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Michael Herron "Piera"


Louise Hegarty "Theia Mania"

HIGHLY COMMENDED – in alphabetical order

Patricia Byrne "Coordinates"
Brian Carey "Ode to an Emerald Cockroach Wasp (Ampulex Compressa)"
Nuala Ni Chonchuir "Aubade for Extraordinary Life"
Maureen Gallagher "Them"
Denise Garvey "Plum Pie"
James Harpur "Slavic Gutturals"
Siobhan Harte "At Broomfield"
David Mohan "Hospital Visit"
Jessica Traynor "Border Romance"
Jean Tuomey "Morning in Carcassonne"


Michael Herron

Piera, by Michael Herron

Piera holds court on a red, plastic chair
outside Bar Emilio,whiskeying the days along.
Her handbag a trove of his letters
and their marriage photographs,
dressed only in black, she mourns a man still living.
And her old beauty still there,
sallow skin disguising alcohol’s ravages.
Sunblonded ponytail,
exquisite hands and a knowing smile,
she rides the memory trapeze,
thinking only of Mauro and their ten years.
In her apartment on Via Bertola
shopwindow mannequins take his place
in the bedroom, kitchen and livingroom,
each dressed in his discarded clothes.
Each night she cooks him pesto
pours a glass of his favoured vino patria,
reads his letters in the waiting.
Brushes out her hair, for he likes it that way,
drifts away with Gigli and Jack Daniels,
waltzing the weddingsuited model.
Her widowed sister and Mauro
seldom remember.

© Michael Herron


Louise Hegarty

Theia Mania, by Louise Hegarty

I want to smooth you out
like a sweet wrapper. Your outer shell,
all glassy blueness and peacock colours. Your
blanched underbelly obscured
by blossoming colours. I bear down on
your valleys and hills,
gently softening your creases,
unfurrowing your folds, unfurling your edges.

© Louise Hegarty

HIGHLY COMMENDED – in alphabetical order

Coordinates, by Patricia Byrne

My son stands swaddled in sunflowers on a field in France,
wrapped around by a light halo in a glass-framed photo.

Through the window, a flash of pigeon-white
on sticky chestnut buds; an upstairs door opens.

I phone the clinic, ask for childhood records of mumps,
measles and rubella – needed for his leaving.

On his PC screen a dark Google map-line crosses America;
a red-haired girl looks out from Facebook. She lost

her mother when she was ten, he tells me. She
likes to collect old maps.
I face the space

beyond today, like turning my back
on the sun of a summer’s evening.

© Patricia Byrne

Ode to an Emerald Cockroach Wasp (Ampulex Compressa), by Brian Carey

So there I was, minding my own business,
When she sidles up to me, cool as you like,
All long legs and dark eyes,
And skin the colour of motor oil on wet tarmac.

“Do you come here often?” says I
She didn’t say anything, just leaned in,
With her long neck and dark eyes,
And injected her venom into my thoracic ganglion.

Well I won’t lie; two of my knees went weak,
“Do you always have this effect on guys?” I asked.
She just leaned in even closer,
With her long tongue and dark eyes,
And slipped a cocktail of dopamine and protein toxins into my brain.

© Brian Carey

Aubade for Extraordinary Life, by Nuala Ni Chonchuir

In the afterglow, I watch your bear-like doze,
snout tucked under one tattooed arm.

The dawn starts its chorus, needing a witness, so
I part the curtains and see a crow toss its wings

into a hero’s cloak before skydiving from phone-wires;
a cloud hangs like a balloon on a contrail string.

You father and mother me, sister and brother me,
though our heat and fervour don’t talk of that,

no, it’s not our nights that say all about us,
but our days and our nights, the hours dwindled

in the ordinary sharing and partings of life:
a dinner made together, lunches packed in schoolbags,

bedtime stories read, the call of each Monday morning
that sees you bound for the train, me to my desk.

All around it our love hovers, rich and sure as honey
lifted from the bee-furred heart of a sunflower.

© Nuala Ni Chonchuir

Them, by Maureen Gallagher

Untouchable the child whose hair is a mess,
whose teacher objects to an infant who smells,
a young fella who wants to be a cadet
or a steward or a pilot. But they’ll never let
a traveler like you take to the sky,
know that you’re nothin’, it takes learnin’ to fly
and know it’s your lot to be grounded in scrap,
so eat up your bun and less of that chat.

Untouchable the youth with the golden mane
who marries a buffer though the crowd cry Shame!
who’d like a job in the local town
but knackers can’t work, it’s written in stone.
Then opens a window when even Macdonalds
come looking for labour to clean, a knacker
will have to do, though he won’t last long,
for it’s known that to travel a knacker is born.

Untouchable the man with receding pate
thrown onto a fill at the edge of the state,
to a scrub of land with no bus to the city
where stink is a constant, where hope is a ditty.
Who closes all windows to the outside world;
blots out with booze. In the land of nod
he’s an outsider. Will never amount to much.
‘But is he Irish?’ Oh, yes. Just not one of us.

© Maureen Gallagher

Plum Pie, by Denise Garvey

In the beginning it was apples.
Apples for everyone
armloads of rosen cheeked

Then oranges and kiwis
and iron green
spinach from Eden,
and leaving,
a peck on the cheek.

A week later
a peck to greet
and beautiful florets of
broccoli and cauliflower
hiding grapes and

Arriving less expected
another night,
eyes holding sight, check
a face raised, a face lowered
then a sally forward
into the kitchen with
blueberries and raspberries.

And nothing much said
just a wonder
a cookbook dusted down
a special plum pie
a bath, a new sweater
and matching necklace.
At the front door
a whiff of spice,
a face raised
a face lowered
an arm at my back.

© Denise Garvey

Slavic Gutturals, by James Harpur

A day the colour of old chewing gum.
Rain blurs the office-block-reflecting Shannon
and drives me to the welcome of the church.
Medieval vistas through the arches

and depth of quietude, dim light, damp plaster
give me an incense of nostalgia;
freaks from misericords – a wyvern,
manticore, griffin, are like long-lost friends.

But at the north wall there’s the wide dark slit.
I picture fingers poking in like shoots,
bodiless, quivering white gastropods
converging into cups to take God’s body;

or were they feminine, brown and smooth
belying a face kept well inside a hood
a pocked moon in permanent eclipse
amid a firmament of alien stars.

For how long did each celebrant recall
in dreams the hands alerted by the bell
thrusting again, again? And did he place
or delicately drop the stainless host?

For how long did the visitants retain
the hope that bread transformed to Christ would shine
inside their flesh, and heal, before hope died
expelling them untouched to death in life?

Outside, the sun is beating off the rain.
Map raised, I guide myself from Englishtown
to Irishtown and cross the road to avoid
a bunch of large, shorn-haired tracksuited lads;

a tea-time drunk, his face as red as tongue,
sways in to slur at me then stumbles on.
I find a cafe where everyone’s too chic
and young, take studied refuge in my book.

I skim the usual suspects – Vikings, Normans,
Cromwell, and Jacobites and Protestants,
the sieges, Sarsfield and the treaty ... broken:
what’s history but a roll-call of exclusion?

At last the bill from an over-smiling girl
anxious perhaps to mask her slavic gutturals;
I pay, drop in a tip, and enter skies
so clean they snatch the crow’s feet from my eyes.

© James Harpur

At Broomfield, by Siobhan Harte

There was a moan
From a cow
Off by the crook

The waft of fruit
In the air
Of her last breath

We watched as she drifted
Like blossom
To the ground

Then hissed
Like old geese
Across the cobbled yard

To cool
Our hot faces against
The thick dairy wall

To squat
Under the stairs
With a soft biscuit

Then gather together
And lift her
From the shade

Of the chestnut
Along the lane
Down into Moone.

© Siobhan Harte

Hospital Visit, by David Mohan

I am the receptionist.
Waiting hours are uncertain - I really
Can’t say. I stamp letters, answer
Phones – it’s really none of my business.
If it’s serious join the queue.
If it’s an emergency fill out this form.
At the very least we’ll keep a record.

I am the nurse.
And expert at nodding – I get the flack,
But can direct it back. I know this
Hurts, but it’s necessary. I can offer
Stitches like a mother’s kisses. At best
I quell the endless hours between
Those fabled doctor visits.

I am the doctor.
And have a mystic, airy presence.
Glamorous on wards I troop by
In expensive suits, looking ill-at-ease.
Like royalty meting reluctant charity
I smile briefly and pretend to listen
While I hurriedly fill out the prescription.

I am the patient.
I sit in waiting rooms,
Or propped up in available beds.
I listen to the assessment,
The prognosis and diagnosis,
And swallow what I’m given,
Without one word.

© David Mohan

Border Romance, by Jessica Traynor

In the hill
do you see
a dead soldier,

rapier clutched
to his chest,

a rain-carved

Or is it
a sleeping giant
by the lake

ready to
rise from
the mud

and drink
the lake

In border
the hill

is both:
a soldier,

like all

and a giant,
of death.

© Jessica Traynor

Morning in Carcassonne, by Jean Tuomey

Shutters wide open.
The telephone wires
taut across the cloudless sky.
Treble clef.

Not a bird on the page
nor a Ryanair trail of smoke
nor even the tiniest dot of white.
The unmarked sheet waits

for you or me to find
the right notes
to compose
our song for the day.

© Jean Tuomey