Explorer of the dream world,
sit quiet on a park bench,
consider the sky,
consider cumulus divining
meaning from vapour:
a severed head
talks to itself,
a pileus skullcap,
cloud eyes dissolving
the blue of ancient ice
or mirrored sky,
a muzzled voice
reflecting an unheard cry
in nebulous mountains.
Consider the head free-floating
through wispy altostratus,
spilling the truth we tell
when we keep
the dangerous bits concealed,
even from the self.
Dreamer, nothing is lost;
in the psychic stratosphere
the sky unclouds
and the whole truth
paints a picture-map
vivid as driftwood’s
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother as a Merlin
I woke once to a cold house.
We were snow-bound, running low
on wood and cow-nuts, and out of cocoa.
It was my task to tell my mother
when the fire burned low. And perhaps
I wanted her hands to gentle my hair
into braids and comfort the baby,
and so I went outside and called her name
in cow-yard, barn and across the blank fields,
and heard the dead silence of snow.
I came on her out of sight of the house,
perched on a weathered, broken chair,
steam rising about her in a cloud,
enormous green eyes fixed
on a fresh-killed chicken she clutched
by its yellow claws and plunged
into a scalding-pot between her knees.
And the hand that stirred soup
and soothed the baby stripped feathers
from the breast and dropped them
onto the snow.
From my corner of the yard
I watched her white breaths,
her hands tearing feathers from flesh,
flurries of down drifting
around her head like bloodied snow,
catching on straws and the barbs
I was very young, made anxious
by overheard talk of ruin
and hunger and a long winter,
and it helped that day to know
that out of sight of the nest,
my mother became a wild thing,
a merlin at her plucking post.
—Breda Wall Ryan
Copyright ©2013, by Breda Wall Ryan. All Rights Reserved.
Breda Wall Ryan has an M Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin. Her poetry has been shortlisted for a Fish Prize, Mslexia Poetry Prize and iYeats Poetry Prize; commended in the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award and won the UCD Anthology Award (Poetry). She has been published in Coming to the Well for Water, The Fish Anthology, The Workshop Anthology, Mslexia, Dogs Singing (Salmon Poetry); Stony Thursday; Poets Meet Painters; Revival; UCD Anthology Everything its Own, Poets Meet Politics, Magma, Orbis, Poetry 24, iYeats website, The Weekenders Magazine, Magma.co.uk website, Blue Fifth Review, The Galway Review and Skylight 47. Her first collection is forthcoming in 2014.