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ISBN 978-1-908376-34-3

9 781908 376343

RÓISÍN TIERNEY

“Róisín Tierney’s subjects may be the dark ones of human vulnerability and anguish, but the poems… rest on solid and graceful foundations of precision, musicality and wit.” Alan Jenkins in his presentation speech for the 2012 Michael Marks Award

THE SPANISH-ITALIAN BORDER

Róisín Tierney won the prestigious Michael Marks Award in 2012 with her pamphlet Dream Endings, and in this, her first full-length collection, her distinctive poetic voice is once again given full rein. As its title suggests, this is a book that contorts the world we know: oddly fluid and yet grounded in subjects that range from rural Ireland to sub-maritime journeys to Spain, from unheard-of languages to ghost dogs. Wherever Tierney takes us, she reveals desire and a search for connection with people and place. The playful tone of many of these poems dances lightly over careful construction and a crafted precision for what she describes. Through acute observations and litanies, there are echoes of song and chant that pull you innocently through to what can be shocking climaxes. However, never lost underneath all these poems is a genuine celebration of life and its peculiarities.

THE

SPANISHITALIAN BORDER

RÓISÍN TIERNEY


Hunt Say, as the springbok twists, say as it turns in contradictory prongs above the veld, say as it turns and twists, say as the sun burns the black earth and turns it into dust, say as the hooves electrify the air and tap the dust upwards in spiral twists, so turns the earth, so turns the yellow sun, so hefts the huntsman his blue‑barreled gun and twists to catch the springbok in its sights and lifts the gun to meet the leaping deer which warps the air, which twines its double stripes into a helix, a paroxysm, delight, that swerves to catch the bullet with its heart, shatter the sky, and tear the world apart.

31


Global In Wicklow, the midwinter sun lies so low in the sky that we have to wear our designer wrap-around shades, the better to squint into the glare of it, the better to slink a sideways look at that which is so fierce it graces everything. We are Marsh Arabs now, we up with our tents, we follow the sun, trailing our books and clothes, we ululate, we sing. Maimonedes no longer spins his golden astrolabe. Our star is lonely, she is off her rails. She drops down towards us, yet she freezes us. Our shoes and books and things may yet pile up into a frozen heap, a pilgrim’s mound of leavings, outside a temple or a mosque, after the panic, after the stampede.

32


Crush The Galapagos Islands have never been connected to a continent. All life flew, swam or was blown there.

I, a Blue-footed Booby with an elaborate courtship ritual, hop from foot to foot with the shame of it. My little head tilts with a charmless honk, as I coyly offer one blue foot after the other. And as the world lists from side to side, matching for a while my goosey tilt, I come straight about one thing (watching your swaying image from my birdlike trance of infatuation): it isn’t your fine feathers that have brought me to this near extinction, this dwindling state, but the wide heart of you sailing out over the Galapagos skies.

33


As is the Archaeopteryx Beaded with sweat, I meet your eyes and contemplate your true beginnings, when you clambered from the primal soup, with your light covering of primitive fluff, your vacant face and upward stare, those feather-barbs drooping where your wings had sat, your bewildered cry. As surely as any German quarryman cracks stone from stone in Solnhofen, your nature’s split right from the off: that sulphurous whiff, those red lagoons which surface only in your dreams, your tendency towards fight or flight when under pressure. Perhaps an intermediate species, we are still becoming something – what? I don’t know, but an angel would have cried to smile like you do, and today swallows swoop in Bavaria as Archaeopteryx never could. And look, as if by chance, looking at us – that robin’s lizard glance.

34


Excerpt from The Spanish-Italian Border