Breda Joyce lives near Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, and has just completed an MA in Creative Writing at U.C.C. Her poems ‘The Bee- Smoker’ and ‘Murmuration above the Peace Line’ were shortlisted for the Hennessy Award, 2019. ‘The Guardian of the Wheel’ was shortlisted for the Anthony Cronin Award and longlisted for the Over the Edge Award, 2019. ‘Slán leis an Airc’ was shortlisted in The Kinsale Literary Festival, 2019. ‘Free Fall’ won the Judith Aronson Likeness competition in April 2018. Breda has had poems published in Skylight 47, The Galway Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Bangor Literary Journal, Musebox and The Quarryman.
African Queens and Eastern Princesses in a Small Irish Town
My mother was adamant that colours shouldn’t run
so, she separated them from whites,
determined on a wash pure enough to filter sunlight.
But our new blue jeans ran into pinks
and yellows and greens; we ignored her frown
as we delighted in a blur of colour and spun
in a frenzied dance on the linoleum floor.
In our small town, all skin was white
before they arrived on a whirling tide:
African queens in kangas,
Eastern princesses in saris and kimonos,
a cornucopia of colour that would have
made my mother stand still.
The basket holds two plastic bags: nightshirt
rosary beads and savings book. His clouded eyes
steer his bicycle along the boreen;
he won’t switch on the lamp till he is further
down the road.
The moon slips in and out between bones
of trees that stalk his way with shadows.
His broken boots creak against the pedals
as he labours uphill.
A spectral mist rises from the river,
sends a shiver to his neck which still throbs
from where they struck him
with an iron bar.
The bark of a fox reminds him of their hooded visits,
their threats to torch his barn. A musty smell of ivy
ascends from the ditches and calls to mind
the stale whisky on their breath.
For eight hours he cycles the thirty miles to town.
Towards dawn the wind rises, flaps his gabardine coat
as he listens to the honk of geese flying
At 9 a.m. he parks a buckled wheel against the railing,
checks himself in.
© 2020 Breda Joyce