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Breda Wall Ryan "Dreamless"


James Conor Patterson "Animal Psalms"

Highly Commended (in alphabetical order):

Crona Gallagher "Mrs Ocean, the Washer Woman"
Connie Roberts "The Cardigan"


Dreamless, by Breda Wall Ryan

A million crawling things run spiderwise
inside her skin, her skeleton is glass,
she needs another hit, and fast,

her skin is needle-tracked, she works
the street for heroin to stop the spiderlings,
she does a punter in a dash against a fence

and scores a thirty-second rush,
glass splinters in her veins fuse
into a waterfall of raindrops,

magic light spills from her fingertips,
she’s blissed out, dreaming weightless while
the good brown horse outruns her dream,

she’s goofing now, slumped outside a church,
between her knees a paper cup she holds out
like a sacred heart to passers-by,

small change spills through her fingertips
but not enough, another stranger in a car
gets her more dreams, she sucks her tongue

for spit to swallow fear, swears
on the Sacred Heart that she’ll get clean,
then mugs the punter with a syringe,

again the spiderlings criss-cross her skin
and crawl inside her arm-tracks,
two blow-jobs on her knees to get a high,

she cooks the gear, a bag of china white,
loads up a syringe, smacks a vein, ties off
and hits; her hopes are answered with amen,

the dragon’s knocked brown sugar girl
off her horse, the fall has sucked out
all her breath, her eyes are pinned,

she feels no crawly things, she has no skin,
her bones are glass, her heartbeats trickle
from her fingertips like raindrops when

the rain’s about to stop...

© Breda Wall Ryan


Animal Psalms, by James Conor Patterson

When the city finally stopped and the road, pockmarked with rain and paper, summoned up
grass like a demon
                              and all the cars along the M4 west to Lucan and Cabra were spent as corks,
Things became as they were.

Chrysanthemums in the windows. Cats along beds of scratched oak tables. On the mounted
colonnades and white stone
                                            face of the general post office, a thick slime of lichen smeared its
way, decadent as cancer, through a cracked pane of glass.

Everything was as it should. And how like the flies and rooks on College Green, the flood
water took Saint Stephen’s.
                                             A jungle of chairs and wheels sending yellow flakes into the sky
and a great parade of wings to match the butterfly.

At the Mater Private too, just northeast of Eccles and then again northeast of the Basin
where, five-fingered, the blind
                                                 glove lies across a fine dust of mildew and latex; the soiled
shelves obscene with mucous traps. The floor with syringes and cotton balls.

And how, like everything, the great oaks and fruits and foxgloves and ragweed of two day’s
rain emerged from slabs
                                      on South Parnell; a snake found amidst the foliage and rubble, subtle
as a high-thrown watermark, and beckoning from up the tree-trunk like a wisp.

© James Conor Patterson

Highly Commended (in alphabetical order):

Mrs Ocean, the Washer Woman, by Crona Gallagher

works pages and pages of tissuey ocean
to ruffle the watermarks edge,
and the liquid cliffs way out at sea
keep tumbling ashore to fall before it.
They die violent deaths, they thrash,
and break, they collapse all as one
as she cracks them open like crab claws.

This is the washerwoman at work.
Her enormous back lumbers and heaves
as she scrubs and launders the sueded sands
and with deft hands, eventually sweeps herself away,
leaving behind the shells and the coins from her pockets;
as she swims miles out into the depths
to haul in with her calloused hands
a sinewy stallion; from the deep.

It bites and kicks as she wrangles with the water.
It foams against the tide with the furious mane
flying higher still against her unforgiving gaze.
It heaves as she pulls through the tug and the thunder
until finally it falls, with frantically pulsing nostrils
and knackered eyes rolling back to the the sucking gullies.
She mounts it then and gallops on home.                                                                                   
It tames and calms in shallow surf,
then rides back out with the tide, to bury itself
deep below. There, it will wait to rise once more
when the spoon of the moon lights the big back of the ocean
as she warps and wefts at her loom. She fidgets with the weave,
fusses with the foam at her rabid mouth until it floats off
to shuttle with the flounder and the left eyed turbot
amid the wrecks and the skulls of her moods.

© Crona Gallagher

The Cardigan, by Connie Roberts

                                   Even the most crudely sewn initials seem to have conveyed 
                   a special kind of intimacy, sustaining the child’s individual
                                               bond with its mother.

                                        John Styles, curator of the Threads of Hope exhibition,
    a collection of mid-18th century tokens left with
                abandoned babies at the London Foundling Hospital.


Monogrammed swatches snugged amid the swaddling,
tokens and talismans, identifiers
should the bottom-of-the-barrel poor or
end-of-her-tether mother return to reclaim her child.
Lockets and padlocks, keys and coins, a humble
hazel-nut shell dripping from a yellow ribbon.
Buttons and thimbles, poems and playing cards,
an ivory pen-knife scrimshawed with flowers.
Notched copper ha’pennies and silver sixpences,
a smooth farthing fashioned into an ‘S’.
Bone fish-shaped gambling chips and crusty curled-up cauls—
timeless tokens tucked away in orphanage billet books.


On bone-chilling nights, my mother would place a red
lemonade bottle full of warm water at the
foot of the bed to warm my feet, throw an extra
coat on top of the bedclothes, and if there was
a spare bottle of stout in the house, pour
half a cupful for me. Hunkering by the bed,
she’d whisper, Drink it up, Pet, it’s good for you.
Love’s little labours not lost on me
a few years later as I wrestled with the night
in the industrial school dormitory.

After her funeral, my father gave me a child’s red
Fair Isle cardigan she’d kept in a suitcase on top
of the wardrobe. It wasn’t the vision of my
five-year old self romping through the three-roomed

Council house in it, little Dutch children
clog-dancing on a floor of tick-tack-toe,
a row of white buttons like lozenges,
that brought me to my knees, but my mother’s
six crude mendings.  Stitches like dog’s teeth
fastening each sleeve, a fragment of fabric
reinforcing the bottom button, and below the elbow,
a square of woven red yarn. I picture her by the range
bent over her work, running stitches to cover the
moth-eaten hole, the empty space. Years, darning and undarning.



© Connie Roberts