New Irish Writing: March 2019’s winning poems

Black Madonna and At Sea by Colette Colfer; Universe Inside and Geography of the Afterlife by Lynn Caldwell

Colette Colfer. Photograph: Dave Manser/Vitamin Creative

Colette Colfer. Photograph: Dave Manser/Vitamin Creative


Black Madonna

I found her at the back of a Dublin church,

high up in a niche, the centre piece

of a white marble altar shrine. She was carved

in oak, flanked by angels and gold mosaic, facing west,

cloaked. She wore a silver crown and was a pole star

of darkness, a pendulum pivot centre of stillness.

I wanted to climb up and into her insides, her back

hollowed out as a once upon a time pig trough disguise

when she had to hide face down in the dirt to survive,

but I sat still and felt my black womb beat come alive.

At Sea

This double bed in dim light is a boat

floating us under a clear sky

on a sea of sleep.

I want to fold this moment closed

and stay here in my white linen sheets,


My love my owl my downy brown

warm beside me in the prow

that’s pointing towards morning.

When daylight breaks you will be gone

and all I want

is to keep holding on.

Colette Colfer lectures part-time in world religions and ethics at Waterford Institute of Technology. She previously worked in print and broadcast journalism and has won a number of national awards for her radio documentaries. She runs the Spokes series of poetry/open-mic nights in Phil Grimes pub.

Universe Inside

My grandmother

brought her gallstones home

from the hospital in a jar.

Marbled crimson and navy,

some curving smoothly

others pocked with tiny craters,

they rattled when I held the glass to the light,

like polished stones from the sea

or miniature planets,

a universe inside her.

Galaxies extending

beyond her arm’s reach,

we flowed outward from her,

spinning our own orbits,

drawing the lines

between our own constellations.

Geography of the Afterlife

Death brings

a changed landscape:

burn scars, or gashes

where buildings once stood.

Sometimes a whole stand of trees is felled,

gone overnight.

The wind blows thin, sharp,

straight through crannies

in unfamiliar walls.

Yet you can see

in other directions:

far hills that you never noticed,

sometimes green.

Lynn Caldwell’s work has been published in The Antigonish Review, Pier Magazine, and Proem Canada and has featured on Sunday Miscellany. She was a runner up in Aesthetica’s Creative Writing Award 2017, has a BA in creative writing from the University of Victoria, Canada and blogs at Lynn lives in Dublin.