Poem by Breda Spaight (Ireland)
Published in issue 39 of The Ofi Press
| Tally-stick |
for my maternal grandparents
When I learn about the tally-stick
hung from your schoolchild necks with twine,
I am tongue-tied, concentration-camp-gaunt,
African slave, Choctaw, Aborigine, whale.
And you are Murphy’s dog, Bran, block
of timber hung from his collar impeding
the chase – cars, flighty women joggers, fat
tongues on their trainers.
The pendulum of wood skins Bran’s neck
raw-pink – deep-pink of baby tongue.
His legs fare worse as flesh peels to bone,
femur notched for misdemeanours.
Unable to curl for sleep, Bran loses the dream
of running, sheds it from muscle stretched readily
as lung; piston limbs, airborne split-
seconds, hound of hounds on gorse hillsides,
Fionn mac Cumhaill tales of mighty pursuits
flowing off his tongue, which lolls pinkly
from his laughing mouth.
I, daughter of your daughter,
hear you chatter by the hearth, unknowable
words in a guttural idiom,
how you say ‘fhy’ instead of ‘why’ –
shimmering bubbles bursting on tongues.
Breda Spaight is a poet and novelist from Co Limerick, Ireland. Her poems have appeared in numerous Irish poetry magazines. She has an MPhil in creative writing, Trinity College; and received bursaries from the Irish Art’s Council, and Limerick City Council. She was a featured reader at the Over The Edge readings, Galway (2014). Her debut novel God on the Wall received wide critical acclaim. She was a guest reader at the Paris Book Fair (2002).
Image by Tina Hee.