A complicated wood
I spend my morning wondering
about your covered wrists,
the long silences, like those left
in the treacherous sounds
between islands after ships are lost.
I watch the precision
as your fingers navigate a paper-clip,
unlock, then remake the bends,
again, again, again.
At night I exhume, re-wind
Klein and Jung and Winnicott.
My grandmother had a music box
her father made; each time I visited
she’d wind it up, lift the wooden
lid to let the mechanism plink
its mournful Hornpipe
as a siren pirouetted on a rock.
It sits above my desk.
She lies beneath the knotted wood
wrapped in a familiar scent.
An island turning over on its side
Like insomnia, our meeting wasn’t planned.
She sat opposite the only empty chair.
Madame Bovary lay shut beside her tea.
There was music in the thinness of her wrists.
We talked until the café dropped its blinds,
walked across the city to her bed.
After the tide receded we lay naked.
The gutter pipes were choked,
sheets of rain cascaded.
I watched as she turned over on her side;
the sweep of headlights undoing her youth.
In her left eye, a small red island
floated in a blue unstable sea –
a country I was too young to understand.
Livres de la solitude
…….After Louise Bourgeois
The room is lit
for an interrogation.
The floor, a raised
A ring of grey sticks
is growing up –
a cleft fence
or whittled children.
Inside, books of red
cloth are stacked;
the raw edges, bound
with blue thread.
as tall as a woman.
This is love
balanced, sewn shut.
Speed my slowing heart
Outside, liverish leaves are falling
on the lawn, reticulated by the wind’s
bitter this way and salt-flung that.
Autumn has left our picnic spot side-parted.
A bald patch shows the blackbird’s small
white packet and in the air a flick-knife
panic to where he perches in the tree,
and no doubt wonders why dawn and worms
and cats always come in that order.
The thought of breakfast takes me from last night’s
failure, to the cloud gathering above our kettle,
and the sky which couldn’t be more loaded.
Snow begins to fall, reminds me of spring
and us looking out beneath the willow’s
canopy of fluff, speculating why the foxglove
only trumpets every other year;
and how its stem of empty seed-heads
stands like a spent and tattered phallus.
Who paints the bargeboards blue and oils
the gate that used to creak? And despite
seagulls littering the roof, risk of full moons
flooding the yard, who chose the ruined
church, sinking into bracken, for their view?
Who walks a lurcher along the shore,
parks their battered black car a cat’s
hiss from the window box, rioting
violets massed along the sill?
Who sleeps in this cottage with its attic
room of wormy boards sloped towards
the early morning sun? And who
is stood barefoot, on those kitchen
flags that gave such cool relief?
We break milk
move to solids
and trees shoot
leaves like a fix
we break ice,
and boats move
like small fingers
we break cruths –
truss the feet
of young girls,
vacuum pack fruit.
We break down
and listen with
to the fault.
— Michael Ray
Michael Ray is a poet and glass artist living in West Cork, Ireland. His poems have appeared in a number of Irish and international journals, including The Moth, The Irish Independent, The Shop, Cyphers, The Penny Dreadful, One, Southword, The Stinging Fly, Ambit and Magma. In 2012 he was a winner in the Fish International poetry competition. In 2013 he was shortlisted for the Hennessey award. In 2016, he won the Poetry Ireland Café poetry competition. Michael’s visual art has been collected by the Irish Craft and Design Council, the Department for Foreign Affairs and the National Museum of Ireland.