By Martina Evans (Ireland), Featured in Issue 22.
My grandmother forbade my aunt to court John.
The Lynches and all belonging to them have bad chests,
you’ll end up nursing him to his grave. TB was still the
the executioner in the forties but it didn’t stop Helen.
Two boys and one girl knocking on their shop door
the other boy taking Helen’s arm, the other girl linking
with John - swapping back when they were out of sight
a Shakespearean comedy or a couples farce. Luminous
eyed, stigmatized TB patients were rare in the sixties but
it was cancer who took one of John’s lungs. A child, I lay
awake holding my own breath as his suffocated breathing
filled that small house like a hunter. During the day my aunt
was always watching for smoke, the guilty blue spirals
signaling out of the shed as he stole one more puff.
My First Confession
A thunderous drumming
on the sweet smelling incense-infused wood
like something you’d hear about
out of The Exorcist maybe
or a Protestant Black Mass.
Father O’Shea’s shy stutter asking
What’s that? from the other side
of the grille. At seven
what sin could I have been confessing?
What made me lose control?
No clue - only to this day the sound
of the Niagara roar of my urine
on the boards and a new dazzling list
transgressions - defiling concentrated ground
the grievous Sin of Omission,
answering the timid priest,
with a transparent lie,
I don’t know father.
Studying the Green Catechism
alone with my conscience, it seemed
at best, an Imperfect Contrition,
at worst, a Sacrilegious one,
The clear outline of the wet
footprints I carried all over the
grey and white and red church tiles -
my conscience as heavy as the velvet
curtain that muffled out
the sound of people’s sins
the darkness that hides
the details of my original sin.
The Tinker Girl
She came alone on foot
and straight away they noticed
she was a rebel, before Punk
before Rap she had streaked hair
orange and black
and a loud transistor radio
that blared through the village
that hot day drowning the sound
of the insects in the grass.
She didn’t say ma’am to anyone,
she said, I don’t want your fucking
ould clothes or your ould fucking
She said she wanted money
and she went to every house
repeating her request, kicking foxgloves
rejecting every other thing that was
offered and no one produced money only
everyone said that the world had gone mad
and it was only now they realised
weren’t the old tinkers lovely
and quiet compared to the cut
of that big one with her transistor
radio bawling under her arm like
a terrible fuck-you voice from the future.
The last place she called was Mikey Dorgan’s.
He gave her a half dozen eggs
out of the goodness of his heart
not realizing that she meant business
it was only when she’d left
he found that she’d pelted the six of them
and they were running in yellow streams
down the back of his gable wall.
Martina Evans is an Irish poet and novelist. She grew up in County Cork in a country pub, shop and petrol station. Martina began writing in 1990 and has published four books of poetry and three novels. Her first novel, Midnight Feast, won a Betty Trask Award in 1995 and her third novel, No Drinking No Dancing No Doctors (Bloomsbury, 2000), won an Arts Council England Award in 1999. Her fourth poetry collection, Facing the Public was published by Anvil Press in September 2009 and has won bursary awards from both the Irish Arts Council (An Chomhairle Eiraíon) and Arts Council England.
The Navy Blue Suitcase
I woke up every night at 4am
seven years before Mammy died.
They say it’s when the soul leaves
the body so when they woke me up
that night in Mallow, I wasn’t
surprised. We’d been prepared.
Everyone relieved and shivering
in the grey-beige County Hospital
corridor, with Pad the porter
who’d fed us for ten days,
with the small purple Cadbury snacks,
you can’t get in England,
Pad showing us the clip-on
tie that saved him from the death-strangle
of a Mad Polack in Casualty.
For a moment I thought we would
have peace - then I saw
the navy blue suit-case
so small in my brother Peter’s hand.
Someone had packed that for her
nightdress, slippers, washbag
soap, - things for the short
stay and I was plunged into ice
in the buzzing night-time
the navy blue case
she would never take home
Rostro bajo el agua 1
Catalina is a Guatemalan born Mexican artist who studied at the National Centre for the Arts (CENART) and the Academia de San Carlos, both in Mexico City. She has exhibitied her work all over Mexico and in London.