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Jane Clarke "Lighthouse Keeper"


Matthew Ryan Shelton "Nostos"

HIGHLY COMMENDED – in alphabetical order

Richard Begbie "Cape of wishes"
Jane Clarke "Gaza"
Jane Clarke "Resin"
Michael Farry "Townlands"
Lizann Gorman "Let us take the chair"
Richard Halperin "Croke Park"
Shirley McClure "Labels"
Winifred McNulty "Mahon"
Diane Myers "Beating the Bounds"
Mags Treanor "View From a Ditch"

HIGHLY COMMENDED, EMERGING – in alphabetical order

Andrew Jamison "Close Reading"
Andrew Jamison "Fatherland"
Andrew Jamison "Inviting Holden Caulfield to Belfast"
Ciaran O Rourke "In Memory of R. S. Thomas"
Ciaran O Rourke "The Botanic Gardens Revisited"


Jane Clarke

Lighthouse Keeper, by Jane Clarke

It‘s twenty years now since they unmanned the lantern,
left it unwatched and sent me away,
and still I dream of that broad beam of light
sweeping the white caps, combing the waves.

Some summer‘s day take the ferry to Clare Island,
see a black and white tower overlooking Clew Bay,
where I first heard my mother say the rosary for sailors,
watched her fry herring on the wood-burning stove.

Where myself and my father cleaned rain-battered windows,
polished brass instruments till they gleamed like stars,
peered through the telescope at kittiwakes and guillemots,
searched for the Seven Sisters in dark, winter skies.

These landlocked days I‘m washed up like wreckage,
remembering gannets diving for mackerel,
grey seals sleeping on rocks pummelled smooth,
echoes of footsteps on spiral stone stairs.

And all I could wish for is tussocks of sea pinks,
a cormorant poised on perimeter wall,
the boom of the foghorn,
howl of wind hammering on iron-cast front door.

© Jane Clarke


Matthew Ryan Shelton

Nostos, by Matthew Ryan Shelton

i. The Wanderer
We saw him we did, my brother Jimmy and me
Down by Ciarán's Well. Seven times round he made
The Turas Deiseal, like the sun.
I’d seen him once before
Nearby Dún Aonghasa on a rusty bike,

Watching the walls. When he let slip from his fingers
The last stone he went to the lip of the well.
Dipped his hand he did in clear cool water and drank.
Jimmy palmed a rock, but I shook my head.
He pocketed it with a word to himself.

The man took water to his face then,
And the back of his neck. His lips
Were moving. Straightening he turned seaward
And I wondered why he stood so long. Reading
The waves he seemed, his face gaunt and wind-flush.

But Jimmy was scuffing rocks with his good shoes
So I told him —C'mon, making for Poll an Bhradáin
Where Éanna hooked the salmon, Jimmy close behind.
But I stopped, turned once more to sea I did,
And the strange man, before I kept on.

ii. Ogygia
The cabmen speak in a language he does not
Understand, looking out to sea and motioning
With two joined fingers, pointing. Dawntide

After a heavy rain, the cloudshoal banked
On the horizon. Someone has carved a circle
In the sand of the bay, down from the quay-wall.

The night before, he dreamt of a moonlit hall,
A fount and golden pillars. A palace built
On rocky shores. —Bád fartha, they say again.

He thanks them, smiling, and makes for the pier
To the ferry that will take him to the mainland,
And thence a ship westbound for Phaeacia.

© Matthew Ryan Shelton

HIGHLY COMMENDED – in alphabetical order

Cape of wishes, by Richard Begbie

Vast skies. Summer at seven and once there we will head
for where the land ends in amber buckthorn berries.

The path is wide for us and pale enough to colour in.
Sand will cloud our steps and land on stumps of silver birch.

Closer in we will hurry and the wind will rule our hair
till suddenly we lean on each other for resistance.

We will chase each tussock to the cold curve of the sea
and the ground will be in pieces, strewn across the water.

On a flat brown stone we will leave our shoes in a row.
We will tread on the edge of the beach ready to swim.

We will count the waves and the jellyfish in the shallows.
And without meaning to our arms will swerve like gulls.

This promontary is my tongue, the ocean your mouth.
We willl stand and scan for an island with one big breath.

© Richard Begbie

Gaza, by Jane Clarke

A sandal on a door step,
a photo in a hand-carved frame,
pale turquoise headscarf,
iron girders, shattered porcelain.

Olive groves uprooted,
muslin curtains snarled in sand,
a bedstead flung in a crater,
roses ploughed into the ground.

Three young men walk
rubbled streets, sleeve to sleeve,
cradling three babies
swaddled white for the grave.

© Jane Clarke

Resin, by Jane Clarke

Though they tell me you’re ill,
it’s not between the white cotton
sheets of a hospital bed that I see you

but walking in the old woods
on the shores of Lough Carra,
among coppiced oak, ash and hazel.

You, who tended people
as a forester tends young trees,
step lightly through wood sorrel

tufts of moss and leaves
with an eye out for a badger’s sett
or the footprints of fallow deer.

Crack of a broken branch,
scent of resin,
a hooded crow takes wing.

© Jane Clarke

Townlands, by Michael Farry

She was born in Carrowloughan
schooled in Carrowmore
worked in Cultibar.
married Tom from Altonelvick.

She honeymooned in Strandhill,
raised a family in Knockadoo
played her life out on the north
and south slopes of the Ox Mountains.

She’s buried in Rockfield cemetery.

She went to Leicester once
where the calendar had Irish scenes
and the mantle was a shrine to home.
I saw her off, collected her.
On the plane she met a Gallagher
from Cloonacool.

When I danced with a Croatian in
Katowice, last October
I thought of her.

© Michael Farry

Let us take the chair, by Lizann Gorman

Let us take the chair out,
The one she had the
miscarriage on and burn it
among the dead leaves of autumn.

Let us cause a scandal in the
Street , by lighting it against the
back wall, setting the badness free
with the stench of old cushions.

Let us dress warm and
wear our gloves and handle
the gasoline with care, let us
Light the match with ease.

Let us remember the story
she told about the blood making
it all the way to the back door
in pools of watery scarlet.

Let us burn this chair, the way she
burnt the used rags, along the back wall
where it belongs with the dried autumn leaves,
that we’ve gathered for kindling.

© Lizann Gorman

Croke Park, by Richard Halperin

What a dream that was, what a good dream what a bad dream,
I’d toiled for years, my friends had toiled
And all my friends gone now.

The girl behind the counter selling sweets at the match
The match forgotten but never she
She an old woman now if she is at all
And the match well played or badly played
And the crowd not really caring because better to be at a match
Than not;
Than not.

That’s all I remember, all I want to remember
The girl in black selling sweets at a match on a dull Dublin day
And Babylon fell and all who were in it and great was the fall of it
And all my friends crushed and discarded long ago and I never next.
A girl in black waiting to sell orange ices and no one looked on her
   only at their ices, cents and cents
And the crowd yelled within the cement stairs
And was glad to be yelling rather
Than not;
And the players did the best they could
And no one to vend anything now and nothing to vend.

What a dream that was, what a good dream what a bad dream
And no one left to remember.

© Richard Halperin

Labels, by Shirley McClure

The woman ahead of me
in the queue for Customer Services
at the Bank of Ireland
has folded up her copper high-lit hair

in such a way that you can read
the Gothic characters sunk in
to the fair skin and fat that mask
her first thoracic vertebra;

splayed out between
the curve of neck and rim
of her black T-shirt: Robbie,
just where a label would be.

I think of Robbie, cushioned
by the bolster of her back, intact
in his indelibility, and wonder
has he, too, absorbed

this lover's name-
one Sharon, Sasha or Sinéad-
under the hood
of his Quicksilver hoodie?

Or has he got a line
of Limited Edition lovers
scattered over Sligo, each one
bearing his brand?

© Shirley McClure

Mahon, by Winifred McNulty

He slips between the beats of the town,
Camps in the hollow soul of the house,
In his sky room swallows dip through the roof
Shred curtains for nests, spiders
Spin opaque velvet through the ribs of the shop
Along the mahogany counter and into the snug.
Water drips through the A and O
Of his father’s name, turning it black.
He stopped listening to the house long ago,
Sharp glints from glass,
Empty measures behind the bar.
He closed the door on lost rooms.

When the others were gone,
He marked his life on betting slips
Gathered like snow in the crevices.
Cheltenham, Maydock Park,
Going good in the three fifteen
Atlantis Boy, lost in a seadream,
Drift and pattern accumulate under the skin.
The house took the ruin and his old age,
Left him chasing dragonflies
That hung for a moment over summer streams

© Winifred McNulty

Beating the Bounds, by Diane Myers

Where armies gathered at Shire Oak
Now, once a year, the residents of Leeds
Assert their ancient rights and carry sticks
As in the past, they caned protesting boys
To fix their memories of the parish bounds.

Along the steep banks of a quarry site
Now overgrown with grass
They purposefully thrash
Measuring the boundaries foot by foot.

From concrete road blocks in a dead end street
To wassailed fruit trees on a meadowed ridge
From fallen walls and pillars,
They, with their wands, can conjure up
The parish past
A zoo with porcupines and pitted bears
Lush with botanic specimens and scented aisles
The lost gardens of Headingley.

Crushing the wild garlic underfoot
Perambulating, canes poised
They mark the parish as a living thing
That smells and feels and hurts and laughs
And breathes beneath the lineage of the map.

They tap the memories of the parish stones
Through noisy summer evening streets
Brimming with unsteady youth.
Their swingeing willow rods divine
Where flailing boys
On monuments and walls
Were etched with pain.
As rock and road and tree
Smack into them
They take their measure
Absorbing the boundaries into their bones.

© Diane Myers

View From a Ditch, by Mags Treanor

Here. Look at my face on a faded photo.
Cast a glance and roll your eyes up, say you’re
Sick of these streets pasted with posters
Boasting young lads winking at passers-by
With their Missing Person dead eyes.
Say it’s not your job to find me alive.

Believe me; these streets breed premature ghosts.
Suck in knife fighting kids on gear. Paint
The town blue with sirens, still you can hide;
Glue sniffing with the belly-topped hep-c beauties.
There. I felt warm. Shared needles and ate 99’s
Said ‘I love you’. And a mad sun split the filthy sky.

Look. In this ditch water flows without a tap.
Since State Care the longest home I’ve ever had.
Hawk stoops for its’ prey. Bird murders worm.
The rain on my dead cheek makes me my mother’s son.
A shot - a dead fox: the price of a bad deal.
And I am quiet now. I know these rules too well.

© Mags Treanor

HIGHLY COMMENDED, EMERGING – in alphabetical order

Close Reading, by Andrew Jamison

The world’s a ready-made iambic line
outside Crossgar along the Killyleagh road
where sky is stressed to the breaking point of blue
and unstressed trees shake to the meter of each season
and fields enjamb themselves unfussily
like favoured lines in favourite poetry
and rain on the window is a consonantal thud
and summer’s breeze through the pampas -
sibilance, sibilance, sibilance.

© Andrew Jamison

Fatherland, by Andrew Jamison

I’ll always remember those trips to Coleraine,
long drives through a shortening, blustery August
to visit relatives and the Portrush amusements,
out through Crossgar, Saintfield, Carryduff, Belfast,
in the silence of a shaky, sky-blue Montego;
the rehabilitating boredom of travel
settling us, a backseat of moaning-minnies,
making tracks to where all tracks started for him.

And so we’d find ourselves in Ballyrashane -
a word as buttery as the butter churned out there -
my father bumping us along its humpy back-roads,
us, ridden with pins and needles, sleeping limbs,
arguing over the radio station -
Cool FM, City Beat, Radio One -
as now I listen for childhood’s frequencies,
adjusting volume, bandwidth, tuning in.

© Andrew Jamison

Inviting Holden Caulfield to Belfast, by Andrew Jamison

Here, now, it’s February. And I don’t know,
can’t stand the mirror kissers that walk these streets,
the kissy-kissy couples in the coffee shops,
the guys that dress as if they’re in a band
but aren’t - you’ll know them by their straightened hair,
their tight fitting tee-shirts from Topman,
a just-out-of-bed look which takes them half an hour
to pick out and perfect from their walk-in-wardrobes.

Dear Holden, meet me on the Lagan Bridge
or come, at least, chrissake, for a walk with me
down Royal Avenue, or up by Queen’s,
then we’ll get plastered on Guinness and whisky,
forget about this whole goddam place,
each sonofabitch of a phony.

© Andrew Jamison

In Memory of R. S. Thomas, by Ciaran O Rourke

No silhouette in darkness now
to ease embittered stillness
into prayer,

no more the watcher
on the bare hill-side of provinces
racked by a barren creed,
tomorrow’s promise of emptiness
and age.

You have turned instead
to the one bright field,

leaving us to make in the long
grasses our own paths
of silence and song,

gone at last with the few others
who in life, like you, put their ear
to the first grain of rock
in the ground

and heard faintly beneath
its cold, imbricate skin
the deep earth and water

© Ciaran O Rourke

The Botanic Gardens Revisited, by Ciaran O Rourke

I keep it pocketed
in my head, the day
I can’t remember that
you cannot forget:

wet grass and the black
path mottled with moss
under slate skies,
your two steps for every four
of mine, the guttle
and flush of river water
turning round the bend…

Time and again I try
recalling that moment you
tell me about, when having
trip-trapped over the bridge

I stopped still, then pulled
myself away from you
to look at the old, smooth
face of Socrates, and seeing
his chipped, stunted toes
leaned my two years
forward to heal his bare,
cold feet with a kiss;

but I cannot remember
our chilled footsteps
in the gardens, your
hushed delight, my own
shy smile, or after, our
traipse together by the
flowerbeds, and the easy
clutch of my small hand
in yours, soft and warm
under the sad eyes
of the philosopher.

© Ciaran O Rourke