Paula Cunningham Poems

At St. Malachy's Church

i.m. Marty Crickard
I came to light a candle for a friend
but Jesus had a really bad mustache
and those were only pinpricks in his palms
so I passed on.

I came to light a candle for a friend
but Joseph's hands were manicured
and soft as Fairy Liquid hands
I could not light one there so I passed on.

In the corner was a fellow with a cowled robe
and a tonsure like a saucer — he palmed
a young and curly blonde Adonis — so I
passed on then to Benoît-Joseph Labre,

a tattered man whose wide eyes blazed,
he looked quite mad, had beggar's hands,
I liked him. I lit two dozen candles, didn't pay,
and nicked this book on him before I left.

I did all this in honor of my matchless absent friend,
whose honest calloused workman's hands
maintained the half of Belfast,
and nothing's been the same since he passed on.... more »

EARTHWISH

after ‘Irisch' by Paul Celan
Grant me the wayleave
across the draw-bridge to your sleep,
the by-your-leave
to wend the wild meanders of your dreams,
the privilege, now I'm fit, to split the turf
along your breast's incline
come dawn.... more »

FATHOM

…the furthest distances I've travelled
have been those between people

- Leontia Flynn
1. Father
(at the Forty-foot Gentlemen's Bathing Place)

Seven thirty a.m.
and I love that men
are different
when wet.

We're sea-changed,
leagues of seals,
rasping, clapping,
rapturing the air.

I'm glad the water's cold.
And though my father
taught me everything

I know about salt water,
for fifty weeks per annum
he remained arms' length inland.


2. Farther

Not necessarily needing to know
I launch into these buoyant
introductions: ‘Hey Dad, it's Paula,
your favourite daughter your

beautiful blow-in from Belfast,'
my mother priming him well
in advance, so that I'm a little
deflated but hardly surprised

when he risks ‘Are you married
to one of my sons?' ‘Father'
I breeze ‘Bishop Hegarty'd

never agree.' And his smile as he
fathoms the quip soon sinks, repeating
how terribly terribly sorry he is.


3. Further

Close to the close of your life, you wash up
in a strange house with a woman old enough
to be your mother insisting she is your wife.
Despite your rebuttals she's wedded to her lies.

You try the doors, her ladyship has them locked.
You spot your father's shooting-stick,
you've really got to fly, you say, and put
a window in. Next thing you la- la- la-

land in some class of hotel where the women
are very much younger with lovely hands;
the exits here, you swiftly establish, are shut

with a hush-hush code. You've stashed the stick
and smash a panel in. They belt you in a comfy chair,
to anchor you, they say, and call you ‘pet'.


4. Faster

I don't think I ever married, did I? This
at the buzz-locked doors as I'm heading, the same day
he's quizzed me how long this interment (sic) will last.
You did Dad, the Star of the County you claimed.

He grins. And I've more to report. Go on.
She bore you six children. Away. It's true.
Would you like me to introduce you to one?
I would. God. That would be great.

Well Father. We shake.
It's a pleasure to meet you.
He beams.

When I leave I am borne
on the keen conviction
he liked me.


5. Falter

Our father one ankle in Heaven
trouser-leg rolled to the knee -
your time not come - the other one
stuck as it is and swollen.

There is yet time in this dry hotel,
as your wide straddle falters the tide recedes
til your greeting's a watery smile you float
for the baffling hosts of the faces you meet,

above whose static you tune to the sirens -
song with your name on -
well within reach;

though embracing's beyond us
I'd sing to deliver you
home for the last how long... more »

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