In gaping mandibles
the hypnotic interplay
of hinge/ hole
the sharpened frill
around the brink
what will be left of us
is these spaces
paths worn in chalk
releasing Jurassic plankton
to a summer’s day
the dish of my pelvis
I’ve served to lovers
opened for my child –
these pre-historic jaws
& all that thrashes
in its teeth.
Ophelia in Ballybough
In the October afternoon I walk, baby in sling,
sun glinting on the copper of my filament.
I pace a slow circuit: Clonliffe Road,
Richmond Road, Fairview Park…
In sunlight I’m spectral,
Ophelia haunting an orbit.
Wild things reveal themselves.
A stalking heron. Treecreepers.
On the playing fields beside the Tolka,
a flock of Canada Geese.
In my living room I flex my haunches -
kinked a little closer to the feral,
the bones of my house shudder about me.
The night steals my pelt. Everything gets in.
The baby learns the corners of her body
by torturous increments.
I hold her like some marvellous fish,
terrified she might slip from my grasp,
drown in this strange new element.
On a golden day in October,
she sleeps against my chest;
I sing Lavender’s Blue to her
on the empty pitch on Richmond Road.
Crossing the Luke Kelly bridge,
I narrate snowy egrets
picking their way through tidal mud.
Two kingfishers burst from the bridge,
against the river’s flow.
I record these symbols,
this slippage in the order of things,
the brown trout swimming upstream.
I think of Ophelia in her madness,
speaking in tongues of the hedgerow:
fennel, columbine, pansy, rue…
The weather turns.
The public health nurse calls.
Storm Ophelia is coming.
The baby dozes in her bouncy chair.
We expect the train on the railway line
above our house to come
careening off its track.
But though the storm churns gulls
in its cauldron,
our high-walled yard is silent.
I wheel the pram through Fairview Park,
skirt the broken limbs of trees.
A fallen beech blocks my path,
the mysteries of its root-bole coughed up,
standing shocked against low clouds –
another Ophelia toppled. For some,
the very worst thing has happened.
Our filaments reknit in their own crooked way.
I wheel the baby home. The days darken
into winter, lose their odd electric gleam,
the moon skips back into her orbit.
Ballybough: from the Irish ‘An Baile Bocht’ (the poor town) is an area that lies between the North inner city of Dublin and the seafront. Storm Ophelia, the largest hurricane to hit Ireland in 50 years, made landfall on 16th October, 2017.
Jessica Traynor was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1984 and lives there still. She is a poet, dramaturg and creative writing teacher. Her debut collection, Liffey Swim (Dedalus Press, 2014), was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine Award. Her second collection, The Quick, was was an Irish Times poetry choice of 2019. Awards include the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary, the Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year, and the 2011 Listowel Poetry Prize. She is the 2020 Writer in Residence in Carlow, and Poet in Residence at the Yeats Society, Sligo. She’s the recipient of the 2020 Banagher Public Art Commission, and is an inaugural Creative Fellow of UCD.