Hennessy New Irish Writing: February 2019’s winning poems

Mobile Library by Mark Ward; Tangerine in December by Derek Coyle; Fists by Steve Denehan

Mobile Library

Mrs P. loves to read poetry. Each month
I bring her an armful of books containing
a clash, a clattering of words, cascading
sounds stack like the skips of a scratched
poet trapped on a scraped cd. I carefully
clean its face and replace her old books
with new ones. I ask her if she has any
requests. She never does. She knows I'm a
poet. I dream of one day taking her my book.

Today, she was still in her stair lift,
her answering-the-door-wig in place
but she's flustered, panicked, aching.
Her eyes blurring, useless, her missing
spectacles no use, I help her into the chair
slowly. Everything hurts. Joints seize.
She feels the placement of her bones
like a flatpack skeleton taut, tightened,
braced for impact from any movement.

I navigate the unfamiliar kitchen,
make her a cup of tea, find the biscuits,
fill the pink furry hot water bottle,
the same colour as her leg blanket –
she can't tell the difference. I hunker
down beside her. She asks what she
should do now. I could call a doctor for
the pain or contact her family. There
is nothing wrong enough for that
, she says,

What do I do now? I could get a neighbour?
Turn on the radio? She keeps telling me
to leave, that I'm busy. Her voice low,
apologetic at the burden. God sent you
to me today.
I sit and hold her hand.
I want her to be okay. I want her to be
the bright bubbly lady I know. The brave face
is now mine to make but this is not about me.
I suggest diversions when she needs a solution.


She won't let me call anyone. Someone will be
here later.
She doesn't know who. I can't stay.
I don't want to leave. The weight of life in her face.
She tells me to visit if I'm around. Her books of poetry are
useless today. So am I. She thanks me again. I tell her
things will get better. She says that she just wants to die.
By-the-door goodbyes. You're an angel. The van door closes.
I cry like an orphan and pray for her wish to come true.

Mark Ward is the author of Circumference (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Skylight47, Assaracus, Tincture and many others. He lives in Dublin and is the founding editor of Impossible Archetype, a journal of LGBTQ+ poetry


Tangerine in December

There it sits on the table,
the humble tangerine, a spectral sphere.

Its intensely orange skin,
its citrus zest, its succulent heart,

the lambent saffron of summer days.
Storehouse of sunlight,

keeper of brightness, sing to me
in this dark winter

of tawdry sunlight, squally showers.
Potent talisman, my promise of change,

I suppose,
I can thank the capitalists for this much.

Derek Coyle has published poems in Ireland, Britain, Sweden, and the US. He is a founding member of the Carlow Writers' Co-Operative. He lectures in English literature at Carlow College, St Patrick's. His first collection, Reading John Ashbery in Costa Coffee Carlow, will be published in Sweden in a dual-language edition by Magnus Grehn Förlag in March.



It took me forty thousand punches to realise
forty thousand too many
sure, I landed a few, enough to take me to this ring
but he is quick as light and made of iron and his punches
his punches come, again, and again and again

the fists of my father, my mother, my schoolmates, of God himself
the glancing blows, the blows of the children I saw for an hour
last Christmas eve

I am winded from two body shots unseen
I disguise it
but he knows, I look in his eyes, he knows
he comes for me and though the ring is an infinite thing
I can find no place to hide

then, an opening, a tunnel for my right hand and
I watch my fist blur toward him and
feel the contact rock the columns of his temple and
he is dazed and he is mine and his eyes look through me
and I call upon that old right hand one last time
the hand that signed my title deeds, my wedding certificate
my divorce papers
the hand that held my babies, that held your face before that first kiss
my sledgehammer, my bomb
but, it is so heavy now
and the fuse won't light, and then, I know

two seconds pass
two seconds that will stretch over all my days
two seconds when it was all there, another world
two seconds when I betray myself, as I always do

and so, I wait, with nothing left
to get what I deserve and when he comes
I do not run, and I am baptised in a flood of fists

I fall through the roar of the crowd and am caught
by the blanket of childhood
the lights above are so bright, and so pure, and just beyond my reach

I lie on my back and watch dozens of moths
in frenzied compulsion
flying head first into the lights again
and again, and again

Steve Denehan lives in Kildare with his wife, Eimear; and daughter, Robin. He is the author of three screenplays and numerous poems. Recent publication credits include Better Than Starbucks, Fowl Feathered Review, Rat's Ass Review, Dual Coast, The Opiate, Sky Island Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Evening Street Review, The Folded Word, Ink in Thirds, Crack the Spine, The Cape Rock, Visions International and Third Wednesday. His chapbook, Of Thunder, Pearls and Birdsong, is available from Fowlpox Press