Hennessy New Irish Writing: September 2017 winning poems

‘Spring Cleaning’ and ‘Astray’ by Karen J McDonnell

Spring Cleaning

Coming out the other side
of flu, I pull off the clinging sheets
and push open the window –
with a medieval belief
in the cleansing nature of fresh air.

I attack myself with pumice,
shower until my fingers wrinkle.
Warm, towelling my toes,
I head-hurtle back to the graveyard –
feet freezing in that day's slush.

What do they say
about the parts of us that grow
on in death?

He is only gone a month,
and here I am – Spring cleaning.


A bend in the conversation
leads to talk of a straying
field in Sligo. Walk it all,
but there's no getting away
until you've turned
your coat inside out.

We went astray.
Talking in circles. Resolution
shambling behind us
across midnight's acreage.
If there is blame, it's sulking
in the soakpit where we left it.

Vestigial love appears,
following the sun in fellowship
like primroses, cowslips,
whitethorn, berries.
We found a gap in the hedge.
But not before we had turned
ourselves inside out.

Karen J McDonnell lives in the Burren, Co Clare. Her work has been published in journals and anthologies in Ireland and abroad. “This Little World”, her debut poetry collection, is published this year by Doire Press