Hennesy New Irish Writing winning poems: June 2017
‘Here’ and ‘The Scan’, two poems by Kevin Graham
We lie face to face on the bed not saying
anything because what are words but a prelude
to silence. You’ve your eyes closed
pretending to be asleep and so have I
but soon I’m drifting in the sweet undertow,
reconstructing the memory of your face.
Your breath covers my lips with its clammy kiss.
This is love, even if the term has lost
all meaning in the wake of American TV shows
who use it as a crutch. Our rosy noses
are tip to tip as in The Creation of Adam
suspended forever, forever almost touching.
The same could be said of our hearts
under the sky’s evening fire, the drama it creates
in secret kingdoms. I want to tell you
about the beauty of the universe, how pain
is woven into the fabric of existence but my voice
idles when you tap your fingers on my jaw
and ask me to wake and gradually I see the ocean
of your eyes floating above me as if I’m
an old man struggling to remember my name
and you’re sitting there waiting for me
to make some kind of sign or gesture that says
this is why we’re here.
She takes your arm so easily, lifts it wing-like
away from your side, the loose wrist hers
if only for a second. The strap tightens
and you feel your pulse swell like nights out
on too much whiskey or carrying something
heavy down the stairs. A pause goes by
filled with expectation and sure enough
a sting pricks the vein, the needle’s freight
shortening your breath. She sighs and tuts,
apologises, mops where blood had spilled
down your elbow onto the gurney. You stare
at the ceiling’s holes and tell her not to worry.
She injects the dye and something changes,
your heart a floodgate, no longer crimson.
Kevin Graham’s poems have appeared in ‘Poetry Ireland Review’, ‘The Stinging Fly’, ‘Oxford Poetry’ and on RTÉ Radio’s ‘Arena’ and ‘Sunday Miscellany’. He’s working on a first collection.