Poem of the week: Scullery

A new work by Rita Ann Higgins

Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins at Spiddal. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins at Spiddal. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy


A place of cold comfort
a pot and pan place
a place to wash potatoes in that space-ship pot.
A place for Andrews Liver Salts
a treacle tin for rusty nails.
Old oil-stained rags in a ball.

No water came from the taps in the scullery
but from a barrel outside.
One day we will have running water
and when that day comes
Women will dance on Jupiter and
we will be liberated
from our picayune half selves.

A place to hide the Jeyes Fluid
but nothing could hide its smell.
A three-legged stool stood in the corner
it was brought in for the rosary.
No one wanted to be caught with it.
It had no luck that stool
it took nobody’s weight.
Although we were only floating feathers,
it still creaked out in agony.

The scullery was there,
and it was name checked often.
It had the measure of us
or at least our half measure.
A place of no comfort,
a cold place for Liver Salts
a puncture repair kit had squatters’ rights.
The scullery, a place to be cold in.
A room as empty as our chiselled hearts.

On winter nights the wind howled
round the gable end,
and walloped the scullery door
nearly taking it off its hinges.
A shout rang out,
it snapped our torpor in two.
Close the scullery door
and keep in the heat,
for the love and honour of Christ.

Rita Ann Higgins’s most recent books are Our Killer City (poems and essays) published by Salmon and Tongulish (Bloodaxe)