THE VANWOMAN CALLED
The ticker was skipping beats
when the vanwoman called,
swept past me with her blue toolbox,
a grunt of greeting as she headed straight
for the jugular of the mantelpiece clock;
unscrewing its face, she tore off
the diseased scions, paused at the numbers
(translating from the Roman?)
− impotent now with their indicators gone.
An alarm clock sounded in a neighbour’s house.
The vanwoman sighed. Is the day ever done?
She snapped shut the face of the clock
and packed her tools into her blue toolbox,
a token smile going out the door.
You should be all right now.
ASCENDING A LIBERTIES' STAIRWAY IN 1952
Slate-grey steps with white ribbed bone to steady the foot with the marks of the washerwoman’s knees
and a black iron snake to hold on to
as it coiled its way upwards,
polished smooth from the caress of hands;
and the concrete landing where we stopped to catch our breath and a glimpse of the stars
through a rectangular opening in an ashen-grey wall
which to its side housed a handled steel door
a chute to the Great Bin at the bottom of the stairs,
locked in a room of its very own
where it could overflow to its heart’s content
and still take more,
the extractor of all the Liberties’ ills;
and the automatic light
suddenly quenched itself on the landing
– we were overstaying our time
watching the stars twinkle –
and my baby sister cried from the darkness
as we continued our ascent.
I helped my mother tilt and lift;
I could hear her heavy breathing,
each slow tortuous step its own individual,
our very own little Calvary.
The baby cried again:
Hush now, we’re nearly there alanna*, said Mam
but we were only halfway up with the pram.
*alanna: vocative of Irish leanbh (child)
Ivy dying on a pier,
the skeleton of a boat
sinking into sand;
I carry the sum
all through the years:
subtracting from sunlit walls,
a child digging a hole,
taking away something
deeper than himself.