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Graduate Students’ Union TCD

Postgraduate Journal of Arts & Humanities

Trinity College Dublin 2017-18

Literary Fiction Popular Fiction Non Fiction Culture Poetry Art

A chara, I am Irish, Kerry born and became a reader when my father rescued dusty hardbacks from the attic and my mother took me to the local library. Over time I discovered the writers whose works I still read and cherish today; I remember climbing a tree with a view over Cnoc an Fhómhair with books by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and eventually George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf and John Berger. I didn’t then, and do not now, think of these writers as different to the talented writers publishing opinion on society today. Of course back then, I knew their lives bracketed different times, but their books made a deep impression on me as a collective, their words took me somewhere else – an elsewhere defined less by time and place than by a consciousness burning like flames on the page that taught me about all kinds of love. Observing the fire racing from Virginia Woolf’s or Charles Dickens’s mind at work, thinking of love and betrayal, suffering or poverty, a half or full century after their books were published, caused me to consider my inner life and to also examine the unnecessary external wrongs labouring society. I still believe that the moment I recognized love as a salve to injustice is when I became a writer. College Green Journal, now in its XIX incarnation, arrives this year with ‘Love’ as the theme. Historically, the editors of this journal got it right with Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan, Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and many others. But this year, if they were panners they would have a new pile of gold. What is exciting about the artistic contributors in this issue is how they use the instruments of literature – language and form, time and voice – to show alternative versions of love in the world that feel as real and as urgent as reality. I believe this is a form of political alchemy. Literature exists, after all, not just for distraction, but to convey truth and to show verity and power, and it does so by declaring that the world as it is conceptualized is every bit as important as the world as it exists. In this manner literature


grows a new reality, word by word, in the lives of its readers. It reshapes the way people visualise, which adjusts how they reflect, and expands what they believe is possible. It relates stories of grief and longing, of the ordinary and the extraordinary, but also of power, oppression and persecution. It is not by mere chance that artists, writers and poets are tormented where love is judged and there is no freedom. When they stimulate thought, artists, writers and poets are the most powerful individuals. Literature can be dangerous, you can buy a book in a bookstore and it can blow your life apart. A line of poetry can take you down pathways and leave you there. It was with all this in mind that I brought this editorial team together to select work from present students and alumni of Trinity College Dublin under the theme of ‘Love’. Ireland is a free country, but it is hardly an ideal one at present, and surely artists, writers and poets exist to bridge the gaps where stark reality fails. So I hoped for editors with strong, idiosyncratic tastes, people who read literature imaginatively as well as for academic answers. In short, I hoped for a tribe of brilliant outsider minds that had worked or studied inside Trinity College. The tribe emerged from Trinity’s postgraduate and alumni community; writers, artists, poets and editors who dazzle with their accurate narrative intelligence and literary architecture. I would like to thank each contributor who submitted and agreed to a commission. I would also like to thank the members of the editorial team, whose diligence and passion in this task was, for me, unmatched in any previous editorial experience. They proved, each time we gathered, that reading is not only a way for each of us to be peacefully alone, but a way for us when we come together to connect and love, something each one of these writers has done with language that is captivating, beautiful and urgent and all their own. Here is what the editors and contributors think love is in 2018. Le dea-mhéin an eagarthóir,

Gisèle Scanlon


content 10 non fiction I Don’t Want to Feel That My Life is a Race Against My Own Fertility Lauren-Shannon Jones


14 non fiction A Personal Reflection on Gay Marriage and the Queer Rights Movement Kyle Martin

non fiction

The Evolution of Love Caitlin Moon

18 poetry Notes on Late January Alicia Byrne Keane

20 popular fiction Launch Night Laura Cassidy

22 popular fiction A Mother’s Love


26 poetry Lovers in New York Kabir Chattopadhyay


38 literary fiction Paperwork

Dearbhaile Houston

Carlo Gébler

literary fiction


Aoife O’Ceallachain


44 literary fiction Your Man Catherine Talbot

46 poetry Translation of an excerpt from ‘Par obole’ by Blandine Merle Alex Corey

52 culture Self Love 101 Dan Scott

58 poetry Kilmainham Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

59 poetry Rise

32 literary fiction

The Curlew is Dead Callum Bateson

Ciarán O’Rourke

60 art Mural Joe Caslin

62 art Frederic William Burton: The Ultimate Master of Love Shimeng Zhou

68 poetry while persephone watched Umang Kalra

48 culture

The Death of The Bohemian Lover Brendan Marx

69 poetry laundry Annemarie Ní Churreáin


The Evolution of Love


moved to Ireland because I fell in love with the historian who guided a bus tour that I was on two summers ago. To me, this is tangible proof that Love exists. However, the connotation of the emotional state in which I regularly compose terrible poetry is, like virginity, a constantly evolving cultural construct. Love has been categorized and defined by humans to rationalize the onslaught of emotions that are brought about as a result of interpersonal interactions. In the broadest sense, variations of love can be felt for anyone or anything. The philosophers of Ancient Greece rationalized love into four categories: familial love or storge, friendly love or philia, romantic love or eros, and divine love or agape. According to Plato, the best kind of friendship stems from the eros which lovers feel for one another, calling to mind our modern terms of boyfriend and girlfriend. Plato fully explores this concept within the ‘Phaedrus’ and the ‘Symposium’. With the advent of Tinder and the instant gratification of modern hook-up culture, the cornerstone of friendship and the development of emotional attachment has been buffered, reinvented, and largely negated. The expression and experience of love, especially interpersonal love, is unique to each individual epoch and culture. Ancient Rome compressed the four types of love into two, which are the precursors of our modern conception of platonic love and romantic love. Christianity appropriated these conceptions of love as the heart of its faith. In the very early medieval period, saints such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas attempted to remove eros, in my opinion because it functioned outside of the control of the Church. Early Church Fathers sought to re-brand love as a nonphysical form of devotion which was reminiscent of the abstract worship of an idealized deity. This removed the abstract concept of love from the ‘sins of the flesh’, which were packaged as sinful and shameful. This mentality is still present in postmodern society in ‘the walk of shame’. To quote Katy Perry, ‘the ladies, at breakfast, in last night’s dress… I see you.’ Western ideology currently divides love into self-love, infatuation, and courtlylove. Every form of religion has attempted to categorize, qualify, and appropriate interpersonal love. Francis X. Newman defines courtly love as 'a love at once illicit and morally elevating, passionate and disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent'. The unattainable ideal set forth by courtly love sought to substitute erotic desire with spiritual transcendence. The concept of courtly love can be generalized and interpreted from a post-modern perspective as feminist.






The continuous themes of courtly love, which span from Lyric, to Romance, to Allegory, present the lover as idolizing the mistress of his heart by accepting her independence from him. His actions throughout the narrative seek to improve himself or to prove his nobility of character by either completing whatever quest she has asked of him or by subjecting himself to a series of tests that would prove both his love for her and his moral fortitude. This concept was first fully analyzed in Gaston Paris’ 1883 article ‘Études sur les romans de la Table Ronde: Lancelot du Lac, II: Le conte de la charrette’, which first popularized the term amour Courtois and reconfirmed the sexual connotations of the phenomena. The literature of courtly love is hetero-normative and patriarchal at the best of times. This does not mean that other expressions of sexuality and gender did not occur. The method of production and the minds of the audience of the works of courtly love were heavily regulated by religious doctrine. The practice of courtly love existed outside of literature, and is the subject of contemporary etiquette books. Poets known as troubadours popularized courtly love through songs. The poets appropriated the language of feudalism, the contemporary system of government and social structure, referring to themselves as the ‘vassal’ or dependent of the highest-ranking lady of the court, whom he idealized and referred to in code as midons, ‘my lord.’ This playful anonymity facilitated the extramarital rapport between the woman and her knight. Christine de Pizan's ‘Book of the Three Virtues’ (c.1405) bemoans the practice of courtly love as an excuse to have extramarital affairs. In this vein, courtly love can be interpreted as a social reaction of the upper-class to the medieval construction of marriage primarily as a social and financial contract, rather than an interpersonal expression of affection or devotion. Idealized love continued as a literary construct well into the Renaissance, yet the plethora of poems, plays, and artwork rarely ever refer to a true interpersonal relationship. The object of the poem’s affections is just that: objective. She is an unobtainable, idealized concept of femininity from a male perspective. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw a division of two separate spheres of familial love, which focused on hetero-normative spousal devotion and love as a necessary component of procreation. The second ‘libertine’ sphere encompasses every other expression of love, sexuality, and gender. In the 1700s, the advent of the Enlightenment allowed for the development of companionate marriage and the germination of gender equality. The 1750s were arguably the most influential years for the development of what we currently understand as the experience of interpersonal love. It is the literature of this period that sets a precedent for Hollywood movies and hopeful fantasies. While no piece of literature follows this script exactly, the Romantics tell us that love leads to a marriage of emotional and intellectual equals with the emotions of the initial conquest enduring for all time. It is Romanticism that rebranded the dour institution of marriage into a life-long, socially acceptable love affair. This is also the first time that interpersonal love is characterized as inseparable from mutually satisfying sex. However, with this comes a fresh brand of idealism that continues to



lead to dissatisfaction and eventual disillusionment in the twenty-first century. The right partner, or ‘true love’ would provide complete emotional as well as physical satisfaction through innate empathetic comprehension of their partner’s emotional needs without verbal communication. Romantic marriage also rejected all practical or rational reasons for marriage, insisting that feelings were more important than social status or financial security, which are secondary or demeaned in a romantic relationship. These provide negative stereotypes such as the ‘gold-digger,’ and imply that the common medieval dynamic of a younger woman attracted to an older man only for his money was necessarily devoid of a genuine emotional attachment. Additionally, Romanticism appropriates the idealized beloved from the pedestal of courtly love and deposits them in our messy back gardens. We are shocked and dissatisfied to find that they are not made of marble, but are actual human beings with foibles that make them uniquely beautiful. The Romantics did not create the concept of interpersonal love. The concepts that became dominant during that period existed in whispers in earlier texts as well as historical experience. The Romantic Period lived up to its name and amplified those beliefs into the hallmarks of their age, many of which still exist today. Among my generation, the advent of technology and the instant gratification of our consumerbased culture is leading to a further evolution of interpersonal love into a disposable phenomenon, which seems to have become more focused on sexual fulfillment than emotional compatibility. We currently live in a social environment that is largely accepting of all expressions of interpersonal love, and yet this is threatened by a terrifying power that uses inflammatory religious rhetoric to condemn those that function outside of the restrictions of religious institution. As in the medieval period, this animosity is a matter of social control. Hopefully the troubadours and the poets were right, and Love will prove stronger than hatred.


I Don’t Want to Feel That My Life is a Race Against My Own Fertility LAUREN-SHANNON JONES NON FICT I ON






’ve been watching a lot of reality TV. I used to dismiss it en masse, but there are a rare few shows that have something sweet and human. First Dates is one of them - introduced to me by my partner, I have fallen completely in love with it. It exempts itself from the world of reality television in its genuineness. The subjects of the show bear championing in their hope for a connection with another person. It’s all of life. A prevalence in many of the women on First Dates in their mid to late thirties is their anxious willingness to expose their desire to get pregnant as soon as humanly possible. This is a thing to be seen in projection of years - in order to have a child, it is necessary to meet someone, spend enough time with them to evaluate their suitability as a longterm partner, bring them around to the idea of it, and begin the process of trying, which becomes more difficult by the year. It becomes scientific at that point, strategic, and aromantic. One way around this is to freeze your eggs, something that Rita Ora spoke publicly about in November (she did it in her early twenties). The process is painful and expensive, but worth it to mitigate the apprehension of being watched over by the spectre of infertility. It is distracting. I don’t want to have to think about it, to become preoccupied by strategy. It is an interruption. The fact that more professional women are freezing their eggs acknowledges that motherhood affects the trajectory of lives in a way that fatherhood rarely does. I envy men their time. If the choice was mine to have a child at fifty, sixty, even seventy, I would be, if not ecstatic, certainly calmer, able to focus on the present and see my future in terms outside of parenthood without wondering where my pregnancy will disturb it. The option existing is enough. I don’t want to feel that my life is a race against my own fertility. It’s difficult enough knowing, inescapably, that it is a race against my own mortality, certainly. But it is all the same feeling - to have a child is immortal, the continuation of a line, a deep connectedness with one’s own familial history, to do the thing that your mother, her mother, and her mother, all did. The motivation is very apparent. But for me, a generally non maternal person, it becomes an existential bargaining against the still latent societal norms that limit and diminish a woman in her motherhood. I don’t want my kids to be my life. I want my life to be my life. There are a great many people I admire who have been in no way diminished by motherhood. If they have, prior to my knowledge of them, they must have been prenatally godlike. The fear is that I will not be strong enough, that I will be one who puts their career on hold or cancels it, a vocational mother. I am without judgment, it is a personal fear. Although I know that I would be bettered by it, I enjoy, perhaps masochistically, being worse. Deeper still is the fear that I would retain my selfish qualities and be a terrible, traumatising mother. One mother I know, a designer, told me that who she is now is absolutely different, and the work that she makes is different as a result. ‘They are all I think about,’ she says. She isn’t sad about it, it is simply a thing she considers, constantly. So her work,





consequently, speaks to a domestic space in a way that it didn’t before. Outside of her work, she can’t remember how it feels to be alone. A woman doesn’t procreate so much as bisect, and so a small section of self is propelled into the world. I feel no impulse to procreate yet, but an anxiety surrounds the awareness that I should. I am reassured that it will ‘kick in’ but I am distressed by it. It is enough that I must ask ‘what is it to be a woman’ before I ask ‘what is it to be an artist’ and ‘ what is it to be myself’? To also ask on top of that ‘what is it to be a mother?’ among the messages everywhere of the transformative nature of motherhood is overwhelming. What if one doesn’t wish to be transformed? How do I reconcile my selfish nature, my want and need to work, with the blindsiding love that comes with a child? With the trauma of the body? What happens to my perversions, my predilections, my preoccupation with sex and being sexual? It will be lost, temporarily, and replaced by something greater, but I am frightened of being tricked by these metamorphic hormones that will change me for the better. I have an appreciation for my poorer qualities and will mourn their loss, if it happens. Recently my partner acted in a show alongside a (preternaturally skilled) eleven year old. Through this I met a representation of his potential fatherhood, and I became for the first time fully aware of the collegial nature of wanting a child. It had felt to me for so long to be a singular thing, a thing I must manipulate out of thin air. I thought that if I hadn’t become pregnant by my mid-thirties that I would go to a sperm bank, or give a male friend with great genes a sample jar and some privacy. I see now that the impulse comes from a synergy. It is biological, and I had tried, defensively, to intellectualise it. Concerning life, it is chaotic, and cannot be organised. What would we be like, if we had the choice? If the panic were removed? Imagine. A male friend spoke of the alienating neurosis displayed by a date in her mid thirties. She was nervous to say it, as though she knew well that the reaction would be aversion, but she still did because she had to - ‘Do you think you ever want kids?’ On a first date. ‘Do you think about it?’ Because it is a mortal matter, and serious. It is against time, like death. But she giggled when she said it, to soften the blow. Women are always softening blows, diminishing, they are taught so. It was a bit much, my friend said, for a first date. He is 37, with billions and billions of viable sperm. He has no need to worry about such trivial things as time. Women don't procreate so much as divide, becoming immortal. The stakes are higher for gods. The diminishing giggle. Do you ever want kids? Do you want to be immortal? Do you want to meet small selves and reveal the world to them in gentle increments, like peeling a clementine? Bittersweet soft fruit. When I do become a mother, I will write a retraction to all of this. I will be without contrition and enriched by it unquestionably. But these are things that I think about as my pre-maternal self, and I want it somewhere on record.


A Personal Reflection on Gay Marriage and the Queer Rights Movement KYLE MARTIN NON FICTION 15





his is a reflection on love – of realizing that I can experience love. It is a personal take on gay marriage and the effect the worldwide gay marriage movement had on my ability to love and accept myself and then to love someone else. And it is a discussion of the labels we assign to ourselves and the ones that others so readily give us. There is a narrative that has gained currency that says gay marriage has surrendered the broader movement for change in favor of an inherently assimilationist position. Whether it is squabbling over whether one who disagrees with some of the aggressiveness of more radical-minded campaigners is even part of the queer movement, or anger over an imagined softening of activism by gays now that they can marry with the sanction of the state – it is all finger pointing that is unnecessary. The reality is that in many societies now, gay life is more visible. That is a positive development. It does not negate the pressing need for further change. But, at the same time, this success and visibility does not mean those who celebrate the ability to marry a gay partner without joining every picket line or signing every petition are unthankful recipients of the hard sacrifices made by activists over decades or that they have abandoned the queer movement. To understand my position on these issues, I think some personal background is relevant. Five years ago, in my late twenties, I made a New Year’s resolution that I simply wanted to be happy. What this meant was the start of a process of peeling away layer upon layer of armor that I had used to shield myself from others – to prevent others from really knowing me that they might see my shameful secret. These layers of defense created a sense of comfort. I thought I could successfully contain my attractions to men within myself. But I also knew that each attempt at heterosexual intimacy – whether an innocent date or an alcohol-fueled hook-up – was just that: an attempt that would never lead to a lasting relationship, that would never give me love. For a time, however, I continued these efforts. I remember, for instance, continually promising myself before dates that this will be the one, if I give enough effort, this will be the girl that I could marry. Every date that led nowhere, every time I caught myself checking out a man, brought added shame and renewed defensiveness. Eventually, constant failure at emotional and physical intimacy with women meant resignation to my fate – I would be a lifelong bachelor, a celibate bachelor who would dote on my nieces and nephews and lean on my family for a level of emotional sustenance. As soon as I recognized this future bachelorhood I knew it was unsustainable, though. But, unfortunately, years of personal denial meant that when I was ready to begin accepting myself as gay five years ago, I was overly cautious. Whether it was the generally passive homophobia of the school, social, and religious communities of my youth, or an inherent shyness and lack of confidence that led to the state I found myself in, I do not know, but I do know the process was slow, often tedious, and it sometimes still feels unfinished. I also know that a degree of normalization of gay life in the last twenty years helped establish a layer of personal comfort – an understanding that I will be okay. And if I think about all of this reflectively, I know that the movements for the legalization of gay marriage that played a leading role in bringing about this






normalization, thus helped me personally. So, I have naturally concluded that the success of these movements is positive. Others are not so sure, and I often find their assessments offensive. Fenton Johnson, professor in the English Department at the University of Arizona, interprets this supposed success differently in the cover article for the January 2018 Harper’s Magazine, titled ‘The future of queer’. The teaser text on the cover distills his argument: ‘how gay marriage damaged gay culture’. Johnson carries a vastly different perspective in the debate because of his radicalism during both the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s-70s and his AIDS activism in the 1980s. His historical perspective is instructive – we must recognize the hardships these activists endured and the sacrifices they made and, thus, the significance of their progress for gay rights. But I am mystified at the notion that the success of gay marriage slammed the door of progress shut. This argument of a conservative turn in the gay rights movement has a semblance of truth to it. As Johnson and others write, gay love challenged presupposed societal norms, especially the norm of marriage – proving that love is separate from marriage and that being different and non-conforming was something to celebrate. Marriage, though, is seemingly an embrace of conformity. Johnson argues that in the early 1990s gay activists chose to fully support the marriage movement at the expense of lasting societal change – at the expense of queer identity – and to the detriment of those labelled as odd or outside the norm. I want to make three separate points in response to this notion of a conservative turn. Firstly, for many gay men, myself included, marriage is not an act of surrender or conformity. I come from an environment where gay marriage, if not openly condemned, would have, not long ago, been met with great skepticism or concern – and still is by many. Marriage was always a sacramental act – a ‘vocation’ – between a man and a woman. Gay marriage, of course, is an act of defiance to these traditional notions. Secondly, I am certain that the gay marriage movement helped me develop a vocabulary of personal acceptance. Coming to terms with my sexuality was difficult. Those who decry conservatism or label others as assimilationists should remind themselves that queerness is diversity – a broad diversity, not one prescribed on their terms – and ask themselves whether they, perhaps, are embracing a form of exclusivity. I arrived here with different baggage and from a different path than you. Lastly, gays who marry or gays who embrace the right to marry do not abandon participation in the queer movement, despite what some activists may argue. Because what it comes down to for me is the ability to live comfortably in my own skin and, then, the ability to love someone else. I owe this to queer activists throughout history, not least someone like Fenton Johnson, and I thank them. I just ask that his radical-minded inheritors remember that labelling me as conformist, because I am not as radical as they deem appropriate, ignores my own background and my own path to liberation. And it risks alienating an ally for the broader change that is still needed.



I A café on a wind-blown corner: You keep singing lyrics verbatim In a voice that’s not really yours. (the city full of glass-shard reflections, something smashed and taped back together)

II Lying beneath the green bulletin boards Of a very temporary room, I imagined that a town existed somewhere Where everyone spoke like you: Repeating certain words three times




Notes on Late January






‘Is he any good?’ whispered Aoife, as we poured more wine for the launch crowd. She probably reckoned I’d know because my own poetry collection had sold 147 copies – only 6 of which I’d bought myself, in rival bookshops around town, to get the ball rolling. ‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Pretty good.’ But my opinion couldn’t be trusted, because I liked his blazer and the way his eyes crinkled when he laughed. He signed copies for relatives and friends and people who had wandered into the shop without realizing there was a launch on. I scoured the shelves for rogue wine glasses and flinched when the photographer touched his arm. ‘Mam wants one of you beside the books... Will you smile, for God’s sake.’ His sister, I thought, a little too relieved. ‘Thanks for everything,’ he said, as he gathered up his Sharpies. His shirt was a nice blue and his beard was a sensible length. ‘We’re heading across the road for a pint, if you want to join us?’ ‘I can’t,’ I said. ‘But thanks.’ ‘That’s a pity.’ ‘What age do you think he is?’ asked Aoife, as we folded up the chairs. ‘I don’t know, late twenties?’ ‘You should go to the pub. He was looking over at you when he read out the poem about sex.’ ‘They were all about sex,’ I said. Before locking up, I used my staff discount to buy a copy of the collection. I peeled off the signed by the author sticker and read it on the 39a. As the bus crossed the river, I thought of the night I’d sat on the couch, numb, clasping the jar of emergency Nutella while my housemates struggled to find bad things to say about my ex. ‘He was always on his phone.’ ‘And he never made tea.’ ‘He doesn’t drink it,’ I said. ‘Still.’ Only recently, I’d emerged from the fog of heartbreak. I morphed from the person he wanted me to be, to the one I actually was, like a Transformer releasing her appendages. My days off were spent flitting between the library and the cinema and my favourite cafés, no longer feeling an ache as I sat amongst the couples. I went back to ranting about the institution of marriage and tearing up at engagement announcements, without thinking of him. I forgot what jealousy felt like. In smoking areas, people told me about their relationship problems and I gave them sound, practical advice. Occasionally, I slept with good-looking people I never saw again. I said, ‘I love being single’, and actually meant it. It felt strange, so, to be on my bed googling the poet. I read a few dozen tweets, scrolled through his Instagram. He had good grammar and even better hair. I found more poems, and a podcast in which he discussed his creative process. I accidentally downloaded a PDF of a college zine he’d edited in 2009. I was just about to get my debit card out to infiltrate a literary journal paywall, when I snapped the laptop shut. As I lay in the dark, I thought of how his poetry made me feel like maybe the world wasn’t such a difficult place to navigate. I knew that something was happening, and it was too late to do anything about it. His words were stuck in my head and they snuck into my dreams, like smidges of ink from a felt-tip, bleeding through to the next page.





A Mother’s Love


“Don’t worry, we can try again,” Philip said rubbing his wife’s arm while she lay facing the window. “I don’t want to try again.” “You say that now but it’ll get better, I promise.” He felt the muscles in her shoulder tighten. Their daughter crawled into the room on all fours pretending to be a dog. She climbed up onto the double bed and started jumping. “Mum! Mum! Mum! Mum! …Mum?” “Mum’s tired, sweetheart. Let her sleep,” Philip said. “But why? It’s the morning! Mum, can I have a treat?” Her mother didn’t respond. “Come on. I’ll get you a chocolate and your Mum can get some rest.” “Two chocolates.” “Fair enough, two chocolates,” Philip said knowing that his daughter was not up for a debate. She followed her dad to the door and then stopped. “Mum,” she said worriedly, “the baby isn’t feeling well.” Her mother turned over to face her daughter eyes wide. “What did you say?” “The baby. He’s sick. Is that why you’re still in bed?” Her mother sat up straight while Philip hunkered down to his daughter’s eyeline. “Did you hear me and Dad talking?” “No, the baby told me.” Philip locked eyes with his wife. “Stop it, this is no time for messing,” Philip said raising his voice to his daughter. “It’s true! His name is Sam and he’s in Mum’s tummy.” Philip watched his daughter walk over to his wife’s side of the bed and tug the duvet down passed her knees. “Just listen,” she said cupping her ear with her tiny hand and leaning in. Philip’s wife lay on her back and the room fell silent. “See?” * Philip’s daughter sat on the bottom stair waiting for him. He was on the phone saying the words ‘fatal’ and ‘foetal’. She pushed down on her toes through her shoes thinking that there must be something wrong with her feet. “Is that Grandma? Can I say hi?” she asked her father but he didn’t hear her.






“No, no, no, they can’t. The nurse said it’s illegal. We just have to wait.” After he hung up, Philip locked the front door behind them and they started towards the shop. “Listen, sweetheart. Your mother needs you to be very good for the next while, okay?” “ ’Cause of the baby?” “Yes. The baby is sick, and, well, he’s actually very sick.” “Is he going to die? Like Grandad did?” Philip increased his pace while his daughter had to run to keep up. “Yes. He is. Mum needs us all to be happy around her until the baby is gone. That means no more pretending to hear the baby. It’s not funny,” he said firmly. He watched his daughter suck her cheeks into her face. He knew she wanted to argue but wasn’t going to win – not today. “Okay, Dad. I’ll stop pretending.” She didn’t like lying to her father, it twisted her tummy and made her feel sick. “How did you know it was a boy?” “I heard you and Mum say it yesterday,” she said hugging her stomach. Philip’s wife didn’t leave the house much anymore. She was afraid of the neighbour’s questions. She was afraid of conversations. She stayed up all night cleaning the house while her family slept. Her daughter kept smiling at her, just like Dad said, and ignored the baby’s voice even though it was getting weaker. She wanted to tell her Mum more than anything but Dad had said that it wasn’t funny. The TV was left on all the time. Dad stocked the fridge full of ready meals. The pizza delivery man knew their names. * Once a week Philip’s daughter was left with the children next door while he went to the hospital with his wife. They sat in a yellow room surrounded by expecting mothers waiting to hear if their child had died. A wanted tree, soiled at the root. A feeling of stuck, as his daughter would say. Once a week Philip’s wife was told that they could not induce her while there was still a heartbeat. Once a week Philip’s wife cried on the way home. The next day, Philip’s daughter got a lift home from school with the neighbours. They said that her mother was very sick and asked lots of questions but Philip’s daughter didn’t say anything. She remembered that no one talks about Mum being sick. She reached up to unlock the door and heard the reassuring hum of the television. But something was missing. With her school bag on her back she slowly walked into the kitchen. The door was ajar so she pushed it open and saw her mother face down on the counter. She lowered her bag to the floor and went over to her. Philip’s wife heard her daughter come in but she didn’t move. Her daughter stood on her tiptoes at the other side of the counter so she could see her Mum – a cold cup of tea separating them. “Mum?” “Yeah?” “He’s gone.”






When the prophets came to New York They carried on their shoulders The burden of light, And long-forgotten stories, And gospels of the damned Etched in bronze and marble. And they said, blessed be the meek, Blessed be the poor, For they shall inherit these lovers, And their names will dissolve in the river, And their wrath shall be terrible to behold! Ah, lady of the bitter February. Ah, lord of drunken singers. Ah, lover, lover, lover. And in some dark, forsaken corner of the temple, These lovers shall ask the important questions; Whose temple is this? Why worship in such abstracts? Who keeps the shrine safe From the marauding eyes of skeptics? For New York city is cold and foreign, But it affords a half-chance, perhaps, For lovers to flow like wine, or honey, Or words that come tumbling out When silence ceases to be interesting. When the lovers came to New York They carried in their pockets Pebbles from the first kiss, And the memory of the first naked woman On a roof, under the shameless sky In the sun, somewhere public, Quite ignorant of the prophecy.











he is waiting for Satan to come over. Ripping shreds of skin off her fingers, scraping away at the knuckles with her thumbnail. A sure sign that he’s on his way. She stands in front of the bathroom mirror to make sure everything is in order. The skin of her face dotted with tiny sinkholes and pockmarks: an adolescence spent picking at her skin. She wonders how he can love her. But he does. I love the way you look at me with such disdain, he said maybe the third time they met. And isn’t it nice, she thought, when someone recognises you for what you really are, who wants you to play to your strengths. Who saw the picked skin, the master’s that ended up a postgraduate diploma, the lazy stack of books on the bedside table and said yes. Yes, this is who I want. Disorder and chaos are what he loves. Hoof prints all over the carpet. She will not get her security deposit back when she moves out of the apartment but it is worth it. She told her friends they met the usual way – online, two dates (one coffee, one pub) and that was it. The truth of it was that he had just appeared one night. She was standing in her kitchen attacking a frying pan with a Brillo Pad, grease and crumbs of food coating her wrinkling hands. The kitchen was cold. She was watching the couple in the apartment across from her. Always so tender with each other. He was cooking dinner and she sat on the windowsill, smoking. He went over to her from time to time, on his way to wash his hands or deposit vegetable peels into the bin, and he kissed her. She felt sad for herself, for all the un-kissed and unloved. It was this that summoned him, she thinks. A certain kind of self-pity settled in her stomach, simmered gently, as she dried her hands on a dirty tea towel and moved to the biscuit packet on the counter top. One chocolate shortcake was left, crumbled to a powder at the bottom. There was an ache in her jaw, the beginning of a cry. Then the streetlamps outside flickered and the seventies concrete trembled below and there he was. He had a packet of Bourbon Creams under his arm. They weren’t her favourite but she appreciated the gesture. He loves to be hated and she loves to hate. A match made in heaven, she said from the bed the next morning as he dressed in pin-stripe. Not funny, he said but he loved it. Loves her. He works for Paddy Power and owns three Savile Row shirts from his stint in London. He always pays for dinner and it never occurs to her to protest, although with other men she had always been adamant to split the bill. In for a penny, in for a pound is his policy and she thinks it would be rude to disagree. For example: the holiday. The summer had been a wash out and she complained about it all through June and July until August came and he said he wanted to take her someplace where she could warm her bones. She thought of brimstone. Instead he slid two tickets across the table. Marbella, two weeks. She drank very sweet drinks and so many bodies were writhing around on the sand it was like a Bosch triptych. He was in his element, his skin seemed to jump up to catch the heat. His new swimming trunks hid his forked tail very well. She sat in the shade, underneath a palm umbrella. Irish, she explained to the waiters as they cleared her empty glasses, and she held out an arm to illustrate her whiteness.


She turns the tap to Hot and it runs lukewarm. Still looking at herself in the mirror she lets her eyes go unfocused until she is a dark apparition in the glass. She thinks her loneliest thoughts: her mother dying; her sister dying; herself dying a spinster’s death in a pebble dashed midland’s cottage. She grips the sides of the sink as it washes over her, the loneliness. Next thing the bulb in the shaver light pops and sizzles, darkness swallowing the room. He appears behind her now, outlined in the mirror. Good suit, bit of a tan still from the holiday or from somewhere else. She had always thought that she would have a complicated kind of love. The hours she spent picturing some faceless man: soft-spoken, jumper-wearing, possibly English. Imagine this, she’d say to herself: he watches me from across the room at a party. We share a laboured kiss but never speak of it again. We move to different cities, have new relationships. But I come across him one day on the street, at a blinking pedestrian crossing, and we know that this is it. Here’s another: his father dies and I comfort him at his funeral. We wear black and kiss each other bleakly, searchingly, as if we can hide from death in each other’s mouths. The outcome is the same, every time. She would know him. Know every freckle on his back and keep track of them, their fadings and flourishings. But this, what she has now, is a very different kind



of thing. It is – metaphysics aside – a simple thing. Her friends stare off into middle distance as she philosophises about love over her vodka and lime, the patio heaters scorching their faces. She is trying to explain why she is in love with him when it has all come together so easily. You can’t get much easier than a man appearing in your life exactly when you need him. But he’s not really my type, she acquiesces and is disappointed when no one agitates to meet him. Six months. She thinks that’s about the right time to ask him to meet her family. The utter boredom of her working day may have had something to do with this decision. She was sitting at her desk, waiting for distraction to hit in the form of anything. She counted out the sixty-seven days until her next week of holidays. She read the ‘Most Popular’ section of three news websites and checked her bank balance to see if she could afford a new winter coat. She could not. Now, in the bathroom, she wants to ask him straight away but fears her words bouncing back at her from the porcelain tile. He has her halfway out of her dress before she can make her opening argument. Would you like to come to Sunday dinner? she asks. She expects him to vanish as quickly as he appeared, to wake up in bed with nothing but scratch marks on her back and the smell of tannis root in the room. Sure, he says, addressing her midriff. I’d love to. * He seems nice, her mother said at the end but all the while she couldn’t help think of what failure of love she had handed down to her daughter. She had not pictured her with someone so gelled and striped, with that kind of bravado that takes you in for a while and then leaves you staggering and cold afterwards, like a bad walk home. But, we are a modern family, she thought while heating up the rhubarb tart, slicing the block of ice-cream. There would be no calls to the priest, no crucifix brandished or holy water flicked in his direction. None of that. Satan is just a nickname, her daughter reassured her. He got it at boarding school, she said, as if it explained everything. She wouldn’t tell her where they had met but she had always been a secretive child. A diary keeper, the worst of the lot. They sat at the table nonetheless, chicken carcass as centrepiece – she loved her daughter as much to give her some semblance of normality. Reverently, her husband spoke of rugby scores, pension schemes, transport worker strikes, and her daughter’s boyfriend interjected with a carefully dissenting noise while the whole table held their breath to see how this would be received. Just playing devil’s advocate, he grinned and relief washed over the table. A sense of humour. Yes. She had told her daughters to find someone who makes them laugh. Still, she thought of the stories she’d heard in her youth. The tall, well-dressed men at dancehalls who lured young women behind brick walls or abandoned barns before disappearing. How was this any different? She had hoped things would be different, if not for her then at least for them. A lovely lad, her husband decided, as they waved them off at the door. She felt, not for the first time in her life, capable of murder. But as she looked down at her hands, her own strange scars, what else could she do but agree?



A n e xtr act fr o m th e u p co m i n g no ve l , T he Curl e w i s De a d


Staðarskáli service station is the last place on earth. A low industrial building, car park full of camper vans and off-roaders. No other human habitation in sight. Rising out of marsh at the head of a bay, dark mountains behind, little noise but for the occasional passing truck. Inside, a bubble of urban life, chart pop on the sound system, families crowded around diner booths eating burgers, a shop selling maps and international newspapers. I am on a strict budget so sit at an empty table in my ski jacket, pull a Tupperware of chickpea salad from my bag. It was a mistake coming here. What little money I saved in college wasted travelling to a freezing rock south of nowhere. I am alone, and facing a fortnight of eating from the reduced-to-clear section. Outside, the sleet. * It was a damp Sunday when I booked flights to Iceland. At the time, my life in Dublin seemed too comfortable. Every party, every café felt the same. Restlessness inside of me, the desire for something new mixed with fear of what would happen come June. Everyone I knew would be scattered across the world. Valencia. Paris. Athlone. That weekend I decided I needed to leave too. The future could be anything as long as it was aesthetic. Solitude suited me, I thought then. On quiet evenings, in my college house in Ballsbridge, I would clean the living space, listen to ambient electro, arrange dandelions and Herb Robert in jam-jars. Distract myself by looking up the Irish names: Caisearbhán. Ruithéal Rí. Tell myself everything was how it should be because it looked right. Go to the bathroom and examine myself in the mirror - I was slim, dark hair untidy but deliberately so. On days like these I would take a lot of time deciding what to wear. Eighties drain pipe jeans. Faded flannel shirts. No one would judge me for being by myself if I dressed well. * Landing in Keflavík I was transfixed by the ocean-bruised basalt. From the taxi my tired eyes absorbing the landscape: lava fields and half-finished apartment complexes. The lights of cars neon against the sky, midnight sun and an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I stayed in the most expensive hostel in the city for the first few days. The lounge had views over the bay to glaciers floating in the sky, IKEA armchairs filled with twentysomethings skyping friends, a multilingual murmur. Prints of shapes in olive green, barley and violet on the walls, mood lighting and culture magazines arranged on glossy tables. In the morning, empty conversations with Korean exchange students over granola and skyr. I did some of the tourist trail, climbed the tower of the Arctic Cathedral, breath ripped away by the northern wind, Reykjavik reduced to a Lego city beneath, colourful rows of buildings insignificant compared to the wild ocean and mountains threatening beyond. I spent too much money on a bus tour of the Golden Circle with a Dutch tour guide. She had fallen in love with Iceland. Staring out at the grey-green tundra, the sky metal,



Cha pter O ne: M e it h e a mh


I wondered how. Later that evening, tired of Reykjavik, wanting something wilder, I decided to head north. Mosfellsbaer. The end of the bus line, a suburb on the edge. Kronan hypermarkets, pick-ups and pine trees that made me think of Canada. I walked down a slip road on to the dual carriageway heading out of the city. The third car picked me up. An unemployed filmmaker heading west. As we lost sight of Reykjavík, stilted conversations about gender imbalance in the Icelandic film industry. She left me off in Borganes, a small town an hour from the capital. A lift with an engineer later across an ice-streaked plateau and I was left at the service station. He warned me about the dangers of getting stuck out in the wilderness. There were roads that might only see a few cars a week. Every year tourists die waiting for a ride. * Depressed by my salad, I consider heading back to Reykjavík. A young guy sits down next to me, spreads himself about with unearned familiarity. A keyboard case with a ‘save the whale’ sticker by his side. As soon as I see him I want to sleep with him. I can’t help staring. — Can I help you? My face burns with embarrassment. I am disgusted with myself for being so obvious. When I look up he is smiling at me, strip-lighting reflected in his green eyes. — You are on holiday here? His voice is American sounding, but with Icelandic intonation. Relief floods through me once I realise he isn't annoyed at me. I speak too fast as I tell him I’m on my way to Akureyri. He laughs. — I have just come from near there, visiting my family. I’m Ulfur. — Fionn. We shake hands, eyes locked on each other. The handshake feels formal, inappropriate to our conversation. Maybe we should have hugged. — That's a great name. Where are you from? — Ireland... you know the old joke…what's the difference between Iceland and Ireland? He shakes his head. Irish humour doesn't seem to travel. — One letter and nine months. — I don't understand, he says. — The banking crisis… It takes a little, but Ulfur starts laughing out loud, leans towards me. I wonder if he can tell I haven't showered today. I ask him about Akureyri, if it’s worth going to. — For sure, I mean it's small but… Will you be coming back to Reykjavík? — Of course. I don't plan on moving to the North. Ulfur smiles at me. There's a rush of blood to my crotch and the urge to take off his jumper, imagining a toned torso, chest hair. — Let’s get a coffee when you are back then. I nod, dumbstruck, my palms sweaty. Ulfur scribbles down his number, picks up his case and strolls out of the service station. Dazed, I leave ten minutes later. It takes me a while to get a lift, the sky threatening storm. Eventually a young sheep



farmer in a pickup that stinks of shit pulls over. As the land gets more mountainous he tells me about herding sheep on horseback, giving out about Reykjavík. It is too big, full of arrogant people, I’ll have no problem finding a woman to fuck up here, ‘they love foreigners’. Crossing the final mountain pass, Akureyri appears, a shrunken sprawl strung along a fjord. There is a town square, a thermal bath and a cathedral, surrounded by retail parks and grim houses facing north towards nothing. I spend two days searching desolate streets for the cultural buzz described by Lonely Planet, drinking coffee alone at 10pm in a bookshop that reminds me of Eason’s. On the longest day of the year I wander around a discount supermarket. I buy digestive biscuits and an Icelandic blue cheese called TINDUR. And I think about Ulfur. Growing up around here. He probably had hung out in this same mall as a teenager. Used his pocket money to buy oversweet chocolate. Did he enjoy life in this place? Exiting into the murky evening, passing bored sixteen-year-olds leaning against a shuttered sports store, I decide not. Later, after too much cheese, I text him. * Ulfur and I arrange to meet in Reykjavík Roasters – his choice – at 5PM on a Thursday. I hitch the whole way back from the north with two German women, my stomach in bits thinking about the date later. The café is on a corner, a few streets down from the cathedral, white with sky blue windows and young people smoking rollies outside. They look like artists, but probably work in a call-centre. I have half an hour, so I go to the


toilet to get ready. I am dressed for travelling – hiking boots, ski jacket, my skinny jeans smudged with mud and avocado. Using the volcanic soap, I give myself a sponge bath, change into my one good shirt. Organic blue cotton that I think brings out my eyes. My stubble too long and flecked with orange – I look like a mess, but better than before. When I leave the cubicle Ulfur is sitting on a worn leather couch playing with an espresso. His red hair shaved at the sides, curly on top. I notice his feet tapping to the Nick Drake record. We embrace quickly. — This café is great… — Well last time we were in a service station. — Ha… true. I order a kaffibolli, wondering what would happen if I ran out of the café now. Last chance. I take a deep breath, walk back to the table, sitting across from Ulfur. Trying to seem casual, I take a swig of coffee from my cup, coffee all over the table. — Sorry… I’m tired. Ulfur wipes the saucer carefully with a paper towel. His hands slender. As he leans over a pine scent. — So how was your trip? — Well, there's not too much to do up there. — You should try Dalvík where my parents live… We compare Akureyri and Rosscarbery. I try and persuade him that West Cork is worth visiting. We discuss friends you make out of convenience, both of us glad Facebook wasn’t a thing when we were in school. I teach him some Irish: Gearrchéim crisis Idirdhealú discrimination Eisimirce emigration — It is so strange you have your own language. But he picks up the sounds quickly. I can’t get my tongue around Icelandic, Ulfur laughing at my attempts, our feet touching. The future, careers come up. I feel embarrassed that I don't have a plan. Floating through life sounded much more valid when I was doing a degree. — So when are you going back home? — I don't know... I’ve a flight booked next week — Ulfur’s face is hard to read. For the first time, I realise that the flight home is optional. — There’s no reason for me to rush back, apart from money… — I’m quitting my bar-job next week – I could recommend you? I wonder if he is being serious, if it would be rash to take the offer? What if I got stuck here? I imagine walking around Kronan by myself, searching in vain for black pudding, desperately hoping the cashier will speak to me. Ulfur waves a hand in front of my face. — Ah… sorry I was just thinking about the job. — You do not have to get back to me immediately. — Wait… did you not say you were a musician? Ulfur laughs at me, asks me if I know how hard the arts are. I worry he thinks I’m naïve, want to move the subject on. — What will you do now then if you don't have bar work? — I am trying to go professional… He tells me his band want to record an album. We stay chatting until the café closes.



His cheeks dappled with freckles. We pay separately and stand outside for a while, neither of us quite sure what to do. I wonder if I should just shift him and be done with it. Ulfur breaks the silence, suggests we go back to his for something to eat. — Are you sure? I don’t— I’m only making a bit of pasta, it's no big deal. We walk down the main street into a residential area. The buildings are grey, uninviting. — It's nicer looking inside, I promise you. — Yeah, is this part of town… rough? — Rough?! No, it is very hip. I strain my eyes trying to see what makes the area cool. Apartment blocks squatting next to a car park, overgrown grass verges and a bus shelter. Not a micro-roastery or hot yoga centre in sight. Hip must mean something else in Icelandic. His apartment is small, but well designed. Geometric prints hang from white walls, a breakfast bar and herbs in aluminium pots on the windowsill. There is a vintage red tricycle on display in the lounge area. I sit on the couch while Ulfur cooks, looking around and feeling relaxed. My eyes settle on some photos. I walk over, pretending to be interested in the design book next to them. One shows Ulfur, in the same jumper he’s wearing now, with his arm around some blond guy who is taller than me. Another photo shows them again, except this time wrapped up in coats, kissing on a beach, sea foam exploding in the background. — That's my ex, Jonas. — Sorry, I wasn't looking… so when did ye…? — A few months ago, there was no big argument or anything, just he moved away for a job and we realised we were better as friends. A weight in my stomach, a feeling of competition, dislike for someone I’ve never met. — You’re still in touch? — Yes, it's nice you know, not having too much drama. In my head I try to rationalise this. People have exes. It’s a sign of maturity that they are still friends. Would I have preferred him to hate Jonas? Probably, but he is on a date with me. We are adults. I can be dignified. — How long were you going out? — Three years. — That's a long time… — I think dinner’s ready. We eat, moving on to more neutral topics. Ulfur laughs at some of my college stories. A sense of calm returns. By eleven I am wrecked, not wanting to ruin things. — I should get some sleep… — Where are you staying? — An Airbnb, downtown. I half-expect Ulfur to invite me to stay over, not knowing what I should say if he offers. — I should go to bed too, I want to work on some new songs tomorrow, Ulfur says. I nod, wondering if he’s not interested after all. I am about to get my things when Ulfur takes me by the hand, draws me into his chest and kisses me. His hands soft on my back. — Góða nótt, Fionn. I stay up late fixing my C.V, looking in the mirror and persuading myself I am good enough for him.






Dear Pen Pal, I got up at half-five as usual this morning. Mother and father were awake. I heard them talking in their room and they heard me moving about but they didn’t come out. The war has made me quarrelsome, particularly first thing, and so, without anything being said, an understanding has arisen that stops our mornings going bad: they stay put as I get ready. Once they hear the apartment door close when I leave they come out and get the younger children up. When I return at night all the family are about but by then I can usually keep myself under control and stop myself from saying something that will sour the evening. The flat was dark and cold this morning. There was no electricity as usual so no shower. No matter. I might get one at work where the electricity is always on. But I would have to shave. Our Captain in the office is a stickler; the whole face must be clean shaven. Even a little Bashar al-Assad moustache would not be tolerated. I lit the oil lamp and boiled water on the gas stove; then I went to the bathroom and, with a bit of old green soap, worked up a lather with my brush. It’s badger hair. It came from London. My father bought it there years back. This was when, as he likes to say, he was living the life that he lived a thousand years ago and he visited that fabled place ‘abroad’. Once I’d finished and had patted my face dry (the towel, for some reason, smelt of dates, which, as you’ll see, turned out to be a minor theme of the day). I turned and sniffed my uniform which I’d hung on the shower curtain rail to air the night before. It smelt vaguely of photocopy toner and engine oil, which is frankly only to be expected, given what I do when I wear it. I carried the uniform to my bedroom together with the lamp and dressed: trousers, shirt, tunic, belt, and then boots (which were under my bed on a square of cardboard where I’d set them after I polished them the night before). When I started this job you could wear your own clothes on duty. That was one of the perks. And technically I still could go in civvies. It’s not forbidden. But I wouldn’t. I don’t. At the checkpoints, the uniform is the best bet. Turn up in civilian clothes and yet show a military pass at a checkpoint, and you send out the wrong signal to the soldiers. Like you’re not on their side. You’re not committed. In the uniform, of course, you look like them and they wave you through, no questions asked. So I wear the uniform because, you see, that’s what I crave, a smooth path and never a stumble. There was cold coffee in the kitchen left over from the night before – bitter Turkish stuff my father buys on the black market. It was in a copper saucepan with a long brass handle and it smelt black and oily (yes, black and oily is a smell) but after I’d set it on the gas and it began to warm up, the kitchen was filled with the thrilling smell of coffee. Once it had heated I sweetened the coffee with a spot of tinned milk. We haven’t seen sugar for months. Then I speared some pitta with a fork and held it to the gas flame. When the pitta was dark and hard and toasted I dipped a piece in the coffee, put it into my mouth and pressed it with my tongue against the roof. The milky sweet coffee that the bread had soaked up was forced out and it flooded my mouth








and oh it was very lovely. I slipped out of our apartment block about six-thirty. It was dark out but getting light. A car passed with its headlamps on, dazzlingly bright in the murky dawn. After it had passed I could smell its exhaust fumes. The government issue fuel has a special stink I’ve noticed. It’s like cheap washing-up liquid or nasty soap. Of course this smell comes from whatever the chemical they put in the fuel to stretch it further. As well as causing a stink these chemicals do something to the fuel that stops it working properly. Cars never go smoothly like they used to in the old Syria before the war. They stutter along now. I have a car, an old Fiat, but I don’t drive to work anymore although my fuel ration is sufficient for my commute. Why? Well, some months ago I was in my car waiting at a busy junction to turn right, pedestrians streaming across in front of me. Someone honked – this was a driver behind, it wasn’t me – and at that exact moment a woman was passing a few feet in front. She was pushing a wooden trolley set on pram wheels and it was loaded with small children, four or five of them, and because she thought I had pressed my horn, she gave me a look. I am doing my best, her expression said. Can you not see how hard it is, pushing this contraption with these children piled on top? And now, what, you expect me to run, a poor woman with all these children, so you can drive on? Go to hell. She was exasperated and miserable and there was resentment in her too. And hate. She, a civilian with children, had just a handcart, while I, a uniform, had a car. It was wrong. She thought it was wrong. That’s what her face said. Her look only lasted a moment but it made me think; I never want to be looked at like that again, I thought. So I abandoned driving to work. I would walk instead. Anyhow, back to this morning. I walked on, away from home, towards my office, my pace brisk. I didn’t look around me when I walked, I didn’t take in the scene in the street, the buildings, the shops, the early rush hour traffic of Damascus, and I didn’t make eye contact either with those I passed. My eyes were open: obviously they had to be, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to navigate. But my attention was turned inwards. This is where my focus always is. It’s how I live nowadays – inside my head and not out in the world. I followed my breath. I thought about the taste of the hot sweet coffee I’d had earlier. And I thought about a girl. We had coffee, recently. Her eyes were very dark, almost the colour of dates. She wore a dress; black; her mother’s actually. That’s what we’ve come to; we wear our parents’ clothes to go out. She had very nice hands, and she wore varnish which was red and perfume which was French and that her mother got from Beirut before the war. That is all I can say, all I will say. It would be a catastrophe if she was connected to this email, and to me, its writer. I arrived at the office. The Captain and a couple of other guys scheduled to work today were there ahead of me. I had all the cameras on charge from the night before and I checked that they had all charged properly and they had. The telephone rang. The Captain answered. That was the summons. Away you go, he said, and off I went, bag with camera over my shoulder.


(Change of style now my pen pal friend: what follows is more telegram than anything else but this is the part where I have to be really careful. I cannot allow some telling detail that could betray me to slip out). I got to the morgue. There was the official witness. I’d worked with him before. He was regular army, infantry, a capital ‘S’ Sergeant. He provides the capital ‘P’ Pathologist with the cause of death. And there was the capital ‘P’ Pathologist. He makes the records up. I’d worked with him too. And there were the capital ‘S’ Subjects lying on the concrete that I, the capital ‘P’ Photographer, would photograph. The dead smelt of rotting carpet. I saluted. We were good to go. We went to body one. Male. Swollen face, smashed teeth, missing both ears. There was a number written in black marker on the forehead. The Sergeant bent down and read it out. The Pathologist read it back and they tallied. This was the detainee’s number. The Pathologist took the top sheet from his clipboard and handed this to me. He’d prepared all his ID sheets earlier. He had probably been doing them while I’d been getting up and shaving in my parents’ cold apartment. I rested the sheet on the body’s chest, high up, close to the chin. It had three numbers on it: the detainee’s; the branch of the intelligence services who had held him; and the one the Pathologist would use for his medical report. My job now was to photograph the face with the three numbers clearly visible in shot, and then to photograph the body in the approved fashion, full-length, side-on, hands only, face only, and so on. There are twenty-two required angles. I clicked away and then I handed the paper ID back to the Pathologist, and the Sergeant dictated the cause of death – ‘Respiratory failure due to heart disease’; the Pathologist wrote this down on the paper, the Sergeant signed the paper and we moved on to body two and then three and then four, doing the same thing each time: and everything was fine until we came to number eighteen. Bruised, mashed hands, cuts on the neck. He was breathing. Not heavily. But obviously. Breathing. Not thinking I said, ‘He’s breathing.’ ‘Breathing,’ the Pathologist shouted. I will summarize what he said next. The cunt wasn’t supposed to be breathing. He was supposed to be dead and him not being dead was a fucking a catastrophe because he, the Pathologist, had prepared his paperwork on the basis of an agreed number of bodies – eighty-eight – and he’d made up eightyeight ID sheets and now he’d made them up he couldn’t go back with only eightyseven. The numbers wouldn’t tally and when numbers were out there was always hell to pay and in this case he was the one who’d be doing the paying. So we had a problem. A big fucking problem. The Sergeant suggested to the Pathologist that he step outside and have a cigarette and that he take me along too. The Pathologist agreed. We went outside. There was a low sun, quite yellow, very yellow actually, egg yolk yellow, hanging low over the city’s skyline. The Pathologist produced a packet of Marlboro and then offered me one, which I did not expect given the way he usually treats me. Of course I took one. Was I going to say no? Of course I wasn’t. ‘Thanks,’ I



said, and I sounded suitably grateful I can assure you. He took his lighter out and lit our cigarettes and we stood and smoked and looked at the sun and we both agreed it was unseasonably cold for the time of year and then we both agreed that we both believed it would soon get warmer. I didn’t think it was a real Marlboro by the way. I think it was a Lebanese fake. But I didn’t say this. I just puffed away and kept smiling and pointing at the cigarette as if to say, ‘I am really loving smoking this real American cigarette.’ Then the Sergeant came out and waved us in. We threw our butts away and we went in and returned to number eighteen. He was no longer breathing. I noticed a piece of electric flex on the concrete beside him. The Sergeant noticed I’d noticed and kicked it away. Then the Sergeant bent down and read out the number written in black marker on the forehead and the Pathologist read it back. The numbers tallied. The Pathologist took the sheet from his clipboard and handed this to me. I laid it on the chest of number eighteen and took twenty-two photographs from all the approved angles and then the sheet went back to the Pathologist and the Sergeant gave his narrative: ‘Diabetic, glucose present in blood below 4 mmol/L; cause of death hypoglycaemia.’ The Pathologist wrote this down. The Sergeant signed. We moved on to number nineteen and thereafter we worked our way through then to the end, to number eighty-eight. Back in the office I printed up the day’s photographs on the computer in duplicate and stuck them on cards: I sent one set off to the Pathologist’s office and I filed the other in our own archive. As there were eighty-eight to process it took a while. The sun was down by the time I left the office and began the walk back to the apartment. The sky was the violet tint you get here before dusk. There were birds screeching somewhere but I couldn’t see them. The air was gritty with the fine debris that war makes, and it made my eyes hurt. In a far suburb, one held by the enemy, I heard a series of mortar shells explode in quick succession. I recognised the calibre. They were ours. I hurried on. I made no eye contact with anybody and I noticed nothing. Then I got to the miserable junction, the one where the woman with the cart loaded with children had glared at me when I was sitting in my car. A stalk of fresh dates had fallen off a lorry during the day sometime and then cars had driven over them and squashed them flat. They were an unrecognisable pancake on the road, yet I knew what they were from the smell they made; and what a smell – so fresh and full of life, so... so – I don’t have the words for it. And as I savoured the dates (and you know what a strange thing memory is; how one thing brings on another?) I remembered the girl with the eyes that were very dark, almost the colour of dates, her very nice hands, and her perfume which was French, particularly her perfume, and as I remembered I thought, Ah, that blots out the rotting carpet… So, my pen friend, another day of paperwork for me and then at the end an encounter with … can I speak of nature, of love? How was your day?




t was some day to be alive. He could feel it, deep in his body, a hunger for life in the base of his stomach where it met his groin. The sex between them became more important as they grew into each other. The crisp clarity, childlike clouds danced from the horizon, yellow leftovers from the sunrise, other clouds in pointillism, the glow of another neat winter morning. A couple walked by. The woman was young but carried an old face for her years. She wasn’t steady in her walk, leaning on the man’s shoulder as if seeking support. He’d needed porridge and black pudding, a bit of a walk, and in that order. The boys were dropped to school, and he’d get his time in before the job. He liked to collect things, always had in fact. He’d beachcomb as a kid and he loved the word. It was beautiful. Combing through knots of seaweed and bits of fishing line searching for some truth. The beach had that promise of something unique. A mundane object could hold an inert reverence. All during his boyhood into his adolescence and long into his adulthood he continued to seek out things in the detritus. One man’s rubbish could be another man’s jewel. The couple reached the steps where he found the body the month before. They sat close looking out to sea. They didn’t bring cans the way some of the others did. The dead man was tanned deeply, as if the colour had somehow leached into his body. He expected that a dead person might appear blue or black but he was brown in the main, with a grey hue, from lying out in the cold all night. Somebody’s son. He unwrapped the breac and looked at it. Marvelled at it. A thick layer of butter held fast, the fat all the more welcome after making love. He needed energy. Alert to his wants, this was new, he’d held them in before. But something had happened with Ruth, call it comfort, they were easy with each other. It wasn’t like that before with the others. They had wanted too much from him, things that he couldn’t provide, sustenance, easy laughs. He was more prone to agitation then, jarred thoughts and his desperate attempts to find his own equilibrium in life. Ruth was different, he felt it almost from the outset. She drew him in. She was kind. He’d never before had that in his life from a woman, unadulterated kindness. He felt possibly that he didn’t deserve it. He had left his son – his first, his new-born, with Justine. He was happy enough at first with his decision. They weren’t right together, him, Justine. He couldn’t see the point of continuing with the catastrophic relationship that they had forged. Call it misery, if it wasn’t misery it was God-awful close to it. She didn’t argue with him or beg him to stay.




He didn’t tell Ruth what he had done. Kept it to himself, carried its weight, thought about the meaning of words, words like atonement, forgiveness. Thought a lot. Ruth was of that dangerous age – she smiled when her eyes alighted on babies. She talked about her family, how she herself was a foundling. He didn’t think such people existed in real life, they were Dickensian surely. But no. It set him thinking more and then constantly about the child that he had abandoned. He couldn’t think of a better term. They made love in the early evening. He wanted to stay with her and hold her some more. It was Ruth who urged him to go with her to the party in the town hall. She insisted. They could mingle. He could think of better places to meet people, a pub came to mind. But he supressed it. Ruth didn’t drink. They entered the hall. Many people, too many. A fuzz of conversation. Assortment of cakes and scones set out on tables covered with paper tablecloths. Sandwiches piled high. A welcome smell, red wine. He headed over to grab a plastic tumbler. Cloying and warm to his tongue. Ruth walked across the hall. He followed her with his eyes. Ah the priest, he made his way over to Father Andrew. They made loose talk about the mildness and the sky that morning. He felt himself coming out of himself, the wine allowed this. So Rob, I see you are with Ruth now, that’s a good thing, he said. I couldn’t be happier. Do me a favour won’t you, mind her, I knew the family that took her in, it’s what they would have wanted. Yes, Father, I will. He made his excuses and looked for Ruth. She was clucking at a baby in a buggy. He touched her arm. He’s some baby, alright, he said. Oh, Rob, I’d love one. I have the boys, Ruth. I’m beyond all this baby stuff. A small little bundle. You’ve forgotten what it was like, the smell, she said. She leaned to the baby’s head and sniffed. He felt an emotion pricking at him, itchy almost. Something was amiss, he couldn’t place it. I haven’t forgotten, I had one of those you know, he said. Yes the boys, but it’s different, they’re in school. I want this. I had one, before the boys, but I left it with its mother, I was too young to cope. He reached over to the table and took a second drop of the wine. Later that night, they sat together on the couch, arms slung around each other. He kissed her, and she moved her stray hair from her face in readiness for more. He suggested that they go upstairs. She put him off. It wasn’t like her, she was generally up for it. Is something wrong? If we go there, can you make it happen? Jesus-fucking Christ, Ruth. I want a baby, can’t you see that? Tears and wet stray hairs on her face. He told her about leaving his new-born, properly, the doubt, the recriminations, the regret. I can’t go through with it, not again, don’t make me. I’ve got the boys. It’s enough. Tears and hair wiped from her face. And hope.




Translation of an excerpt from ‘Par obole’ by Blandine Merle ALEX COREY

retour au départ, initiale case dont l’amour est absent n’y allez pas ce ne sont que contents de gestes

back to take-off, the first compartment without love do not go where they are content with gestures; a sigh, a tremble that nurses would lock up twice, as if – as if the vessels needed no flowers in the doorway, the bouquet’s water rattles and drains, life at a loss.


râle et s’écoule, la vie à perte.


comme si les jattes n’avaient besoin de fleurs dans l’embrasure l’eau du bouquet


soupirés, trembles que des infirmiers double-cadenasseraient comme si

The Death of The Bohemian Lover BRENDAN MARX CULTURE





here was a type, a certain disposition, an architecture of mind that would invoke the muses and the moon before entering the night to begin their amorous search. They’d carry nothing with them save for a brush, or ink, and some surface on which to throw their thoughts, dressed in dishevelled coats that dispelled winter. You might have found them ambling through partially lit city streets; or diffusing themselves in exhalations of smoke in bustling smoking rooms; or perhaps, you’d observed their dissembling form in a theatre, withdrawing to their intoxicated tragedies behind stage curtains as an audience thundered with applause. They were formless lovers flooded with art and abstraction, reaching desperately but failingly to the amorous other. They cared not for names, save for the name that history would attach to them: La Bohéme. So, who then were these obscure creatures that attended to an art form or to some impossible notion with such profound reverence and devotion? What persuaded them to pour themselves so fervently into a lover? What is left of this diminished cultural phenomenon? Nothing? The difficulty in isolating the features of the Bohemian is their resistance to definition; the tendency to render something knowable with a word or expression falls short with the Bohemian and, though we have the word, the concept is no less illusive. We grasp at it clumsily, and rearrange it to something familiar, an instance of language that we might recognize. Having said that, the analysis of the Bohemian offered here will undoubtedly have some semblance of truth whilst being irredeemably incorrect. Is this not the allure of the Bohemian: the volatility of truth; the intractability of love? The bohemian is a response to the existential ache to be known, to be seen as we are – to be loved. So, the Bohemian creates, relentlessly, violently, with madness and the fury of anguish. Aware of art and love’s failure, the Bohemian despairs, but creates nonetheless. Baudelaire’s words resonate: ‘The study of the beautiful is a duel; the artist cries in terror, then loses’. What is the Bohemian without this acute awareness of an inevitable failure; the tragic resignation to art? Perhaps it is this tragedy that puppets the Bohemian. Or perhaps it is something tidal. The artistic failure of the Bohemian lover is the Bohemian lover; the very indefinability becomes her definability. Absence and presence collapse into the bones of the Bohemian in a proto-postmodern dissolution. To be Bohemian is to be tidal, to oscillate between self and other, creation and destruction; are art and love not both? This is the complexity of the Bohemian and the rupture of their identity; a space that pulls reality and the dream asunder and then all at once smashes them together. The Bohemian is itself an idea, an unknowable thing that, to quote Albert Camus, has ‘been reduced to poetry: I shall never know’. And the Bohemian wants nothing more than to know, to know the taste of a lover, the electricity in their touch, and the secrets of their oceanic eyes. But the Bohemian can know only in approximation, which is not knowing at all. The Bohemian is overwhelmed by the fragmented totality of the real that they cannot access, the series of things and ideas




that transform and exceed the capacity of their minds. Art and love are outlets for this excess; answers to an impossible question. The Bohemian has seen and cannot unsee; cannot return to the blindness of society. They are repulsed by the stumblings of society and withdraw. A premise of Bohemianism is to escape, or slip past the parameters of society, resigning to the shadows of contemplation and creation; to declare silently ‘all this is not the texture of my mind and I must depart for some other world; some other dream’. It is there within the dream delirium, the curious space where fiction and truth intersect, that the Bohemian is to be found, and if a stranger, unable to access this dream, passed a Bohemian and shared a tenuous moment of tangency, the Bohemian would remain invisible; hidden behind a permeable membrane of ceaseless thought. Of course, it is an absurdity to say the Bohemian has been disregarded. Quite the opposite has taken effect. The Bohemian, the likes of Balzac, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Monet, and countless others are thought to be prodigies able to bury themselves in the nuances of experience and draw out some gorgeous expression of form and content that articulates this confused mass of existence with profound implications. But the Bohemian is inaccessible. What remains of them are traces: galleries of post-impressionistic paintings that we peruse with detached admiration; collections of poems that gather dust in the forgotten corners of libraries. The bohemian haunts aesthetic practices. They are spectres of dwindling notions, of a mode of being that is dying, that is perhaps dead. There is nothing left of Bohemianism but its memory. But does this imply its death? Perhaps not, for what is identity but not a collection of memories? If we think of Bohemianism as Roland Barthes thinks of the first moment you see someone (or something) you love, as ‘distinct, abrupt, framed, it is already (again, always) a memory’, then it continues. The Bohemian is not dead. Do you not read this now, dear reader, and access a memory of the Bohemian, an instance of its anonymities? Do you recognize the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice; the languor of Endymion and Selene? Do you not crave art and its textures? Do you not ache to be known, to be loved and devoured by an amorous other? Why else would you be reading this, if not for an answer to that impossible question? Are you not Bohemian?



Self Love 101


n the midst of this love bonanza, let’s take it back a step to explore what we believe, and see if we can put number one first before another being comes into the equation. I’m talking about embracing and loving oneself, which seems to echo from pop lit to pop culture as a rite of passage, from La La Land to… Bieber. Put the Kleenex and Vaseline aside, it’s not that kind of self-love. It’s the deeper and more terrifying soul-search into our purpose and progress as we shuffle further into modern society. Tangerine torsos and radioactive smoothies are slapped in your face on Insta and Pinterest as the must-have self assurance armour thanks to the influencer movement. You might think there needs to be a lag period of self-loathing before self-loving and becoming the picture of health. But no, the new keeping up with the Jones’ conundrum is to upload your latest gratefulness or life goals journal entry. Because unless you can cash yourself in for a few likes, is there even any point? This is not working. More selfies, more sorrow as popularised research has demonstrated. Depression, anxiety and a cocktail of other mental health illnesses are soaring not only from much needed awareness, but also the pressures of modern life. As a pharmacist at an early stage in my career, I’ve had many patients who use pill popping as the first and only route to balance the self. Yes, modern medicine has done wonders, but it’s not a cure all. Having opted for the chaise longue and distressed palm-on-forehead rather than a Xanax when my own nerves frayed, meta-awareness is a powerful anchor in terms of understanding and accepting self. As a psychotherapist once told me after I failed a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), you should think of your mental health as a house on shaky foundations. When a house is starting to show some need for structural repair, you have two options: try and do a cheap quick fix job to fill in the cracks which will help in the short term. Or you can be brave, invest and knock the house down, dig deep, build solid foundations and rebuild carefully for something that will last a lifetime. I reason that, though hopefully not all readers have or will have to face a mental health issue, hang-ups and insecurities haunt all of us from a young age. You won’t find a lack of ability to love oneself in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the thousand-page bible of psychiatrists, but it does appear as a symptom. Nor will you find the term ‘burnout’ that’s come into the millenial’s






vocabulary and is of high interest in academia. So, how to treat the issue I’m landing on the table that’s not formally defined, without anything to diagnose by? I’m not saying we should strip technology out of the question, resign the rest of our lives to a Buddhist monastery and live enlightened lives – how boring! A playlist with Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen), Gold by Spandau Ballet and The Voice Within à la Xtina might do the same trick. There’s even a laughable four step Wikihow page on how to love yourself. But I’m on a quest to develop a guideline based on philosophical, psychological and scientific hypotheses that are currently floating around about loving oneself. In a 2011 TED talk, actress Thandie Newton addressed the journey to accepting one’s self under the theme of ‘embracing otherness’. Newton opined that the perception of our individuality starts as an infant, where it is applied and chanted by elders rather than allowing us the opportunity to breathe into our own quirks, our own strengths, or our own desires. Dipping into the theoretical aspect of loving one’s self – I ain’t a psychology major – but we need to talk about Freud. Love him or loathe him, the renowned psychoanalyst proposed that our personalities stem around the id, ego and superego. The id represents our instinctive and involuntary traits, the ego being our rational processing unit, with the superego taking our perceptions of society and place into context. Together, Freud proposed that the three collaborate and clash together to make us self-interested beings at heart. Questionable life choices aside, loving self should be sorted – but naturally, we’re more complicated than it appears on the surface. A sense of belonging and purpose counts for copious feelings and motivation when we bring more contemporary theorists into the WE NEED TO TALK mix. Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs in the 1940s that relays an order ABOUT FREUD... of psychological experiences and feelings NATURALLY, WE’RE MORE that are required to reach peak motivation, defined as self-actualisation. Often adapted COMPLICATED THAN IT to workplace and healthcare settings APPEARS ON THE SURFACE nowadays, Maslow’s hierarchy suggests that we need societal and sociological input before we can appreciate our own power, such as a sense of safety or love and belonging. This viewpoint begins the quashing of the ‘follow your passion’ cliché, as it suggests that a comfortable cocktail of elements should suffice to keep us encouraged. Scurrying past the ’60s where sex, acid and transcendental meditation seemed to unlock the Damascus Gate for many, we enter the late twentieth century and which has moved toward alternative approaches. Positive psychology is the newest buzz term on the map for some twenty years thanks to psychologist Martin Seligman. Positive psychology isn’t quite the rainbow coloured unicorn approach that it sounds; it’s more that it places the individual in



the spotlight. Much like advances in genetics that give us more information about the individual, positive psychology looks at enhancing the self esteem, confidence and happiness of the individual rather than throwing blanket solutions or theories at an issue. Positive psychology is thought to be quantifiable based on different beliefs and personality traits, all of which can be assessed through tests available on the University of Pennsylvania website. Before we all sign up to yoga classes, Seligman’s approach provides learning opportunities and space for us to stay true to self based on what makes us tick and our strengths. Clinical positivity research has bounced into the field of economics, with the green shoots of cognitive bias and behavioural economics concepts being successfully preached by Daniel Kahneman and recent Nobel Prize winner Robert Thaler. Cognitive bias taps into how our minds use heuristics to save much needed brain power, but can also lead to traps that cause mistakes in work and even unhappiness from not thinking twice. With our ‘system 1 thinking’ autopilot on, it has been shown that asking the two questions ‘Are you happy? Are you dating anyone?’ in that order have no effect on our emotional baseline but reversing the order in studies leads more people to unhappiness. Dutch researchers in the area suggest that cognitive biases provide us with the illusion of a happy life, considering there is a steady statistical pattern where most of us rate our lives at about 75% of the hypothetical optimum of satisfaction. In animal studies that have been modelled on human observation, where an ambiguous stimulus is presented following exposure to positive and negative reinforcement, the animal is said to predict the negative effect that will come. This may suggest or explain why we are hardwired to descend into worst-case scenarios or paranoia. This could destroy our belief, or the more delicate matter of self-trust without remedy or realisation. ‘Bibliotherapy’ has been validated in clinical trials to demonstrate that books have a therapeutic quality in supplementing treatments for mental health, where it




is thought that the subject is empowered with the ability to pace their improvement. In the unregulated mainstream, self-help literature is one of the most accessible and affordable attempts to improve self, and we consume it in droves. The self-help book market is said to be worth over half a billion dollars in the US alone, and is a heavy user market: up to 80% of self-help book purchasers buy more than one. The subgenre gained its name from a nineteenth century bestseller title, and has developed in different avenues since. From relationship issues, miracle diets to four hour working weeks, self-help literature suspends disbelief and makes shape for a healthier, happier, sexier, richer, more attractive, more pleasant you. The kids aren’t immune, either: parenting books promise to instill confidence in shy children, and most alarmingly the development of the ‘bully-proof’ child in a recent publication. Marketable and desirable, but where do we draw the line to manage expectations? The University of Calgary have a dedicated research group on self-help literature, which aims to determine whether these publications do help individuals to make a positive change. From a study of 134 people in 2012, there is evidence that individuals took such self-investments seriously: almost half read such books with a pen or notepad in hand, a third kept a reflective journal and 30% re-read the book. While a vast majority claimed that the books indeed induced a positive development, dissecting the different elements is disappointing: 14% of readers adapted a new positive health behaviour, 20% felt a positive impact on their attitude and relationships with others. Only 15% of participants felt that their self-awareness improved. Mental health awareness, the importance of self-care, and preaching an accepting and inclusive society is on the up. But to my mind, there’s a lot of square pegs still being jammed in round holes. Peer pressure seeps into adulthood with talented artists, writers and musicians entering into dull killings for seventy hour weeks in top end consultancy firms. Marriage, 2.5 children and the Volvo estate suffocated some Gen Xers and ambition is perceived as a nuisance, not a virtue. My exploration into loving self has been tangible: theories and research provide leads and clues to the best practice, but they fall short in addressing and advising on the issue at hand. Within more universal communication mediums, big solutions and promises are given from enticing publications and think tanks. As an expert in the selfhelp market though, I’m not sold on the fact that these works fix or improve self: rather, transplanting a lifestyle, personality or another deeply personal aspect to the individual who is, after all, an individual, may lead to more damage or selfloathing than they had before. When it comes to psychotherapy and mindfulness that promise meta-awareness capabilities, I ponder whether this is everyone’s cup of tea. But then again, that might stem down to rather not addressing the man in the mirror if we could so help it. Perhaps less is more when we explore how to love self, starting with ‘living our best lives’. A social media cliché, but maybe one with a valuable lesson.







Tell me he said how you managed to break out of my jail So that I can build a better one that will not fail. So I explained about the whistle and the gin, The special shoes and so forth, and I threw in The ropes made out of blankets, the false handcuffs, the vitriol, The cunning tailored loose-cut trousers, the tobacco-pipe, and all To distract him from the innocent who passed down the high wall At my side, who is wandering the world now Transparent as the ocean, as the shallow flow Of tides over stones, will he make it home or must he fall?


After ‘I Call On You’ by Tawfiq Zayyad

I speak and gladly give – I, the orphan starving, who heard the guns invade, the boots ring out, the prison walls resound. For at my back my people sing, like a dove raised high on woken winds, or this flag of love and history our voices carry, which soon will shake the mountains, like the olive tree in leaf.


From Nazareth: this light in my eyes, this flame in my blood, and all the pain of Palestine








G ra phi te on p a p e r Fir st stu d y i n th i r d an d n e w b o d y o f w o rk d e a l i ng w i t h d i re c t p r o v i si o n an d re f uge e s



Caslin’s work focuses predominantly on societal problems including male mental health, suicide rates, drug addiction and legislation, and more recently Ireland’s direct provision system for asylum seekers. His pro-equality mural ‘The Claddagh Embrace’ of two men lovingly embracing had a galvanising effect during the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015, proof that art can effect change. ‘The Claddagh Embrace’ was inspired by ‘The Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ by Frederic William Burton, an artwork that likewise depicts a love forbidden by society.


When I read Ciarán O’Rourke’s poem, it struck me that the rules of Ahed Tamimi’s environment said that she had to live a life under military rule. She rejected that and that is revolutionary. She has created her own grey area away from the starkness of the black and white and through this she has created change. She has power running through her veins. You can also see the life running through this young man’s veins in the sketch. That is why I chose this image as an answer to ‘Rise’. Life can’t be lived in absolutes.


The lines that are in this drawing are absolute (the black lines and white space). The life of the drawing is in the grey areas and that life moves over and above the stark black lines. That’s where the survival is. That’s where the energy is. Young people who come from violent backgrounds, come through the absolute. They don’t fit in the black and white world. They live in the spaces that are grey. These are the trailblazers. They are victims of their own circumstances. The man in this drawing is a survivor at all costs.


Joe Caslin chose this image to answer poet Ciarán O’Rourke’s poem ‘Rise’ (see previous page) because the poem highlights the injustice outlined by Palestinian poet and socialist Tawfiq Zayyad. Given the spotlight that’s been thrown on the case of the Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi recently, as well as the plight of the other three hundred Palestinian child protestors currently being held in the Israeli military court system, in most cases for the ‘crime’ of protesting the illegal military occupation, the young man in Joe Caslin’s artwork is a kindred figure to Ahed Tamimi. Caslin says of his piece:




Frederic William Burton:

The Ultimate Master of Love SHIMENG ZHOU



bout three years ago, I saw a painting carefully displayed in a wooden cabinet in the National Gallery of Ireland. Based on a medieval Danish ballad, ‘Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs’, by Frederic William Burton (1816-1900) captures a fleeting moment of intimacy between the Princess Hellelil and her bodyguard, Hildebrand, before he is murdered by her seven brothers. Burton uses chiaroscuro to bathe the figures in light, which enriches the colours and illuminates the decorative details of the figures’ dresses. The delicate kiss Hildebrand bestows on Hellelil’s arm highlights the tragedy of their secret romance. At first sight, this painting seems to have all the depth and intensity of an oil painting. Astonishingly however, Burton achieved this effect through his mastery of watercolour, the medium he used throughout his career. In 2012, this painting topped the poll as Ireland’s favourite painting, yet the artist himself has fallen into relative obscurity. The National Gallery of Ireland’s recent exhibition, ‘Frederic William Burton: For the Love of Art’, held between October 25th and January 14th, drew fresh attention to the career of this neglected Irish artist. Through his paintings we can see, not just Burton’s love for his work, but also his mastery at depicting one of the most complex of emotions. The exhibition starts with a series of landscape paintings from the earliest part of Burton’s artistic career. Inspired by his mentor, the artist and antiquarian George Petrie (1790-1866), Burton embarked on trips to the west of Ireland between 1839 and 1841, and produced a series of sketches. These evocative scenes, depicted mostly in a light palette of soft greys and browns, capture the wild and remote Irish Frederic William Burton, Irish, landscape. According to the exhibition’s 1816-1900, Faust's First Sight of Marguerite, Watercolour with white curator Marie Bourke, the trip to the west highlights on paper, 71 x 62.5 cm of Ireland was formative for Burton. He Photo © National Gallery of Ireland recorded the landscapes and people that he NGI.19602 saw, creating a new sense of Irish identity



The author would like to acknowledge two talks given at the National Gallery of Ireland, which proved formative for this article: ‘Frederick William Burton: For the Love of Art’ by Dr. Marie Bourke, and ‘The Influence of the Pre-Raphaelites and John Ruskin’ by Dr. Christiana Payne


by preserving memories of an older Irish way of life. Among the exhibited narrative pre-Famine paintings created through Burton’s early practice, ‘A Blind Girl at a Holy Well’, which was first displayed at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1841, is undoubtedly one of the most touching artworks on display. Set within the mountainous landscape of western Ireland, this painting depicts a blind girl who is led by her mother and younger sister to a holy well. A combination of the figures’ local costumes and the natural landscape presents a traditional image of Irish life to the viewer in which the family’s faith in the curative power of water at holy sites is vividly shown. What struck me most is the single teardrop on the mother’s face as she turns in the midst of prayer to look at her daughter, hoping for the restoration of her sight. Through this single tear, Burton expertly crafted a visual narrative of love. This painting marks an important step in Burton’s ability to convey romantic and emotional subjects through the medium of watercolour. Two visits to Germany in the early 1840s broadened Burton’s horizon as an artist and further familiarised him with works of the Old Masters. His experience of continental art enabled him to produce another important narrative painting, ‘Faust’s First Sight of Marguerite’ in 1857, after Burton moved to the medieval city of Nuremberg. The subject of this painting comes from part one of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play, ‘Faust’, which tells how the eponymous Faust sold his soul to the devil Mephistopheles. It was a popular subject for nineteenth century illustrators and one with which contemporary audiences would have been immediately familiar. Burton was aware of these other depictions, but devised his own distinctive version of the myth by dramatizing the moment Faust first sets eyes on Marguerite. The artist sets the scene as clearly as if it were a play; turning a corner on an arcaded street, Faust almost falls over himself at the sight of her, as Mephistopheles watches furtively from behind. This visual drama is accurately captured through its depiction of the two central figures, with Faust’s body leaning intrusively towards Marguerite, whose shy and innocent loveliness are shown through the slight turn of her torso away from him, the soft swing of her drapery and her lowered eyes. Even though Burton only depicts a single moment from the story, the viewer already knows that Faust’s interest in Marguerite will ultimately lead to her downfall. All the intricate details shown in the finished painting of ‘Faust’s First Sight of Marguerite’ were a result of over eighty preparatory drawings, three of which were presented with the painting in the exhibition. Burton had always been a slow worker and throughout his career he used preparatory studies as an important basis for his narrative paintings. In this exhibition, the viewer can track Burton’s working methods through a number of studied sketches and detailed preparatory watercolours on display. They offer a fascinating insight into how Burton focused on minute details, tried out different sizes and angles, and went through numerous trials and errors until he finally reached the ultimate point of expression for his visual narratives.



Frederic William Burton, Irish, 1816-1900, Faust’s First Sight of Marguerite, Watercolour with white highlights on paper, 71 x 62.5 cm Photo © National Gallery of Ireland NGI.19602




In 1861 Burton, who was now in his forties, put down roots in London and began to pursue increasingly idealised romantic subjects, inspired by the work of the PreRaphaelite painters Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and John Everett Millais (1829-1896). In a recent lecture given by Dr. Christiana Payne on ‘The Influence of the Pre-Raphaelites and John Ruskin’ in the National Gallery of Ireland, Payne provided a new perspective on Burton. Though he is not generally regarded as one of the PreRaphaelite artists, the style of his best-known painting, ‘Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ (1864) is evidently Pre-Raphaelite. The subject itself is typical of romantic idealism, and like many Pre-Raphaelite artists, Burton takes a scene of tragic love and elevates it into something exquisitely beautiful. He does this with his use of bright and complementary colours, as well as his deliberate focus on decorative details and textures, all of which fall into trends of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in mid-nineteenth century England. Burton was deeply impressed by the art of the contemporary Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and he was clearly looking to the work of John Everett Millais for inspiration. The choice of colour for Hellelil’s dress in the painting, with her slightly curved torso, is clearly reminiscent of Millais’ ‘Mariana’ (1851), while visual depictions of Hellelil’s profile and her long-tailed hair resonate with ‘Isabella’ (1849), Millais’ painting of a similar medieval romance. ‘The Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ is, in many ways, a Pre-Raphaelite painting. The curator of the exhibition has encouraged this association by displaying ‘The Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ in the centre of the gallery, surrounded by works by famous PreRaphaelite artists, firmly putting Burton in a Pre-Raphaelite context. As the viewers explore ‘Frederick William Burton: For the Love of Art’, they are guided through the various stages of Burton’s work; from early landscapes to narrative paintings, from his portraiture to his final prestigious years as the director of London’s National Gallery, the exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of his career. Burton’s mastery of watercolour, strong sensitivity for his own subjects, and ability to render colours and textures in a realistic manner are all ultimately combined in his greatest works, making him a powerful storyteller of love. With thanks to the National Gallery of Ireland for their kind permission to use these images.

Frederic William Burton, Irish, 1816-1900, Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs Watercolour and gouache on paper, 95.5 x 60.8 cm Photo © National Gallery of Ireland, NGI.2358


while persephone watched UMANG KALRA




the word sapphic tastes blue in the back of my throat, but my heart was red when i sunk my teeth into your pomegranate skin, while persephone watched from the shadows. ivy curled from my toes to your bones and told my hands where to touch, as if luxury was a stranger to me and not a friend i had forgotten the name of. your skin golden, your hips cold to mine, your name unfurling from my tongue like unfamiliar brilliance, like violence that did not know it was violence, like the birth of a mind in the mouth of a river, like dusk breaking open into the ocean between your shoulder and your lipstick. i carve riptide into the small of your back, collapsing mountains crumbling against your shirt. something monumental is happening here. all roads lead to rome – that is where i trace the rapture to, gilded enlightenment waiting for the crash of jupiter against its walls. i carry it in my lungs.



leaves his laundry on the low makeshift line, grieving an absent sun. Side by side they hang: his shirt, my summer dress as if they know each other well and when he returns, smelling of engine oil, monsoon, rolled brown cigarettes, we have no formal language, to share our separate joy. Drip-drip on the balcony, a queer, white pool gathers below. He holds at a sleeve, looks to sky. I open my palm for signs of rain.


who speaks no English perfectly, disappears for days on a motorbike,


Here in the Indian foothills, I share a house with a man from Greece




Contributors CAITLIN MOON is a first year PhD student in the School of English. In 2015, she graduated from the University of Delaware with four separate Majors and two minors. In 2017, she graduated with an MA in English from Villanova University and an MA Certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies. LAUREN-SHANNON JONES is a writer and playwright from Dublin. Her work in theatre includes Grow, The Assassination of Brian Boru, Pink Milk, and We Are The Monsters. Her work has been published in The Irish Times and Banshee literary journal. Lauren is currently reading an MFA in playwriting. KYLE MARTIN holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Notre Dame and an M.Phil in Modern Irish History from Trinity College, Dublin. He is currently working on a PhD on the place of Ireland in American global thought from 1865 to 1914. ALICIA BYRNE KEANE is a poet from Dublin, Ireland. She has performed spoken word poetry at festivals such as Electric Picnic and Castlepalooza. Her poetry and short fiction have been published by journals such as Headstuff, Bare Hands, and the Bohemyth. She is in her first year of a PhD study of translated literature. LAURA CASSIDY a writer from Co. Kildare, studied Drama and Film Studies at Trinity College before deciding to concentrate on fiction. Her first two novels were published by Puffin. She is represented by the Darley Anderson Literary Agency and is a co-founder and editor of the literary journal Banshee. AOIFE O’CEALLACHAIN is a Children’s Literature student from Dun Laoghaire, Co.


Dublin. Her work has been published and reviewed by the Irish Times. Aoife is an editor for online literary journal KABIR CHATTOPADHYAY is a Bengali songwriter-singer and poet from Kolkata, India. Although he has written some of his work in English, the bulk of his songs, poetry, articles, and plays have been composed in Bengali. He is currently a third-year PhD student in the School of English, Trinity College Dublin, researching notions of power and legitimacy in children’s literature. DEARBHAILE HOUSTON is a PhD student at the School of English, researching contemporary women’s fiction and domestic spaces. Her work has appeared in Icarus, The Incubator Journal, and Banshee. CALLUM BATESON recently completed an M.Phil in Creative Writing, after dabbling in food events and spoken word around Ireland. He is working on his first novel while teaching English (and some Irish) in East Germany and is yet to find a good German substitute for Black Pudding. CATHERINE TALBOT recently completed her M. Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin. Her short story, ‘Richard’s Grief’, was shortlisted for the Fish Prize 2015 and is published in the autumn issue # 3 of Banshee Literary Journal. Another short story, ’Shrinking From Life’ was longlisted for the inaugural Colm Tóibín International Short Story Award and the Fish Prize 2014. She has just completed a novel, ‘A Good Father’ and is currently seeking representation.


ALEX COREY comes from Portland, Oregon where she worked with poets such as Matthew Dickman and Mary Szybist. Her poetry has been published in journals such as the Reed College Creative Review. She is currently translating a novel from French to English. She used to teach English in small towns near Chartres, France. She is completing an MPhil in Comparative Literature, and writing her dissertation on French Renaissance Poetry.

Faber. The Sun-Fish won the international Griffin Prize for poetry in 2010. A pamphlet, Hofstetter’s Serenade, appeared last year from Periplum Poetry.

BRENDAN MARX is currently working on an M.Phil in Film Studies after having completed an honours Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Literature. Originally from South Africa, his interests are wide ranging and varied. He particularly enjoys music, poetry, astrophysics, and sporting his signature odd socks.

UMANG KALRA is an Indian poet and a student of History at Trinity College, Dublin. Her work has appeared in Luna Luna Magazine, Icarus, Vagabond City, Tn2 Magazine, Coldnoon, and others. She has worked with Inklette Magazine, and is currently involved in a mentorship programme for women of colour in Ireland, under the bilingual poet Doireann Ni Ghriofa.

DAN SCOTT is a pharmacist and currently studying an MSc in Management. After a blissful stint as Food and Drink Editor for tn2 Magazine and Health Science Correspondent for the University Times, Dan is back to campus publications with College Green and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Business Post Magazine. CIARÁN O’ROURKE was born in Dublin and is currently studying for his PhD with the School of English in TCD. A winner of the Fish Poetry Prize 2016, the Westport Poetry Prize 2015 (in memory of Dermot Healy), and the Lena Maguire/Cúirt New Irish Writing Award 2009, his poetry has been widely published. His first collection is forthcoming from Irish Pages Press.

SHIMENG ZHOU is a recent graduate of the M.Phil. in Art History from Trinity College Dublin, with a special interest in the 18th century Chinese art. She is keen on promoting a better understanding culturally between the east and west.

A N N E M A R I E N Í C H U R R E Á I N is a poet from North West Donegal. She has been awarded literary fellowships by Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany), Jack Kerouac House (Florida) and Hawthornden Castle (Scotland). In 2016, Annemarie was the recipient of a Next Generation Artists Award from the Arts Council of Ireland. In 2017, Annemarie was appointed to the Writers In Prisons Panel.

EILÉAN NÍ CHUILLEANÁIN is an Emeritus Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and currently Ireland Professor of Poetry (2016-19). With her husband Macdara Woods, she is a founder and co-editor of the Irish poetry journal Cyphers.

JOE CASLIN is a street artist, illustrator and art teacher. He completed an MFA in illustration receiving a distinction at the Univeristy of Edinburgh and is currently Head of Department at Tullamore College, Co. Offaly. In 2013 he was awarded the Association of Illustrators Award for New Talent in Public Realm Illustration. He came to international attention in 2015 with his large scale mural ‘The Claddagh Embrace’, which was one of the turning points on the same-sex marriage referendum. His work focuses on male mental health,

She has published eight collections of poetry over 42 years, and her Selected Poems appeared in 2008 from

suicide rates, drug addiction and legalisation, and Ireland’s direct provision system for asylum seekers.

College Green Journal Postgraduate Journal of Arts and Humanities XIX

Published by the Graduate Students’ Union of the University of Dublin, Trinity College Chair Madhav Bhargav elected Vice-President GSU Favourite Book - The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche

This issue holds the work of current and alumni of TCD for the 2017-2018 academic year A large proportion of photographs within this issue of College Green XIX have been sourced under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 license with great thanks to & An equal thanks to the National Gallery of Ireland for giving supporting images for use in this publication. Printed by Plus Print - Irish Printer of Year 2015, 2016 & 2017 No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission of the author. All rights reserved. All views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial term or those of the TCD Graduate Students’ Union The contributions in the College Green XIX are protected by copyright © 2018 ISSN 0791-3850


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College Green Journal Trinity College Dublin. Arts Journal for Postgraduates & Alumni.

College Tribune Journal  

College Green Journal Trinity College Dublin. Arts Journal for Postgraduates & Alumni.