Poems of the week: Sylvia’s Books and Theft

New work by Mary Noonan and Thomas Dillon Redshaw

Thomas Dillon Redshaw: Theft is from his collection Mortal

Thomas Dillon Redshaw: Theft is from his collection Mortal


Sylvia’s Books

I’ve taken your little books with me,
the blue and the red, Sylvia’s books;
thin, clothbound, you carried them
in your pockets in the ’70s, memorising
every word and line-break, all the
cutting little poppies, little hell flames,
and lizards airing their tongues
in the crevice of an extremely small shadow.
Their spines are cracked, their lettering
gilded splinters, and I have flung them
in a sack of indifferent books, so that
they emerge frazzled, out of breath.

I should take much more care of them,
these two old Sylvias who have brazened it out
down the long years. They should be sitting
in bath-chairs on the sea-front at Worthing,
knees snug in moss-and-heather mohair,
papery eyelids closing in soft afternoon sunshine.
I should be wearing Bruges lace gloves when
I hold them, these books that tell me of you
in your twenties, learning to do battle as a poet,
loving Sylvia, her little pilgrim scalp axed
by Indians, her million soldiers running,
redcoats every one.

Mary Noonan


In the morning I ask myself when it began.
When did her going come near? When did

The certainty of it come clear? The theft,
I think. She was in the door before me

& saw drawers open, cupboard doors
Hanging wide. Her desk open. He had skills.

All right. He had patience. No one saw him
Come & go. He found all her books and mine

A disappointment. But he was a pro & no
Carney with the state fair. Nothing vandalized,

Except memory. Her red jewel-box empty
On the bed. Her mother’s gold beads gone.

The gold five-ruble coin. Her thin wedding band.
Days later a deep-down voice on the phone

Asked for her by name. hung up. At breakfast
She looked up from her English muffin,

Looked away off into that August light
& confessed, to no one, “I am not really here”.

Thomas Dillon Redshaw

Thomas Dillon Redshaw’s Mortal was published by Brighthorse Books in Omaha, Nebraska. Mary Noonan’s poem is from her new collection, Stone Girl (Dedalus Press ) Both poets are among the readers at the Cork International Poetry Festival ( March 18th-23rd )