Of which the first is love. The sad, unrepeatable fact
that the loves we shouldn't foster burrow faster and linger longer
than sanctioned kinds can. Loves that thrive on absence, on lack
of return, or worse, on harm, are unkillable, Father.
They do not die in us. And you know how we've tried.
Loves nursed, inexplicably, on thoughts of sex,
a return to touched places, a backwards glance, a sigh —
they come back like the tide. They are with us at the terminus
when cancer catches us. They have never been away.
Forgive us the people we love — their dragnet influence.
Those disallowed to us, those who frighten us, those who stay
on uninvited in our lives and every night revisit us.
Accept from us the inappropriate
by which our dreams and daily scenes stay separate.
This Century, The Next, The Last
My husband requests a sky burial
he wishes to be
as carrion sequestered by leopards
strung up in a desert tree
Back to the familiar corridor he
may choose any opening
but all the rooms contain me
dressed for a wedding
My father's in my fingers, but my mother's in my palms.
I lift them up and look at them with pleasure —
I know my parents made me by my hands.
They may have been repelled to separate lands,
to separate hemispheres, may sleep with other lovers,
but in me they touch where fingers link to palms.
With nothing left of their togetherness but friends
who quarry for their image by a river,
at least I know their marriage by my hands.
I shape a chapel where the steeple stands.
And when I turn it over,
my father's by my fingers, my mother's by my palms
demure before a priest reciting psalms.
My body is their marriage register.
I re-enact their wedding with my hands.
So take me with you, take up the skin's demands
for mirroring in bodies of the future.
I'll bequeath my fingers, if you bequeath your palms.
We know our parents make us by our hands.
And it's happening yet again:
vandals set loose in the tapestry room
with pin-sharp knives. Such lovely scenes
as this day's scrubbed-white clouds
and shock of scarlet blooms
across the wasteground
looking abruptly damaged —
stabbed-through from the back
so that a dozen shining pin-sized
holes appear at random. Then widen.
Soon even the grass has been unpicked,
the gorse hacked open.
I can no longer see your face.
Posed in unravelling sleeves
and disappearing lace,
I have given up all hope for what was whole —
the monkey under the orange tree,
the tatterdemalion nightingale.
I don't have girlfriends but I do have sex
with a different woman about three times a month.
Sometimes more. Sometimes less. I rarely ask.
They'll stop to talk to me in the supermarket
or on the bus. Off-handedly at first.
They're not made-up or drunk. We don't flirt
or analyse it. There's this tiny electrical thrill
gets passed like an egg-yolk slipping
between the cups of its own split shell.
They take me home. It happens. I leave. Simple.
They don't invite me to dinner or text.
It's easy and clean and consensual.
Then it happens again. Loneliness's overblown —
unless I'm just one of the unnaturally blessed.
My good friend Jack told me to write this down.
and Selected Poems
Born in 1972 in Belfast Northern Ireland, Sinead Morrissey is the
author of five poetry collections. She teaches creative writing at the
Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen's University, Belfast.