New Irish Writing: February 2020’s winning poem by Clare Gallagher
They came within days, I imagine.
With their boxes and strong black bags; helping
Perhaps while we were away, the younger three,
at sleepovers with relatives.
They lifted you quietly from shelves, folded and stacked,
emptied you from that old wide wardrobe.
They must have gone through your drawers;
absence was everywhere.
They rolled your ties, your belts, for charity
to be knotted and fastened by some other Daddy.
The house gave way to your going.
Doors opened and closed as intended.
Did they take your strange buys from the kitchen?
Those sandwich pastes you insisted on trying?
Your Night Nurse left the windowsill,
its drinking tub sticky with green.
They even came back for your aftershave,
overlooked in the bathroom cabinet.
Old Spice. Its cold white bottle.
They carried away all knowing of you,
the rough of your close-up chin.
They did a thorough job.
And in all that frantic taking,
they cleared your name from our lips.
We soon forgot how to pronounce you.
The sounds were too big for our mouths.
We foundered in all that loss.
Clare Gallagher is a primary school teacher from Derry. She writes both poetry and fiction and has been published in local anthologies and journals. As a finalist in the Bath Spa 25-Word Novel Competition in 2017, her work was published in The Guardian and recorded by Jeremy Irons. In July 2019, she was selected to attend a week-long poetry masterclass with Carol Ann Duffy and Michael Woods in Scotland. She is a mentor for young writers.