Poem: Hunger’s mother

November's Hennessy New Irish Writing winning poems

 

There is this other test
you don’t dare pass or fail:
the older boys guiding you down
to the abattoir on the bank
of the Camac, slicked every other day
the stink-bomb pink, snot- green or yellow
of Clondalkin Paper Mill’s mush.

They stand sentinel
on either side of you
as Albert the Slaughter,
gracious still in hung-over sweats,
leads the heifer out.
Nose to the rusted bars
of the gate, you have to watch
as he pats the tufted head
and gives the blessing in one ear
that will have to go unheard below
the bellows of its companions out back.

After the shot, it seems as if the animal
will never fall; hind legs inching apart,
neck- flesh puckering in a dowager faint,
eyes thrown to the heaven of a slower time.

When the crew sets to work, rendering up
with their blades and their hooks
what is soon left limp enough,
your early mentors only have eyes for you
as the blood washes across the floor
toward your riveted sneakers.

No joy for them in your poker face,
a spotless mirror of theirs. Or later,
as you slouch home at dusk,
listening to your own experimental curses
cut a swath through that thrown-up suburban
settlement, empty stomach grumbling.

Neglect

On Saturdays we lit out for the woods
around Corkagh Park, got busy turning
our local, abandoned Big House
into a proper House of Usher.
A pint-sized wrecking crew with an arsenal
of funny walks and speech impediments, ex-Blue Babys
with an excess of hand-me-down shapes to be thrown
we regularly saw ghosts in museum attire
taking the measure of all that private lebensraum
they had acquired in the blink of a mannequin’s eye
while we gave their house a meticulous dressing down
to the very last glasshouse pane; flung tiles to shatter,
pleasingly, on cobbled yards, stashed wood for future bonfires
while someone kept sketch for a fuming farmer
shaking a red fist from a bi-plane engined tractor . . .

And when deconstruction proved so much harder
than work we lay flat in the Bamboo Forest
to listen for the noise of our own breaking voices
giving us away to a solitary seeker.
We thought we could squat there indefinitely;
no bells or watches beneath the swinging tree,
a sky full of big ideas held off on plucking us away.
Until that day the Real-Time world rose
from the long meadow grass with a stink,
a rough-sleeping inmate absconded from Saint Someone’s
enquiring if one of us would be good enough to:
“thrash my arse with one of them yella’ canes.”

It was time to go then, time to split;
no one said so but everyone silently did
explode in a multitude of self-serving directions,
each wide enough to know a bogie when they saw one.
And all ending up, in one piece, grateful for a change
for our impregnable homes where Jimmy Saville
would always fix it and Gary Glitter sang:
“Do Ya Wanna Be In My Gang?”

Alan Weadick has published poetry in journals, most recently in Skylight 47, Burning Bush 2 and Cyphers. He has read at Poetry Ireland’s “Introductions” series and has had poems shortlisted for this years Strokestown Poetry Prize, Listowel Writer’s Week and Red Line Book Festival poetry competitions. He has twice been shortlisted in the RTÉ Francis MacManus Short Story Competition. He lives in Dublin with his wife and two children.