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Medbh McGuckian’s poetry collections include Venus in the Rain, The Flower Master, On Ballycastle Beach, Marconi’s Cottage, Captain Lavender, Selected Poems: 1978-1994 and Shelmalier. Her latest collection is The Book of the Angel (2004). A new book about women and poetry is expected shortly. 


She has attended poetry festivals and conferences in Yugoslavia and Canada and given readings in Ireland, England, America, France and Holland. She is the winner of some, but not all, prestigious poetry awards. She currently teaches creative writing at Queens University, Belfast. 






I feel he would give it to me in spirit

As rivers carve out kingdoms,

The boulder field near the water mill,

My father's summer land.


He would give it in my children's

Father's name, a crucial terrain

Anchored and perturbed,

For thinking in spring about fall


And in summer about the purest time

Of winter. If this clothed throat 

Like a nowhere-to-be-found pool

That shelters under the youngest mountain


Could be seen, the new breaths

Of three hundred dark roses'

Third day would tell it all,

Holding a door in your arms.





She of the corner burned parting 

Of haunted hair, she burns herself

With the fire of her yoga,

Having taken the sun's permission.


The flames erect a kind of hedge

Of red marriage veil, her soul falls

Naturally into it, to leave the world

Of acts by its silver doorframe


Her skin, that was fair the bright

Fortnight of the month and dark and dark,

Is a mapping of the seasons and odours

And splinters of foot nectar.


Her gravelly voice that is the sign

Of possesson divides from her sacred finger.

One third of her sin is the child-pebble

Worshipped in her heart of hearts,


Her left eye being a careful almond.





The star or crown that an angel

Once drew in the snow

Is either not shown or trimmed away:


This lack of desire for snow

As what winter should be,

I place around my wrist for safe-keeping,


A skin-tight coat of mail.

And since it is said one does not age

in the time spent regarding the Host,


Will  these false rains

Of a pilgrim season

Become voices again


In differing fields,

Pressed against the back

Of a god-coloured valley,


Like a bed of white bronze

Looking out though the rent

In a strawberry?





He could not sleep, would not step

Back. Looking out of second-story

Windows at our fields, which wash themselves

With soil, his skin remembered 

Landscapes sedimented in her

That her body welcomed,

The withheld, silk-tongued rains

That stormed her island by island

Till their incense sealed her off

From the path of itself.


Then the winds switched direction

As if there was daylight, stiffened as if

To sabotage a harvest with their stolen

Melodies and demands. He would concentrate

One night of the week, burning his mind

To the spirit spouse he carved and fed,

Her wooden self on second contact

Copied by his own inner arrow,

A wooden rifle turning bullets to water,

Circuiting the town removed from the map.





I see the skeleton of the year poised in the cool moonspray,

Trying to catch at the blemished calendar of the next.


Embraced most of the day by the low and slender rainbow,

The world-jewel sweeps on with its morning noon and night.


The nowhereness of the fifth-month stayed for a moment only,

Before the earthless mountain light anointed without mountains.







copyright © Medbh McGuckian