10:3: “Year of Miracles”, by Liz Bourke...

  The year I began
  to believe in miracles
  snow fell in summer
  stung hail from roofs
  to lie uneven
  on the pebbles

and from the gorse-laden hill
(I saw) angels upon a ladder
going up and down into heaven.

The year I began
to believe in miracles
midwinter sun melted
ice, and wind sliced
the mirror-sheeted
royal canal

and from the white-stained station
(I saw) the midnight train
fleeting down the track to hell.

The breath of ghosts and the mists
of Odin’s eye, Hades’ shades
and the pomegranate-taste that twists
the tongue: all these I remember,
and the dead languages of Virgil’s voice,
poets’ choices cleaving the unfinished ages
to ring in my ear, and sing of
Norse Decembers, or the rage of Rome.

All these I remember,
and the bright gleam
of spring in your eyes
the seam of a new age
splitting the old year open,
smiling to the sight.

Only let me not forget
the death of one year more;
the tears of Persephone
and all that came before.


Liz Bourke was born in Dublin, Ireland, where she still resides. She is presently reading for a postgraduate degree in Classics at Trinity College Dublin.

She says:

I started writing this poem in December 2010. It’s dark in December at these latitudes, and at that time, Dublin was freezing its bloody cobbles off under a layer of snow. (We almost never get snow in Dublin, much less weather so cold that the snow sticks for whole weeks at a time.) One evening, as I was riding the train home from college, I noticed that the Royal Canal had frozen over. Everything – the poem entire – proceeded from that image of midwinter sun reflecting from the ice, and the contrast between that and my memory of one childhood June, when hailstones hammered me on my way home from school and landed like snow on warm gravel.

The mythological references just… fit. Past, present, future; life and death, cold and warmth; all turning on the cusp of the year. I don’t understand poems. I just write ‘em.

9:4: “Pinion”, by Liz Bourke...

   Born of dust, we become
   our beginnings: the sweep
   of a feathered wing falling,
   of the deepness in the iris
   of your closing eyes
   like dying love, and breath;
   born of dust, and dreaming.

Born of the thorn in your side
of pain’s prick and mortal blood
and the old red sore you never could
forget: dust under our skins,
earth beneath our hides,
death waiting within us, on the inside.

A dream drawn from hope and lies.
Your wings spread wide,
mantling the brightness in your eyes,
risen beyond our sight.

We the earth shall claim, here in the dust,
as it always has, as it must:
we dream of living forever,
following the falling wing,
swallowed by the sky


9:1: “Autocannibalism: Not a Love Poem”, by Liz Bourke...

19-07-07

You were a voyager
in interstellar darkness
the first time we met;
dark matter in your eyes,
light of distant galaxies
made flesh in the hard metal
of your carapace –
your hair a comet-trail
vanishing beyond the moon.

Our joined hands engendered
starless supernovas.

I was still young then
and caught like a fish on a harpoon
I would have followed you,
but you left too soon.

The tragedy is
we eat
bits of ourselves:
memories, dreams.
Limbs.

The second time,
there was less
of me –
and I couldn’t love you.

At least
not for free.


Liz Bourke was born in Dublin, Ireland, where she still resides. When not suffering from attacks of poetry and prose, she studies ancient history at Trinity College. She says:

I wrote “Autocannibalism: Not a Love Poem” shortly after discovering the word ‘autocannibalism’ for the first time. Eating oneself is a powerful idea (not to mention a useful metaphor), and after I knew the title, the rest of the poem just fell into place.

7:3: “Manannan”, by Liz Bourke...

Starward-sailing god
of things underneath
the seas your heavens
son of Lear, were you not
swan-winged once?

No, that was another Lear
a different king
child-lost and grieving.
I misremember. The myths keep changing
and the years, turning
was there once a greening man
or was he burning? Had I forgot?
Or was it a dream,
Niamh tossing her golden hair,
fair Fionn by the salmon-stream? Ulster’s hound and Macha’s mare
found no fairer wake
among the moss
the myth was memory
and mine is lost. Charioteer, white-maned
and wave-riding
your steeds remain.


 

Liz Bourke was born in Dublin, Ireland, where she still resides. When not suffering from attacks of poetry and prose, she studies ancient history at Trinity College. “Manannan” will be her second published poem.

“Manannan” was inspired by the conjunction of too little sleep and too much thinking about Irish myths and how they grow, change and die.

6:4: “He always knew he’d drown”, by Liz Bourke...

You came unknowing
when the rising tide
ground slow among the stones.

Moonlight tangled in your hair;
in my bones.
We clasped hands and, gasping,
together drowned in air.

You bleed and need
so much.
I never meant seduction.
Never meant this
murder with a touch.

The sea birthed me.
Now what I am,
you know—
and still you can’t let go.

This flesh, the sand, the stones;
the shore—
the prison of your bones.

No more.

The stones shelve,
falling cold, dark, steep.
I lead you down
paths of the ocean-deep
and you let me.

You always knew you’d drown.


Liz Bourke was born in Dublin, Ireland, where she still resides. When not suffering from attacks of poetry and prose, she studies ancient history at Trinity College.

“He always knew he’d drown” is the second of a pair poems I wrote after some not-entirely-idle musing on what it means to love and live with the sea, and what it might mean to have one’s feelings reciprocated by it.