Hennessy New Irish Writing: July 2017’s winning poems
Particulars of Bovine Husbandry; Old-age Sensibility; and The House, by Chris Connolly
Particulars of Bovine Husbandry
Do not feel, please
like this means a thing;
do not think, for a second,
that I think about you often
after, what –
(And six months and a week
and two days, roughly,
not that I’ve been counting.)
Only I met at a girl at a bar, drunk,
who had your name
but not your brain or your accent
or your face
or love of puns.
It’s not as if some leaden cloud
of regret and unresolved emotion
dogs my days
inflating my brain to popping-point
or that I wake up sweating, sometimes
from a dream
regarding you and me, and Us
or find watching films we watched
or books we read together
as cheerless now
as the end of summer for a child.
It’s just that while she spoke,
this other you with the different face,
talking oddly about animal husbandry,
I couldn’t help thinking
the difference was as stark
as the master-masonry of medieval castles
and the grimy chaos
of a pebble-dashed wall.
But that is all, I swear,
not some incipient fixation
or early mid-life crisis
or cry for re-connection.
No, don’t overthink this
this simple observation
of your all-round trumping
of a boring veterinarian
without a beautiful face
or stinging mind –
just obsession with particulars
of bovine reproduction.
Unless, that is
you catch me crossing your mind, still,
when reading books or watching films
you know I would have loved or hated
or when queuing in the supermarket, say,
or cloistered in the traffic
of infinite brake lights limned ahead, two by two,
lighted up like robot animals in heat
and you catch yourself emitting nostalgic sighs
about that time we drove to Fishguard
singing along to the radio, laughing,
even though we were fighting.
Or maybe you remember
over your first cigarette of the day,
if you still smoke,
or in the silence of an elevator
that time we stayed in on Halloween
so we wouldn’t have to share each other;
more likely you barely remember my face . . .
But if you do, well,
if you do then we should talk, maybe,
just a little, no strings –
To see where we are,
and if we might like to go somewhere else.
He thought long and hard about it, the old man,
before building the wall around his home, so nobody could look inside.
He sealed his letterbox shut with glue,
to stymie the postman,
and padlocked the front gate
to stymie anyone else.
He cut down all the trees to keep the birds away;
there is only so much birdsong you can take
(people don’t get told enough)
before silence becomes a blessing.
He disconnected the doorbell, and the alarm,
shearing the lines
like a seasoned burglar,
and boarded up his windows, each one,
with plywood –
to keep out the light,
and anything else.
He blocked up the chimney
(for obvious reasons)
flipped the main switch
on the circuit board
letting the electricity die.
In his bedroom, he locked the door from inside,
and glued that too,
just in case.
By candlelight he lined the walls
with empty egg-cartons
for professional soundproofing.
Finally, when he had finished,
with everything just so,
he slipped into bed one evening, tucked up tight,
and settled with a contented sigh
of the deepest kind –
Like an animal, maybe; like a wily old bear . . .
Though in the spring
he would not be waking up
like bears do:
rested, readied, hungry for another season.
There is only so much of life to live, for some people,
before it begins to feel
like it’s time for a change.
The house begins to tick
when the sun heats the eaves
past a certain point.
It sounds the way a dog
having a bad dream
the way a person twitches
during a terror.
I lock all the doors
when it makes these noises
and close all the curtains.
I try not to wake it
like they say you shouldn’t
in case those ticks aren’t dreams
but the noises of nightmares.
Chris Connolly was born in Dublin in 1983. He is currently studying for an MA in creative writing at UCD. His awards include the RTÉ Francis Mac Manus Award (2016, winner; 2012, 2013, shortlisted); Easy Street Magazine Great American Sentence Contest (2016, winner); Hennessy Literary Award, Emerging Fiction (2016, winner; 2014, Nominated); Lascaux Review Fiction Prize (2015, Winner); The Roberts/People’s College Short Story Award (2015, winner).