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 become—in another way—somehow 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.
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.