Two Poems

Poetry / Alicia Byrne Keane

 

:: Lace, ear drums, hexagons ::

 
I am trying not to eat all the little chocolates in my room. 
I think if I take a breath it will work, remind me I can 
Be content swallowing light, another lie. We woke up 
In the blue dark, watched your garden tumble away 
Like my mother’s dream about a hole in the tarmac 
Beside the porch. The grass falls in steps, swollen by 
Shadow, the lake is a stitched laceration, and I am 
Envious of your purple lip liner, and that you would 
Have the foresight to apply such a thing. I fell asleep 
Watching the Gilmore Girls, resurfaced headachey 
Three or four times, like a fall into snow, in which you 
Feel slivers of dampness at your wrists and the world 
Goes flat. There is a click of billiard balls in the room 
Upstairs, muffled and narrow. There is a lamp painted 
Yellow and poised as if listening. My ears ring in two 
Parallel frequencies, roads that stretch, and I remember 
A motorway cutting through wheat fields, and running 
Towards, or away from, a patch of forest on the horizon. 
A ghost fizzled in my shoulder like a twist of fabric, 
Another source of hassle I’d need to potentially address.

 

:: Bar stools, Jesus Christ ::

 
Sometimes at night beyond the glassless apertures of the smoking 
Areas we see a new building rise like a tooth, looking torn, 
Plastic flaps in the wind from uncovered parts and I watch myself 
Walk the length of Mount Street in dim, continuous glass, I used 
To rest in the spaces between words in basements, applause felt 
Like silver balloons or the abrasive bubbles in Fanta Lemon. 
 
There is a big wooden spider in the bar with the vague name 
There is a big wooden tree somewhere else, you are meant to 
Take pictures of it, I read an article about this, a city of anterooms 
Polished and resounding, there are so many cavernous lobbies 
You can go to the bathroom in, if you so choose, if you walk with 
Enough of a purpose, and there are tents angled on the canal. 


 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

I began writ­ing this series of poems in response to a piece writ­ten by the author Claire-Louise Ben­nett for The Irish Times. In it she describes ado­les­cence as a time in which you are expect­ed to “estab­lish your­self strong­ly and neat­ly in the minds of oth­ers.” [i] She dis­cuss­es her own first for­ays into writ­ing as born of a reac­tion against this social pres­sure.

From the list of objects Claire-Louise Ben­nett describes writ­ing about when she was younger, most of which don’t include humans: 

Moths, pylons, flat grass, porce­lain, wind, lace, ear drums, hexa­gons, night, glass, wolves, vio­lins, char­coal, reflec­tions, cre­osote, dan­de­lion clocks, thun­der, stars, bar stools, Jesus Christ, blood, emer­alds, bears, death, ice, leather, ban­is­ters, fir trees, limpets, pea­cocks, corn­fields, clay, high win­dows, smoke, vel­vet, foun­tains, scare­crows, ros­es, milk, frogs. [ii] 

In the first shaky days of 2020 I decid­ed to take this quote from Ben­nett as a form of writ­ing prompt. All of the titles of the col­lec­tion I wrote—four of which can be found in this submission—derive from images in the above quo­ta­tion.

These poems are the prod­uct, I guess, of a sort of “Claire-Louise Ben­nett chal­lenge.” Maybe this is a con­se­quence of grow­ing up in a city in which peo­ple buy the exact lemon soap from the exact phar­ma­cy men­tioned in a book by a man who will not be dis­cussed. I don’t know if peo­ple act with the same fanati­cism toward female authors as they do male ones, mix­ing the drinks drank by the char­ac­ters in the books, repli­cat­ing their flâner­ies. Maybe I am just look­ing for injus­tices. But I think I am right, at least par­tial­ly. 

I thought that if I wrote about each of the things Ben­nett wrote about I would become less con­cerned with social demands, reori­en­tate myself in a child­hood world of look­ing at things for their strange­ness. And maybe this would also some­how make me kinder, less has­sled the way you become when you have decid­ed you are seri­ous, direct­ed. My inten­tion was that through some­one else’s words I would become more myself. 

The poems did their work, in my own head any­way. Writ­ing them helped me, as Ben­nett dis­cuss­es, “to keep ratio­nal­i­ty and pur­pose at bay, to pro­long and bask in the rhyth­mic chaos of exis­tence, to remain adrift from the social con­tract and lux­u­ri­ate in the mag­nif­i­cent mys­tery of every­thing.” [iii] And hope­ful­ly through this form of with­draw­ing I have also becomein anoth­er waysome­how clos­er to the world, more of use to the world, recon­firmed in my awe of things and in a bet­ter posi­tion to help.

 

 


[i] Ben­nett, Claire-Louise. “Claire-Louise Ben­nett on Writ­ing Pond.” The Irish Times, 26 May 2015, https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/claire-louise-bennett-on-writing-pond‑1.2226535.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

 

Ali­cia Byrne Keane is a PhD stu­dent from Dublin, Ire­land. She has a first class hon­ours degree in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture and French from Trin­i­ty Col­lege Dublin and a MSt. in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture 1900-Present from Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty. She is work­ing on an Irish Research Coun­cil-fund­ed PhD study that prob­lema­tizes “vague­ness” and trans­la­tion in the work of Samuel Beck­ett and Haru­ki Muraka­mi, at TCD. Her poems have been pub­lished in The Moth, Entropy Mag­a­zine, Impos­si­ble Arche­type, and Poet­head, among oth­ers. She has per­formed at Elec­tric Pic­nic, Body & Soul, and Lin­go Fes­ti­val, and has had two spo­ken word per­for­mances record­ed for Bal­cony TV.