lichen-bitten name
—Sylvia Plath, ‘Three Women’

This containment is a narrow lane.
Birch tips arched to meet above us,
fresh wounds bleeding from the bark.
There is no right of way, no stand aside.
Those who enter are welcome to stay,
but may find it impossible to leave.

There was a childhood game we used
to play. On bright white winter afternoons,
before the dusk huffed in. domed stones
and vaulted obelisks, rain-beaten lithographs.
Nebulous shapes like a mouth of overcrowded
teeth seen through a blurry lens surround us

as we run unbridled through the wet, long grass.
Childish chants emitted from our tender throats
Midnight midnight, I hope I catch a ghost tonight.
We’d snag our downy legs on nettles and spurs,
hide in plain sight from the names etched with
calloused fingers on moss-caulked stone.

Once tagged, we’d ask of those who slept sound.
tell me, spirit, what’s it like six feet under?
What’s it like to fight an unknown enemy?
To climb a slick ladder with mud and guts,
to kill someone you don’t know on a field in France?
Did you pluck the poisoned dart from your side?

You’d wait for answers.
They never told.

I wait for sunlight. Look for holes in every clause.
A constant drip of malaise from a furred spout.
Insulted by the slap of a bill on the mat, fatigued
by the rumble of bin wheels in the black mass,
steady this precipice on which I keep my balance,
where I contemplate what might still save me.

There is a stippling of frost on the forest’s edge.
And now I know how much one degree of change
in the weather can affect the soul. As I go out
to walk amongst the living, I fold over neat cuffs.
Rub crimped wool between my roughened thumbs,
think of when I last spoke to spirits as friends.

How I wish the questions had been different, less
dramatic. Would they have answered?
Here is what I didn’t know I could ask them:

video of the day

What were their simple pleasures?
Did they, too, love the chink of light
that floods a morning room when all is silent
and sleep has subdued temperatures?
Did they too, stitch names into necks of jumpers,
cup tear-salty chins in careworn hands?

I am far from she who played in graveyards –
stacked tufted tiles from the churchyard roof,
mixed musicals with a skeleton leitmotif.
Brave child who streaked through disused houses
though the walls might collapse at any moment.
Climbed trees choked by vines and damp and lyme,

our fathers and father’s fathers all around, obituaries
carved with skill in century schoolbook or castine.
A call to arms across the years. How did I imagine
they so removed from me? My chisel cuts imaginary
stone. Their lives, end-stopped. Buried deep, deep down.
Sewn into frock coats and buttoned-up undershirts.

How high will I allow these blocks to rise?
Bricking me in. A box of my own design.

Piano practice

I want to play Moonlight Sonata again
but my fingers once supple are so stiff,
the bones grown stubborn since I was seven.

Set in routine adult ways, I am inflexible.
No youthful elasticity at my fingertips.

As I sink into the opening refrain,
a story devoid of lyrics, time forgotten.

I squint at sheet music. stretch across
the battered keys of this old un-tuned piano
which creates with good intentions.

My favorite piece — funeral, delicate
erupts through cracks in the varnish

and lays bare once more the child I was,
who kicked off school shoes on carpet,
squeezed the pedals and ushered in solitude.

I tried to perform Beethoven for you,
without a single piano grade to my name.

Hope you’d watch. Think me a child prodigy
with an ear as sharply tuned as yours.
But I could not play sight unseen

nor Pick Up A Tune As A Lightning Rod Conducts Bolts,
settle on a comfortable stool and sway —
transported to a regency hall

with polished ballroom floor
and heavy velvet drapes.

Now, I sit here in a twilight playroom
and immobilized by adult fears, strive
to make sense of staves and clefs.

Aware if not for these C sharp minor chords,
I would be amateur in all respects.

Still, I will learn anew to play fortissimo.
Strengthen myself, these wrists, with firm resolve.

Until the notes permeate the room, my heart
and this void created by the absence of you —
these lessons from the past are where I’ll start.

How to enter

New Irish Writing, edited by Ciaran Carty and appearing in the Irish Independent on the last Saturday of each month, it is open to writers who are Irish or resident in Ireland. Stories submitted should not exceed 2,000 words. Up to four poems may be submitted. There is no entry fee. Writers whose work is selected will receive €120 for fiction and €60 for poetry. You can email your entry, preferably as a Word document, to newirishwriting68@gmail.com. Please include your name, address and contact number, as well as a brief biographical paragraph. Only writers who have yet to publish their first book can be considered.

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