Hennessy New Irish Writing: January 2019’s winning poems

Tonsillitis by Amy Gaffney and Blue by Majella Kelly

Amy Gaffney

Amy Gaffney




He’s networking. Handshakes, head shakes, my legs shake. I watch his serious face;

he’ll smile at me next.

I love that shirt he’s wearing. Reminds me of when we met. Reminds me of what is yet to come. I pressed it for him.

He isn’t into PDA; but he is into private displays of affection when the curtains are drawn. Or the blinds pulled. Or the lights are out.

He’s private like that.

I like the stormy sea stomach I get these days.

He likes when we share those ‘do I know you?’ smiles across spaces that are full of people who are acquaintances of us both; and he likes quiet spaces where we can hear each other talk - where we tell about growing up differently: like, he had a dog who was killed in an accident with the toaster; I couldn’t top that. My goldfish lived for twenty years, upgrading from tank to tank to tank.

He got that scar from trying to fly when he was five. I bet he was such a cute little boychild. I fell head first

down that hill where the tourists all go now. I picked the stones from my knees for an hour. I’ve no scars to show.

He’s never had the chicken pox. I always get tonsillitis, still. I don’t know if he’s ever had tonsillitis - he’s always sucking mints - does this stop sore throats?

He likes to bring me to restaurants in the next town, good reviews, no interruptions.

He likes to have some privacy.

He likes dark places where no one can see us, when the curtains are drawn. Bars where we can chat, being strangers to each other in company. He likes going to the movies, and the theatre, and to empty car parks, and going home. Home. Hmmmmmmmmm.

He likes being beside a fire with a decent whiskey. Earthy.

He likes to bring me a bottle

duty free.

It’s so tempting to drink


But I don’t. That’s one long slippery slope and we all know where that goes.

He likes that I Clean Up before he arrives, just call me Lucy. He loves Lucy. He likes that I know that I will sell what I sold: His WLTM. Funny; Kind; Sexy; Good Listener. I will be Perfect; perfumed, non-complaining, made up with that bed-head he likes, that Librarian-let-loose-look that screams…


Available never tired witty

Spontaneously…*insert sigh

…in stockings, thigh high boots, heel wearing - not him. Me.

Always me.

He stays clean shaven, after-shave sweet, showered, fresh collared.

The lies gave me tonsillitis; saying nothing hurts like hell and closes up

my throat so hard,

like that time he held my neck tight and I came like never before…I…I… **insert moan because sweet Jesus this will be the undoing of me.

I have never done that with anyone, ev-er.

I don’t know if I ever will do it again…

I dunno if I wanted it, what I want. What I would ever want.

It felt good though

to have the pain outside instead of in.

I’ll moan for him to do it again. He likes to make me beg.

This is why he likes


She doesn’t do this, does she?

I’ve met her and she’s too lovely. She likes me too.

I have tonsillitis again. I should have them removed.

Amy Gaffney came to writing and university later than she would have liked to. She is from Kildare and is a recent graduate of UCD’s Creative Writing MA where she was Co-Editor in Chief of the HCE Review. Her poetry has been published in Poetry Ireland Review. Amy’s current research topic explores how the human condition has been affected by the force of the internet. She is also interested in exploring the notion of the Irish Mammy and what qualifies a woman to be considered such an entity.

Majella Kelly
Majella Kelly



When I can’t find a noun for what you are

to me, I think of how there was no word

for blue in ancient Greek. Was it simply

beyond description or were they so exposed

to the colour they became fatigued to it?

Did they just identify what was useful

and disregard the rest? And are there other

colours we haven’t found a name for yet?

Like when I first went to introduce you

and found I’d sailed beyond the wine-dark

horizon of my lexicon. (The word Boyfriend

must have gotten set adrift somewhere

between middle-age and girlhood.) This is my…

lover, I said, but others got uncomfortable

as if we’d taken all our clothes off.

What can I say? Not partner, not other-

half. Not soul-mate, not object of affection.

Not knight in shining armour, not Prince

Charming. Not my darling, my stud-muffin.

Nor pumpkin, honey, sugar, sweetie-pie.

This is my…cerulean, I’ll say, my sapphire.

He’s my cyan, my Aegean. You are midnight,

you are electric. You are sky and sea

to me and every other shade Homer had

no name for between violet and green.

Majella Kelly is from Tuam, Co Galway. Her poetry has been widely published and placed in numerous competitions. She has recently received an MSt in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford and is working towards a first collection. You can read more about her at www.majellakelly.com.