Hennessy New Irish Writing: February 2018, winning poems by James Finnegan

‘you can’t blame the water’ and ‘what Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) does not know is’

James Finnegan

James Finnegan


you can’t blame the water

the water says I mean you no harm you drown
the rope says I mean you no good or bad you hang
on better days the horse pulls your long boat
along the canal

the wind bears you no ill-will
you are blown off a cliff-edge
maybe it couldn’t happen to a nicer person
but it did dry your clothes yesterday

the snow surrounds you it is cool
but not calculating
it did not intend being part of an avalanche

the tree on top of you is incapable of empathy
it was just as surprised by the storm as you

the mudslide always likes a soft landing
your log cabin - it would be a log cabin
happened to be along its route
there was no intention to cut off your air

the hairdryer in the bathwater
feels like a cliché
but did not intend to shock you

and all those cars
are merely metal on the move

the river bears you no grudge
nor does it remember you

what Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) does not know is

that tall thin hooded crows dance on your name
that Watson-Crick and Wilkins steal your work
that the men get the Nobel
that the woman does not

that your time at Kings would be taut
that you would gain renown for virus structures
that Photo 51 would wing its way into consciousness
that x-rays would pierce your ovaries

that you would thrive at Birkbeck
that you would die at thirty-seven
that later in Paris Mering burns your letters
that tall thin hooded crows still eat food alone

The poet

In 2016 James Finnegan was highly commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition, shortlisted for Over The Edge New Writer of the Year, published in The Bombay Review and The Canterbury Festival Anthology for Poet of the Year 2016. In 2017 he was published in Skylight47, Sarasvati, North West Words, CYPHERS (May and November) and had three poems shortlisted in the Canterbury Festival Anthology for Poet of The Year 2017. Finnegan taught in St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny, and holds a doctor of philosophy in living educational theory and has a first full collection of poems forthcoming (June 2018) with Eyewear Publishing.