Icarus Vol. 71 No. 3 (2021)

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Trinity College Dublin © Trinity Publications 2021

EDITORIAL “Read poetry,’ he wrote: ‘poetry makes men better.’ How often, in my later life, I realized the truth of this remark of his! Read poetry: it makes men better.” ­— Peter Kropotkin, Memoirs of a Revolutionist “The first sentence of every novel should be: Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human. Meander if you want to get to town.” — Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion

I actually don’t know if I agree with Kroptkin when he says that poetry makes us (I am likely being unduly generous toward his 17th century use of the word “men”) better. Poetry has as much dangerous potential as it does revolutionary. However, I do think good poetry makes us better, and I think the work in this book has made me better— a little better at reading, a little better at feeling, and a little better at being. That being said, a particular misconception I hope to squash about Icarus is this: it does not seek to simply publish the “best” 23 artists whose work is sent to us. The notion of “best” is one always marred by taste, bias, and prejudice. Any conception of such is one which changes and shifts with each editorship and each reader. Even if I could find that elusive qualatitive “best”, I would have little interest in it. What this edition (and the two before it) hopes to do is curate an experience of art which sits comfortably in conversation. One of my favourite writers and dearest friends Umang Kalra writes about dinner parties like no one else can. In rereading their work I am shown exactly what I have always wanted Icarus to be: the dinner party to end all dinner parties. Living or dead, starter to desert, from 8 til late, these are the pieces I would want at my table. I think I would serve carbonarra and mojitos from a saucepan, then we could watch a movie. I hope it leaves you full and giggling. This issue owes thanks to Aoife and Jack for making me be better, Catherine Ding for making my bookshelf look better, and to writing group for all of the sun-bleached love. — Sophie Furlong Tighe Icarus is proud to present new poetry by Nerys Williams alongside the work of Trinity students and alumni.


COVER ART Catherine Ding


CONTENTS Cover Catherine Ding the rehearsal Ava Chapman


counting backwards Ava Chapman


Balmy Megan Ní Mhathúna


Pink Brí Joyce Queer Dystrophy Brí Joyce 20 Questions for God Regarding Various Body Issues Gale A itken Vignettes For an Unreality Gale A itken Main Character Ellen Higgins New Glasses Ellen Higgins Reality Room- TV Show Idea Meg-Elizabeth Lynch Farrier Meg-Elizabeth Lynch


Nerys Williams


Republic of Rule Calander on Fire Fly Blue Bird Scale Plastic Passion Come Together (for Geiger) The Art of Confession

11 Torcello Emer O’Hanlon 37 12 Locus Aoife Kearins


All tiering up Fionn O’Sullivan


vasectomy at age 20 poem Alex Mountfield


little omens Alex Mountfield


second list by Alex Mountfield



Scampi Fries Laurie Bolger



Tilted Dana Bagirova


Neo-pentangle Dana Bagirova


13 16 18 19

Eats 8 Euro Laudurée Coffee and Macaroons - Feels Guilty Gabrielle Fullam 24



twinkle twinkle little worm Phelim O’Laoghaire


your fucking elegy Phelim O’Laoghaire




Metalic Man smiled while his waft of sin bled Siena Swire


The Chimera Xun Liu


Ten Little Schrödinger’s Cats Isabella Lewis


Sisterly Advice Charlotte Moore


And again Sarah Joan


Deirfiúr Jamie O’Toole


The Frying Pan Robyn Gill


in the dream it was good, maybe Megan O’Driscoll


Filthy Work Megan O’Driscoll





the rehearsal

by Ava Chapman

you told me my name & i felt sick to my stomach triangulation of desire i have always seen myself as sick i apologise for this for being a cannibal, a cockroach a creepy crawler gazing furtively through chlorine-drenched hair greening slowly in the summer turning through the motions the future came & we sat in it the future came & we complained over it we mourned it we rewrote it we ignored it we apocalypsized it before the succumbation


the future came when you sat on my twin frame said i had a startlingly symmetrical face sleeping foot to foot eye to eye one friend decided she hated me in the sticky summer & you decided you didn’t – that was the future the future came & we were stuck somewhere side-eye shading our eyes, chewing our gum, forgetting our names the future came & i almost didn’t notice the water pooling in my oxford’s with their worn out rubber soles my face still wet with kissing practice’s stolen spit you lied about why your parents no longer shared a bed & i believed to spare your shame


counting backwards

by Ava Chapman

the night the blood started flowing backwards out of respect for your fingertips i overheard a man lurching forwards ‘i tied her umbilical cord like shoelaces’ you fuck me softly in the early morning light & i will not comment on the politics of that i have decided there is definitely something wrong with me i realize this is no longer subversive lesson 1: do not argue with friends about definitions of words unless you are ready to end that friendship over a technicality “a” or “an” i no longer have the energy to be angry if you were here i’d let you name me over and over



by Megan Ní Mhathúna

hot and Balmy As much as you hate that word - that is what it was. A perverted, melancholy heat Like the pink wet warmth that radiates off your cheek after sobbing for what could have been hours. Or fucking. We travelled on two buses i told the driver both times that We’d be robbed To let Us on without the fare Each time given leeway And i thought about the last time id seen a female bus driver. And i thought about the leeway you had given me You let me in Twisting the key, punching numbers into the home security Half forgetting or half remembering the five digits. i think about Your five digits, times two i should just say Your fingers really but i think i robotize people Especially the ones i let touch me your room is balmy again


my cheeks are pink and warm and wet From tears Or from sweat were We fucking or were We crying?



After seeing Mariette Feeney’s QUEER UTOPIA

by Brí Joyce

I wonder if this is how other lovers feel When a cat purr decibel grinds from your throat When your hair is being pulled There is an unreachable sanctuary Where we settle for refuge Pink ears eyes mirroring lines Cracks of absence as a lesson in portraiture Space alone gives no certainty except For the cowboy wandering adventurer At the tall pearl kiss centre peak you jump with me


Queer Dystrophy

by Brí Joyce

Pink is dreams of ease Materialism Madonna and Paris Pink is giggling and breathless and hello kitty and the lights painted on your face Pink is revelled by the old school pageant drag queens and still the disgusted fag colour of the school yard no I don’t like pink I’m not a girl I’m just as bad Pink is the abstract and the void reclaimed as black Pink is the lips wishing for what they could take back the colour from the feeling all soft thing unreeling until you’re ensnared between the sloppy lobster cushion my uncertainty is no confusion


20 Questions for God Regarding Various Body Issues by Gale Aitken

God I have some questions actually I have quite a few questions. I hope you don’t mind. 1. God, do you mind that other people picked out your name for you? Although God I think it is a good name. God i like that your name is only one syllable it fits well in my mouth. 2. God apparently we were made in your image? God I don’t like that implication, one of me is already one too many, just ask my failurebitter reflection. 3. God you know when you are so tired you can hear your eyelids closing as you blink? That strange clicking noise? Ugh, insectile. Unsettlingly. We shouldn’t be able to hear that. A little bit of constructive criticism for you there, God. That’s like if you could hear your muscles growing, you know? I have a bad enough disconnect with my body already, God, I don’t need to be hearing it doing things I can’t see, things I don’t understand. God, digestion is the worst. God, blood is the worst. Actually, no, God, the pulse is worse-er. It’s in my eyes sometimes. 4. God, do you ever breathe in only to realise that you haven’t been utilizing your lungs properly? That you have never utilized your lungs properly? Sorry God that’s a stupid question, I’m guessing you don’t have lungs but then again I’m guessing you made lungs so maybe you are to blame for that whole breath thing. 5. God I am realising now you are the wrong person to address these 13

to, God I’m guessing you’ve never had issues with body image or corporality or whatever. 6. Actually God I guess you have, since you were on the cross and all that. That must’ve been shit. Sorry God. 7. God, sorry also for blaming the lung thing on you earlier I just realised I might be feeling this way because I’ve been wearing my binder for longer than recommended, I think if I take it off later I’ll be able to breathe better. 8. God would you stop picking at me like a scab? I’m trying to heal. 9. Sorry God that one wasn’t meant for you I should have addressed that one to myself. 10. God, why did you make blood red what was wrong with the other colours? 11. God, what is wrong with my reflection? I asked my reflection itself but of course it has nothing to tell me that I have not already said. God I made eye contact with my reflection while I was brushing my teeth and whatever made eye contact back it wasn’t mine? It wasn’t right? I don’t know how to explain it it wasn’t me it wasn’t me it wasn’t mine and there’s so many mirrors in the bathroom and12. God, I have an obsession with reflections I can’t look in a mirror for too long or I get trapped in my own eyes. 13. God, I hope you don’t think I’m vain? I didn’t mean that in a vain way, I mean that in a like, what I like to think that Narcissus felt. Not “narcissism” narcissism, but a pathological-sense-of-wrongness narcissism, some-other-you-trapped-in-that-pond-and-you-justcan’t-stop-staring-like narcissism, stagnant-water-breeding-poison narcissism. 14. Anyway, God, until I was twenty I didn’t think I had the capacity for guilt, that it didn’t- that it wasn’t a thing in my body. God I thought that my body was an inhospitable environment, that my body wasn’t 14

right, that it couldn’t grow. God, how does one nurture such things? I want to grow a garden of my guilt, God, or at the very least a few small house plants. 15. God did you make humans with self-loathing built-in or was that one of our own inventions? 16. There is no way to say this without it sounding like a confession God will I ever stop getting on my knees? 17. God something’s tearing me apart like I’m a free bread roll at a fancy restaurant. 18. God that shitty simile made me realise something, God am I just here to be consumed? God, who’s doing the consuming? Because, God, it’s certainly not me God I am always hungry God I am so so hungry God I am starving God? GOD? 19. God are you even listening? If you’re not that’s fine but just let me know next time before I go monologing. 20. God, whatever this is, it’s embarrassing. God, I don’t ever want anyone to see. God please can you look away for a bit?


Vignettes For an Unreality

by Gale Aitken

It wants to rain but I don’t think it’s going to I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone today but I can’t really be sure. I am mute in my dream. I wake up and wonder if I’ll ever talk again. It’s comforting to think not. People keep misgendering me in my dreams. I don’t correct them. I wake up sadder than usual. I cut my tongue out this morning (it grew back). I don’t think humans are made for white light but I think maybe they could evolve to suit it pinhole-pupils then it won’t hurt your heads. I forget to take my meds. Quiet reassurances of a ladybird turn me into clothing-covered static hum. The clouds are so low today the sky doesn’t feel real neither do I I saw three women wearing the same scarf that my mother owns. I shed my skin in a piss-soaked bathroom stall and hope no-one’s around to hear me trying to fold it small enough to flush down the toilet. Will I ever stop using ‘I’ in my poetry. Is every act of writing an act of narcissism. Woman same age as my mother killed by fifteen-year-old I can’t stop crying in the library. 16

Crane-cloud dystopian skies smashed eggshell on the pavement there’s an old man looking for the printing factory I don’t think it’s still standing or exists, still. Eyes-down kinship with these people and their feet and their dogs’ shit. Rain fat and heavy and organic, alive, she’s squirming I hope she’s okay being alive Sirens in the distance somewhere the city aches with them. If you ask me for a cigarette I’ll give you one but please don’t sit next to me drunk men at 3am scare me. Wind tears her long hair through the building sites and O wouldn’t it be nice wouldn’t it be nice to join her? Banana skin on the pavement worm displaced I throw her back into the grass. Night sky Pompeii-orange with the light pollution the darkness doesn’t drip through down-stars here like it does out in the countryside. There’s a certain number of gummy snakes to eat if I eat that number things will be alright but I haven’t found that number yet. Is it still raining. It is. It’s still raining. Tears in my eyebrows. It’s still raining. It’s still


Main Character

by Ellen Higgins

I like to brush my teeth real slow. Leaving the bathroom to sit at the kitchen table, listen to the radio- arts channel- hope it’s DvořákI’ve decided that I like him now. Wear the bristles down- let the paste fizz and tingle in my mouthand remember I once was afraid of mint.


New Glasses

by Ellen Higgins

I am sick of hearing noises that I don’t recognise and wondering if this apartment will remember me drinking water from plastic bottles and leaving them around turning off all the lights remembering the flowers: Catching me as I turned the corner they wilted in my direction and said ‘You are not grieving enough’ I don’t want the warmth of this sun I want my mum blurred by the etched glass of our front door reading on the step in the stretch of the evening At the very least a peephole to peoplewatch the corridor A washing line I want to forget about my clothes let them go cold get them before mum comes in


On the kitchen wall I have hung a list of Things I want cardigan flares A Room of One’s Own To this I will add recycling bin moment of not knowing new glasses- rimless ones


Reality-Room TV show idea.

by Meg-Elizabeth Lynch

Cold apples ice cold left on a table for her afterwards by the nice waiter. I own a shoebox full of a thousand words made into a thousand teeth that form a bite mark that is like a chess game with you. We play over coffee. Fine time is now too hot to hold in a white-hot hand-blown crystal flute. Sparkling, to get you drunk, because you’re young, because red wine would sound like moaning played through earphones. God fucks the men who wear gold-rimmed glasses and ignore you when your knees fall and graze themselves in rooms they have never been in. God does not take your glasses off but I do.



for Ewan by Meg-Elizabeth Lynch

This is the consistency of hoof meat peeling away in curls onto straw. It doesn’t hurt the horses but they grew it to wear it anyway. The middle is called the ‘frog’, a trapped little frog all tender encased like blood in marrow where it’s warm and dark You can see this secret when the horse gives you his leg so you ask for it. This is what it feels like to just push your way out, you’re only fibres and some strings but heart ones are stiff (and it did take a long time to move the middle one out of the way when it was you). Focus! A slip-nick accident and it would pour out at the ankle or worse, come spilling, fucking, flowing You can’t get your nails out of what you’re holding and you’re embarrassed about what your face might have looked like. It is difficult to do this well. You look back at his downed and held hock and get deliberate with the little frog.


The magic marrow scratched pale. How can it not hurt? Frog like your heart with all the dug nails barely missing the main bit. You’ve had your nails done properly to push all the shrapnel but it will pour now if you move and it is your fault for trying to get at it. Hooves are so heavy when you’re relying on your knees and This one is very big and very still and they’re not even your knees and You’re so worried about this horse.


Eats 8 Euro Laudurée Coffee and Macaroons - Feels Guilty by Gabrielle Fullam

Adriene bites into her delicate French macaroon carefully. It is pink and light. But as she eats, she realises (remembers maybe), that she does not really like macaroons. She swallows hastily, gulping back as much of her too-sweet hot chocolate as she can handle in one go. She forces a smile. Spending 8 euro on her morning coffee is embarrassing only if it isn’t truly indulgent. She is perched on a bench, the grass opposite still covered in dew. Beside her sit Maddie and Julie. The sun, pouring through their library windows, had tempted them out. Maddie closes her eyes and points her nose towards the sky, fanning the sun across her cheeks. She announces that there is nothing better than the sun. There is nothing better than sipping coffee in the sun. Maddie wants nothing more in life than to sit and paint and read in the sun. This was sweet, but perhaps a little short sighted. Adriene wants to press her on what sun, and read what, and feel what when you read what in what sun? She avoids this temptation, because their morning was playing out so well, and it was nice to humour the indulgence. She swallowed the rest of her macaroon in one bite. Julie mimics her chomp. Maddie keeps talking and talking and talking about her sun-filled aspirations. And eventually, with Adriene’s clumsy steering, this lands them in one of Adrian’s favourite games. Mentally, she refers to this game as ‘speculating about the future’. This is not to be confused with worrying or considering or hypothesising a future, those games were complex, and usually involved calculating bank balances and googling scholarship and crying. The rules of this game were clear, simple and unspoken. The scenes that won the game were lavish and compelling. Romantic daydreams disguised as astute observations won the game. Wistful mood-boards that mapped perfectly to wonderful but quasi-achievable fantasies won the game. Adriene won the 24

game. Adriene was the best at the game. In this particular imagined future, Maddie and Julie generously allow her to assume the role of the famous friend. Adriene ascends to fame by pouring out famous insightful scripts and novels in between long thoughtful hiatuses. Julie’s pilots well-crafted but small-scale experimental theatre, gaining a minor cult following. Meanwhile, Maddie lives in the countryside, farming something innocuous but unnamed in the story (after being pressed, she admits to being unenthusiastic about her previous aspirations of bee farming – “it’s just so mechanical”). They reconnect after a few years though, spending hazy days in Maddie’s farmhouse. They are half-way through the story when Julie holds up a finger and says: Wait! Don’t forget – I have a brief stint as a pop star. Maddie nods her head with a big grin agreeing “Yes! A one hit wonder!” “Yes perfect, a one hit wonder” “Like Billie Piper!”. Julie and Maddie are smiling, feigning seriousness, and they hastily insert this pop star narrative into the future. Adriene thinks about barking at them to be serious. Julie wasn’t going to be a popstar. Julie doesn’t make an effort to be a popstar. Not like she how she makes an effort to make theatre, not like how Adriene makes an effort to write, or how Maddie makes an effort to read in the sun. In that moment, Adriene hates her friends. She feels a growl build in her stomach. She took these games of speculation totally seriously. While the game might seem ridiculous, it had a solid foundation. She has well-balanced reasoning for all her hypothetical jobs funding her hypothetical homes in hypothetical locations. She didn’t soil it with unnecessary frivolity. In these scenarios, a distant relative never died leaving her a fortune. Her estranged father never appeared bringing with him a princess title. She never discovered magic, or turned out to be a maths genius. This reality was sacred. She didn’t like when people added things like “and also I’m married to Timothée Chalamet”. Because they weren’t going to marry Timothée Chalamet. But she was going to be big and influential and clever and important. Even if nobody knew it now. She hates herself for thinking that. She thinks of what they must look like to the pigeons staring at them, picking at their crumbs. The picture of indulgence, the picture of carelessness, the picture of delusion. She felt another pang of revulsion accumulate in the back of throat. Like a thick bile. In her brain she scoffed: she was going to be famous? even if nobody knew it? Maybe Adriene liked to play the underdog game in her head too. Maybe she even was one on paper. Poor and brown and gay. But it was not the case. She was always voted most likely to change the world, to be president, to be famous. Once, 25

she was voted most likely to have ten thousand cats, but this was because she longed to win a quirky category and covertly campaigned for the entire summer camp. She had difficulties no doubt – but she was overall well-spoken and intelligent and able to worm her way into structures that weren’t really meant for her with ease. Maybe ‘with ease’ wasn’t the right word, because it genuinely was hard. But she squeezed and wiggled and that necessary force came naturally to her. Adriene thought: “maybe I find it easy to do hard things”. Then she thought “you’re stupid. I hate you. How could you say that? You’re not special. Everything will fall apart soon”. Maddie and Julie continued laughing about Julie’s fictional hit single. The bile was rising. She could smell vomit on her breath. Instead of disrupting their pleasant leisurely arrangement with a strange neuroticism about their casual fairy tale future, Adriene abruptly asks Maddie for a piece of gum. Maddie presses it into her hand and leans against her casually, spreading love and warmth. Adriene tosses the gum into her mouth and she chews and chews and chews. The move onto another topic, and it the hour passes quickly in shouts and giggles and winter sunbathing. Whenever the sun disappears behind a lumbering grey cloud, they clutch at their hats, press close together and crouch over their nearly empty coffee cups, but Adriene keeps thinking about what next and what next and what next. She is still playing the game in her head. And when it is inevitably time to return to the library, Adriene downs the remainder of her cold hot chocolate in one swoop. On her minty breath, it tastes strange and bitter and it pushes the chewing gum she had tucked into the side of her cheek down her throat. She smiles at her friends as she feels it working its way down her oesophagus slowly. Julie and Maddie cheer from the side-lines. Hole in one. She forces a smile. It was four euro. Returning to her seat, she awakens her laptop from its slumber. It displays the paragraph she had closed it on, still embarrassingly short. While she feels pleasant and light for her time with Maddie and Julie, she can’t help but notice a dull force thrumming inside her. It’s that bile. It’s that what next what next what next. It is beating up and inside her chest. It is gnawing. She cannot shake this sense of force for the remainder of the day no matter how much she tries to focus on her deadlines. She is only half present. She is half present at Trinity College Library, where she is consuming her metaphysics lecture at double speed. She is typing fast and steadily, and everyone around her can hear her pressing her keys with too much force. But she is also on a stage somewhere, giving an impassioned speech. No, it’s thirds. A third of her 26

is receiving a Pulitzer Prize. Quarters - She is running across a beach. She is on a gap year after college, working on saving the turtles. It is a lot more like manual labour than she was expecting, she is hosing down large shells and scraping faeces off of their enclosures, but she is smiling. Maybe fifths. She is dying alone in a cottage with cats that meow and bear their teeth. She respects that they are readying to eat her once she passes – though she knows her daughter or friend or wife or whoever that is at her side will embalm her before that is possible. She ponders it as a final request, but eventually decides it is too morbid to ask the young woman weeping gently at her side to carry through such a thing. It feels so real and whole. It can’t be fifths. She is five people. What confuses her most is that she is also, on that school trip to Knock when she was 14. She is on her first date with her third, and most serious, boyfriend. She is sick with anxiety. She is taking her first antidepressant. She is getting healthier. She is 3 years old, in a memory that only exists in the retelling of home-videos. She is wandering through her garden while the boys of her family roughly play football. She wanders across the makeshift pitch carelessly. When her grandmother tries to coax her away from what is clearly a treacherous area, she purrs “but ‘m picking daisies”. Her grandmother convinces her to follow her to the other side of the garden, with the promise that she will take a picture of her, in her white skirt, sat next to a small garden fairy figurine, just taller than the heather that scratches at her shins as she poses beside her. It is only referred to as “The Angel”. It’s not that Adriene is enduring a bout of daydreams, or déjà vu. Instead, she is simply present in all places. She thrums. She’s split. Something is wrong. The bile keeps rising. She stands so abruptly that her chair hits the floor behind her, and everyone turns to look. She makes it to the bathroom just in time. She hunches over the toilet and opens her mouth. Two tiny hands grip either side of her mouth. Claws hook around her gums, she feels it propel itself upwards, shifting against the sides of her throat in order to gain momentum. Up and up and up. She – or rather, it – is making an awful guttural squawking noise. Finally, when it finally slinks out of her throat, her mouth is so full it struggles to emerge from between its lips. The skin of her lips tear and she chokes but yes- pop, finally. The French macaroon she had nibbled on so bursts forth. He pulls at the pieces of gum stuck to his torso and shakes a brown liquid from his form. He looks up at her, confused. Then, he shrugs at her, blinking slowly, as if to say: “what next?”.


Republic in a Rule

featured: Nerys Williams

These prose scatterings began from a need to commit an oral history to paper. Stories told, overheard, handed down, mostly in Welsh. It was no coincidence that this project began in 2016 during the UK referendum. Many of the sections are attempts to sift through my relationship to Welsh as a minority language. Some attempt to understand what others make of linguistic difference. Many sections were also written against a background of increasing attacks made upon the Welsh language. It still seems that we are in a time when anything culturally different to an imagined “consensus” is presented as a drain on resources, or a threat. I set myself a rule– each section was to be twenty sentences. The paragraph as a unit of thought; the sentence became a measure which enabled departures into melos, play, lyricism, sometimes humour. Rule-governed writing offers a paradoxical freedom. The format enabled writing “to begin again and again” (instances of completion became a closer possibility). Rules oddly generate chance, associative word patternings make for narrative errancies. And Republic? It is the provisional title for a volume of some 80 sections, and inscribes an experience of naturalisation into Irish citizenship. It also suggests the possibilities of a nation looking at itself from afarwith (wry) independence.


Calendar on Fire

Hedd Wyn

featured: Nerys Williams

To hope till hope create/ From its own wreck the thing it contemplates (PB Shelley Prometheus Unbound)

I am trying to memorise the words returning the manuscript to its author. Your hero tells me of undreamt life writing songs of anvil bodies caged in steel. Your hero, a goodness that exceeds the self before it became a word to hijack a nation’s claim on its poor. Tradition strains buckles and whimpers yet, you fastidiously force syllabics, suturing sound. 29

Faces scoured by fear warlords do not tremble in poetry’s presence. This you know but still persist if only to replace horror with a slim chance of deliverance. You believe in the word. Your hero tells me The Calendar is on fire. If there was an addendum a space for other lives I would walk you to Horta’s house up the gilded stairwell so you could slip into cool starched sheets enter tomorrow again. I believe in the word for better or worse its intention is true.


Fly Blue Bird

after Maurice Tourneur

featured: Nerys Williams

We could build a mausoleum an arch inscribed with names. Poems to right all wrongs monumental elegies. Except your eye catches the essence of other things: Fabric of moonbeams a buttercup under a pale chin, the fire’s shudder in the grate the joy of loving. “Which branch did that bird rest upon?” You ask, as if the vocabulary of a song could move us to consider how tone and refrain form a pact for the living and denied. Away from shade and terror the blue bird beckons. 31

It cries Come follow me. Cold star, dark star the blue bird’s flight. Sepia, gossamer bound your wingtip trails across powdered ink, indentations. claws touching clean paper.



featured: Nerys Williams

“All the new thinking is about loss” wrote the poet who introduced her to American poetry. Entering debates on deconstruction, presence as an illusion and meaning always deferred. But the present always seemed Janus-faced finding appreciation in past events and recollection. How loss offers a linkage to a community of ghosts, a legion of voices. The synapse of earlier perception surely leaves a residue in cognition? Unwritten in collective memory on social media, she remains reticent, unwilling to make the past a public forum. The school photo retains its clarity, others are puzzled over familiar names. Is it a burden to feel the asphalt of a warm summer’s day and the roll call? Communal recollection overrides personal history. Some continued their education; others fell away after the first formal exams. The woman who posted the photo tells how she was kicked out from school, pregnant. Faces become fleshier, they blur with age around the cheeks, eyes, neck. Fearful of a loss of love, of health. Attending to loss, she is wire brushing a metal weight used in her grandmother’s shop. She handled the weight many times, one of many objects in a shed she felt were keening, needing new purpose. An old metal file removes orange indentations. Washed and dried it should be painted, the flat black paint protecting the iron. Holding that weight, she held the balance of a former load. The final tilt of the scale, a small sack of potatoes that a farmer picked up every Friday, walking, not having car or tractor. Bailing twine belting his trousers, he would grunt and cough, there were rumours his cows were starving.


Plastic Passion

featured: Nerys Williams

This year there is music in your house, your parents move awkwardly to disco beats. Careful in crimplene and long polyester dresses, shiny shoes and ruffled shirts. Lurex on the TV, the body in plastic, you drink from melamine mugs, your nightdress crackles against sheets. Two years before “Video Killed the Radio Star”, two years after Abba’s “SOS” you have fallen in love with Elvis Presley. At six you curate your wardrobe to match the Elvis film on Saturday TV. The deep red embroidery of a rose on at tight denim jacket, watching him in Roustabout on a Honda 350 Super Hawk attempting the wall of death. Forty years before you find the broken Elvis. Hawaiian shirts in Technicolor, he tinkered with engines, songs which seemed spontaneous. His sneer, hair, hips, oil on his hands mirroring your uncle working in a homemade car inspection pit. Shovelled from earth with no joists he hit the riverbed, it flooded and crumbled. That year you were happy to be taken for a boy, you wanted to walk like a boy, bouncing long strides on the pavement. Friendships with boys meant violence on the playground. Running fast, colliding into bodies, hair pulled, bruises became badges. Until four boys were taken to the headmaster for the “dap”, the black plimsoll. They had given one other love bites on their shoulders; you did not fully understand but knew it inappropriate. Like the secret shared that summer with a ten year old girl. Your mothers were exchanging district nurse duties: a woman homeless in a shelter, the transfer of case notes, supporting the aged, the lonely. “Come here” she commanded obediently you did; she held a jar - a picked foetus. “Don’t tell” she whispered -“the mother doesn’t know we have her baby”, she slipped the bobbing foetus back under the sink between the Emo washing powder and scouring pads. You are only reminded of this story when Esther Greenwood tells us in The Bell Jar: “I liked looking on at other people in crucial situations. If there was a road accident or a street fight or a baby pickled in a laboratory jar for me to look at, I’d stop and look so hard I never forgot it.”


Come Together (for Geiger)

featured: Nerys Williams

“Recall the 1980s in the small town, don’t wax lyrical about music the making of dresses the eyeliner on the boys you love.” There were strikes, protests– When the Wind Blows, Z for Zachariah, “Two Tribes” a nuclear bunker built by the council. A woman lost her finger on the fence protesting the half-made bunker, everybody wore CND badges, older sisters went to Greenham for the weekend. Anti-nuclear protestors made friends with the peace people, the religious people made friends with the peace people too, the Welsh language protestors made friends with everybody, since all wanted the world to breathe more easily. The bunker features in an undercover history of Wales. A manhole in a carpark, metals rungs to the control room, the camera lingers on a shelf of broken A4 folders, two feet of water. You cannot see any Welsh on signage. How quickly the technology of loudspeakers and control panel ages, the bunks are rusty. You wonder if they had a Geiger counter and which counsellor would operate it. The only councillor prepared to defend the bunker (live on S4C) was a family friend. You did not see the programme but glean a narrative from overheard adult conversations. A discussion about radioactivity and water after fallout, your grandmother’s praise “those CND types are educated, they were having none of it.” The councillor said he had his own well water. Which brought catcalls of “I’m alright Jack” from the panellists expert in half-lives, poisoning and carbon 14. Before Chernobyl. Your childhood was about fighting for things, banners and placards, adults circling a carpark. A satirical Welsh pop song about Margaret Thatcher: “Let the unemployed move to Kent and get a job”. Elfyn Presli shouting “Thatcher’s Jackboots” into a mic, fascism was royal blue and bouffanted. The sad-eyed councillor came to pick up groceries at night, you were tempted to draw a CND circle on his muddied car. Pausing, you pictured the heat of studio lights, his failing language, moved away from the bonnet knowing the battle was won.


The Art of Confession

featured: Nerys Williams

She learnt quickly that Americans had a way of revealing, considered in her culture as slightly narcissistic, but described here as art. “Literature & Art” included a creative writing assignment. A mature student told her that she was relishing the opportunity. Their friendship was made tangible over coffee and an elaborate story about being in a hut on Bali Beach with an ex, immobilised by opium. Unsure whether this was intended to shock or whether she was co-conspirator in the confession, she nodded throughout. Wearing a 1970s zipper red jacket and blue trousers from Savers, she was inexperienced and very young. They read and studied self-portraits, two works changed her: John Ashbery’s Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror and Hayden Herrera’s Frida. This being the early nineties, Kahlo was yet to be on a Prime Minister’s wrist, while negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU. Her favourite paintings were “Frida and Diego” and Rivera’s ‘The Flower Carrier’. The latter showed the burden of work, a man on his knees, an enormous basket of flowerheads strapped to his back. A woman attempts to help him, at first glance the flowers could be plums. Later, she becomes alert to the ghost of Treasure Island in the bay where Rivera designed a mural “Pan American Unity”; he kept working even after the Fair closed in 1940, and it was boxed in crates. Other works such as Woolf ’s Moments of Being felt overwrought, she was tired of epiphanic spots of time. She worried about her uneventful assignment, did it capture her biography? It could in fact be told in a couple of sentences: working hard, overachieving into mobility. Her friend found it easy, she relished writing about her troubled brother, the mother-daughter dyad, her affairs with lecturers and philosophers. She in turn could only think of her community, the people who wished her well on her year abroad, the bad-tempered neighbour’s gift of a red dragon tea towel. Her grandmother at the centre of the village trading petrol, pink paraffin, stamps in a tin, loose potatoes, a slab of cheddar. The madness her grandmother tended to, the community’s peculiarities, and petty vendettas – how to inscribe these dynamics in a thousand words? The grades back her friend with an A+ and her own middling B; the bald comments “nice portrait but surely such sentimentality cannot be true?” 36


by Emer O’Hanlon



by Aoife Kearins

She had been driving for three hours, but still had quite some time to go, to be sure. It was dark, and her full beams were on, stretching just far enough in front of her so she could make out the generously potholed road, framed by a sneering ditch on either side. A few years ago, at her second driving lesson – or maybe it was the third, she couldn’t say for definite which one – her driving instructor asked her how far in front of you was illuminated by putting on the full beams. “Oh, I dunno, like….twenty metres.” He snorted at her. “I wouldn’t like to be going driving with you at night” and then didn’t tell her the answer. So she never found out how far it was but it probably didn’t matter, her distance perception was awful anyway. When she was younger, she was always impressed by people using distances as adjectives, exotic words like mayters and keelomethers and my-ills. It was a very grown-up thing, she thought, to be able to use language in such a sophisticated way, to have travelled so many paths that you could use the same scale for each one, and looked forward to learning how to do the same one day. But no class ever seemed to cover it, and as each year went past, she became increasingly aware that this was not a skill she had acquired. At 24, it now seemed like she had missed the chance, and would remain illiterate in distance-adjectives forever. She gave directions with untils and with nouns: go until you come to this, continue until you arrive at that. She had no idea how long was left in her journey in keelomethers, but there were at least six until checkpoints to reach before she could relax into it. She liked talking aloud while she drove, having long thoughtful conversations with people she knew or used to know fadó fadó. Usually these people were ones she had accidentally fallen in love with, and she enjoyed having these conversations multiple times, altering them like a recipe to suit her taste on a particular day: a spoon less humour, a pinch more flair for the dramatic. She rewrote history over and over to make it fit what suited that day in the car, often explaining herself for hours or ending up in tears, never allowing herself to imagine their replies or even presence.


She liked talking aloud while she drove, having long thoughtful conversations with people she knew or used to know fadó fadó. Usually these people were ones she had accidentally fallen in love with, and she enjoyed having these conversations multiple times, altering them like a recipe to suit her taste on a particular day: a spoon less humour, a pinch more flair for the dramatic. She rewrote history over and over to make it fit what suited that day in the car, often explaining herself for hours or ending up in tears, never allowing herself to imagine their replies or even presence. Her throat was sore today though, so it wasn’t the sort of night to have those important conversations with the phantom passenger seat. She feared getting out of practice but vowed to rehearse the following weekend. Her hand gestures could be a bit more muted, probably, especially since these conversations were happening in the car and for all intents and purposes the listener may not be even hearing what she’s saying when her hands were so often off the steering wheel to make a VERY. EMPHATIC. POINT. She didn’t know how the stupid radio in the car worked so she went for a hands-on-get-stuck-in approach and pressed everything till there was noise. The sound was crackly, which seemed odd for a car that appeared relatively new. She pressed and twisted more dials till something came on that was recognisable, a song she couldn’t remember the name of but knew it was by a skinny pale male singer because it had been played for her by a skinny pale male – what? He wasn’t an ex, they had only gone on three dates and had an almost intolerable amount of mediocre sex until he ghosted her. It wasn’t her fault that he ghosted her, not really. He had texted her a few days after their awful date to an awful coffee shop where they put the milk in syringes and the coffee in a conical flask, the items on the wooden board looking like some sort of travel pack for chemists. He didn’t bother with pleasantries – so pedestrian – and asked her to talk dirty to him. He didn’t wait for a response before ploughing on. “I want to fuck you raw and choke you till you moan” his text read. The latter half seemed biologically unlikely to her, but she dutifully responded. “I want to wrap you in swaddling clothes, and lay you in a manger filled with hay,” she texted back, and then he blocked her. She didn’t fully understand why – she thought it was a sweet thing of her to say, but maybe it had damaged his ego, maybe he was the sort of guy who thought choking girls and being lain into a manger were mutually exclusive activities. She knew better, knew that they were not only possible but rather optimal activity combinations. She liked that sort of type – the type that would hit you and then complain to you about how difficult it was to be so sad that the only joy you can extract from life is hitting women during sex. She was really good at cooing at them, like a wise bird, and rubbing the back of their neck, that sensitive part where hair turns to skin. She reached an unsignposted T-junction right about then, and stopped abruptly, thrown out of sync by her surprise at not knowing which direction she should go. She had no way of looking up which direction was preferable, 39

she had thrown her phone out the window after seeing a particularly annoying Instagram post the previous week – some generic picture of someone in front of a fireplace, holding a gin glass, captioned “every breath is a second chance”, accompanied by an insufferable emoji. The logistics were ridiculous. Surely it should be your millionth and something chance to breathe by the ripe old age of mid-twenties, unless you were treating breathing as a recursive operation, which she highly doubted the offender in question was? It felt like the most natural thing in the world to throw her phone out the second story window when she read it, although now it seemed like a bit of an overreaction. Maybe she was coked up when she did it, she thought, until she remembered that she had never taken coke except for that one time that she did but that was an accident so it didn’t count, not really. In a court of law she would swear to a judge that she had never taken coke and not feel bad for it at all because it wasn’t a lie. It had just been something that was in front of her and then inside her; the mechanics of what happened in between were a bit of a mystery and better not to be dwelled upon too much, just in case she realised that it hadn’t been an accident at all, and then it would be a lie to say she hadn’t, so she would have to tell the judge that she had taken coke, and oh my god what if her granny was there, she would be heartbroken. But then maybe her granny would go to the church and light a candle for her and say a rosary, for her sins, and maybe then she’d be absolved, and it would never have mattered whether the coke-taking was accidental or intentional. She wasn’t intending to be in a court of law any time soon, preferably never at all, but these were important things to consider, because if she ever did get involved in a court case of some sort she’d be too busy focusing on important things like what to wear and what accent to use that she’d be glad that she had decided how to answer the potential coke question well in advance. So she didn’t have a phone to make the decision of which way to turn for her, and it probably wouldn’t have known enough to tell her even if she had it. She had turned left an hour or so ago, so she stuck her left arm out to the side – she remembered reading in a book years ago that if you were stuck in a maze you would get out if you kept your hand on one wall and followed it without letting go till the bitter end. It was a good job she had decided against having a conversation, her arm would have hit the ghost passenger right across the face. She couldn’t think of any good reason not to follow the maze advice, and so another left was in order. She indicated left, even though there was no one coming, remembering that the trick didn’t work for all mazes, just simple ones – she must keep away from bridges, those were what overcomplicated the puzzles she seemed to recall. She was nearly there, anyway. Not long to go now. She was sweating, the car was uncomfortably warm. She must have hit some sort of heating dial when attempting to extract music from the radio, and she would rather be sweating than in silence so she didn’t try to rectify her mistake. The radio was still fairly crackly, now playing that song about driving home for Christmas although it wasn’t even Christmas time. It felt very insensitive to play such a song, and she considered texting in to complain before remembering the incident with 40

the phone again. She indicated left again, then stretched her elbow out so she could crack her back. She’d been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for the past few months and had nothing but bad things to say about it. No one would listen to her complaints though because it was a self-imposed affair: the bedposts were piled haphazardly in the corner of her room, perfectly functional. It was part of her penance: she had decided about two years ago that she hadn’t experienced enough tragedy in her life, not enough for an entire lifetime. So she vowed to suffer as much as possible for the coming years, until she felt like she had served her time, and then nothing bad would happen to her till she died of old age, because she had done enough, she had met the minimum requirements of pain endurance and would not be burdened with any more tragedy or grief, not ever. It seemed like a fair agreement, and although she had not managed to get any sort of contract drawn up or signed, she was sure that if someone or something was watching, they would agree that her deal made perfect sense and was more than fair. She was more than willing to get all the bad stuff out of the way now so she could enjoy the rest of her life. There had been another two lefts in the meantime, and she arrived at another T-junction that looked identical to the one before. Not one to deviate from a plan, she took a left again. She’d love to pull over, have a coffee and a cigarette, but there wouldn’t be any petrol stations for another while. She didn’t even have cigarettes or rollies she could smoke out the window, she had left in too much of a rush to pack and prepare sensibly. She had a lighter in her pocket, she was fairly sure of that, she almost always had one on her – just in case, you know. It was a useful thing to have, even when people didn’t need it or use it. There were lots of times it had been useful in the past, like when she had wordlessly accepted a cigarette off an old friend, Ciarán, while sitting on the window sill at the Italian Quarter years and years ago, fairy lights strung about the place like wonky teeth, and lit it with a cheap lighter just like the one she had now. She remembered holding the lighter out in his direction but him shaking his head and leaning into her instead, placing the tip of his cigarette against hers and inhaling. She followed suit, for what felt like minutes, avoiding eye contact, until he pulled away after being well sure that it was lit. The whole thing struck her as wildly unnecessary at the time, but she didn’t question any part of it. It felt even stranger now with hindsight shading in the background – it had been a perfectly good lighter – and he had never even tried to fuck her or anything after that, not really. It was a pity, the sex would have uncomplicated the whole affair: at least then she would have had something more to base her memory off than a strangely intimate cigarette lighting experience, six weeks worth of texting conversations and some notes he had lent her for geography that she had never given back. A nasty subject it was anyway, geography, with a nasty teacher, Miss Hayes, who was sixty and bitter like an old cat. The only time she enjoyed the class was that Wednesday morning when Aaron walked in late. Miss Hayes had always hated Aaron, ever since she found out he was Megan’s brother, but instead of reprimanding him she simply looked him up and down, all five foot something 41

– she couldn’t speak distance then either – of him. “Isn’t it an awful affliction to be a man, and to be so short?” she said. “Isn’t it an awful affliction to be a woman, and to be such a bitch?” Aaron had been suspended for a week, but everyone agreed it was worth it. It had felt like the most important thing in the entire world at the time, and maybe it was. Miss Hayes had retired not long after that, but she couldn’t remember if it was related or not. She hadn’t even told them she was leaving, she was just there one day, her mouth as much like a cat’s puckered asshole as ever, and the next day there was someone else at the top of the room to talk at them about tertiary economic activities or tectonic plates or maybe both or maybe neither. Her current job was what they would have called a tertiary economic activity in geography classes, although it didn’t really feel like she was providing a service as much as resolving issues that didn’t really need to be resolved, or even exist. From nine until half-past four most days, she sat on the floor – it was part of the penance contract – and answered the phone when it rang and read out answers to the people asking patient questions at the other end of the line. The questions she answered were about interactive whiteboards, installed in schools, and why they weren’t working. She had said in her interview for the job that she was very passionate about interactive whiteboards, which made the people quizzing her laugh, and they told her she’d be a good fit for the company. She hadn’t meant it as a joke though, she really was excited to learn about the new and mysterious world of interacting with whiteboards, but she’s been working there for well over a year and no one has shown her one yet. On her first day they gave her a thick book, about half the size of the old Golden Pages books and about three and a half times the size of the novel she had been trying to read for six years but never managed to make a dent in it because it was so goddamn boring. It was one of those annoying books that had literary criticism on the back instead of the blurb – maybe she had read the review on the back and thought that was the blurb, and that was why the actual substance ended up being so disappointing. Either way, she had been excited to get her teeth into the book her new boss had given her, but it just had lots of information about the different ways interactive whiteboards could malfunction and how to resolve them. It was a really sobering moment, almost a heart-breaking one, to have been so excited about seeing an interactive whiteboard only to be considered unworthy to be shown one, and then to be given a thick book about nothing but their many flaws to make matters even worse. She fielded about eight calls each day, and most of the problems could be resolved by pressing two distinct buttons at the same time. The most exciting day of work had been last November, when someone rang up with a problem that wasn’t contained in her handbook. She excitedly informed her boss, and he just rolled his eyes and phoned up their repairs guy and sent him to the school to see what the problem was. She had to nag him for weeks to get the details, but eventually found out that the repair man unmounted the interactive whiteboard from the wall to find a stunning display of mould behind it that had eaten away at the wall and made the back of the interactive whiteboard all damp. It sounded so romantic, very French. That repairs guy had her dream job. 42

Another left turn. Not long to go now. It’s a good job no one knew she was coming, that was bad luck in that part of the country, to be anticipating a visitor. Or maybe it was bad luck to get an unexpected visitor, it was one or the other, much of a muchness when you really dig into it. She’d arrive anyway, and it would all be fine then, she was sure of it. It would all be resolved. She’d know what to do once she arrived there, it would seem clearer. Put enough distance between yourself and anything – a person, a place, a situation – and it resolved itself, with minimal work on your part. It’s why she disappeared for a full summer that time, an entire weekend another time. Just turn around and keep moving, move till you can’t imagine yourself being any further removed from where you started and then it should start to fix itself up. The more distance you can put between yourself and it, whatever it may be, the better. Go far, far away. No matter how messy something it is, go away far enough and for long enough, and it will be cleaned up when you get back. There’s nothing too noble or too evil to escape distance. You’re not special. A T-junction loomed ahead of her again, feeling almost repetitive at this stage. Left again, it’s the only way to get out of the maze. How many lefts was she going to have to take? She was nearly there anyway, surely. It couldn’t be that much further.


All tiering up

by Fionn O’Sullivan

Nine police rock up to your street in a warbling ice cream van wearing full clown costumes. Your smartwatch says it’s 6:15am. Boris steps out dripping privilege and takes his rumbling chainsaw to the nearest willow like it’s cold butter, you inquire. You inquire louder and he stops and says “Look. They’re in the way of all the billboards.” Pointing. “There was a vote but you weren’t invited, next tier up on my OnlyFriends.” Fresh haircuts done by 7 and the local woken children and grumbling adults pacified in a queue, you take your compensatory ice cream and head for the roof, breathe in the sawdust infused air and hurl the sugar-white gloop and cone down onto the street before jumping but it’s definitely not a dream. You wake up in hospital only to be informed ‘ice cream rejection tantrums’ are not insured on your policy. The doctor recommends upgrading to a higher tier as a preventative measure (your smartwatch says interest rates have gone up 1.8%). No one has signed your casts and it’s going to cost more than a few months but you physically can’t work, so you sit with your revolut details scrawled on your plaster white arms hugging a different scalped city tree each day. It doesn’t work but your posts get lots of likes and within a week seven chains have approached you privately offering payments to hug trees outside their businesses. Suddenly everyone into ecopolitics within your radius wants to be with you, which is too bad because you’re still encased in plaster, but your fake skin soon becomes multicoloured-level, supported by so many names and cultures. When the casts come off two months later the chain income and messages dry up immediately. You’ve paid a third of your insurance bill. Your smartwatch says it’s 6:20am.


vasectomy at age 20 poem

by Alex Mountfield

a fictional wife co-signed his paperwork, so, in the end, they do not ask him too many questions. his gown is made of blue polyester; men wear beautiful dresses each time in life that a knife presses between their legs. a factory in japan manufactures needles thinner than a strand of hair. they have made their way across an ocean, across borders, through warehouses, into the smooth hands of a doctor, and now — quickly slipped inside of him. snip snip in the recovery room, he is given orange juice, an ice pack, a password for the guest wi-fi. a poster with a smiling cartoon tree says his bandages are made of recycled materials; the paper that wraps his scrotum was a broadsheet, in a past life. he hopes only bad news was ever printed there.


little omens

by Alex Mountfield

these days, no one starts fires falling asleep smoking that’s more of a twentieth century thing, i guess still, it’s nice to imagine: our ikea curtains beginning to split and melt, litres of black gas smouldering out from inside, smog drooling across the floor, from the cracks in the windows we’re wrapped up in the trauma blankets outside everything inside the fridge is rotting in slow motion little ghosts drinking all the moisture from your peppers, from your sprouts soon enough, every vegetable will be dry, crumbly, grey let’s drink gin in the shower you play mitski on your stereo, you throw back your head and laugh each time she sings something sad im laughing too but i don’t know why board games until the pieces go missing dishes until there’s no more soap candles until the wicks burn out karaoke until the throats are raw doomscrolling until the batteries die every little omen deserves attention: next time you cross the bridge in fairview park, look down into the canal can you see the little fish swimming up to the surface of the water? they stay very still. they want the gulls to catch them and eat them. that’s how you know it’s going to be a weird day.


second list

by Alex Mountfield

abacus Albertina Sisulu backgammon blooming tenfold daily caring way too much David Wojnarowicz and all his dying friends disrespectful summons eleven different languages gardens filled with tea giddy, short-tempered glittering rings in locks of hair incense that doesn’t smell good or bad - just smells kids who want so badly to be martyrs kneading bread love at the end of things love for all posterities love in perpetuity love of possibilities manky pots of herbs from supermarkets mechanics and plumbers and electricians my uncle and his dog never-ending dinner parties no causes, no effects one big family of poseurs one big family spilling out into the street one big family who show up for each other over the hills 47

Peter Hujar and every cell in his dying body roof of the world scales Screamin’ Jay Hawkins shinbone substitutions “surely a bloody husband art thou to me” symbols chalked onto the leaves tiger’s milk vertebrae whelmed over


Scampi Fries

by Laurie Bolger

I’ve given up sleeping with strangers — there I’ve said it – so now you know when I’m chatting up the bar staff — I’m not taking any of them home — not a single one – because I’ve said it, so if I do I’ll be utterly ashamed of myself because I gave that up years ago and my new mattress is just for me — so when Sam or Tess or Marly is frantically swiping another stranger with a caption saying they’re tall and have hobbies and hair — I will turn to look at the crisps, knowing with all my heart the ones I’ll pick — I’ll pretend I’m married to the green limes as the barmaid pulls them from their cardboard and I’ll imagine the salt on my lips, licking each finger until my nose twitches and my eyes water.



by Dana Bagirova

you’re a painting melting in the fog smell of espresso on a cold damp morning a slice of bread and a mug leave her tied to the bed last night was dizzying – curvy smoke rising and bar stools empty in between two full-grown infants pulsing racing heart skipping a beat it’s like a flicked switch I hear I feel the onset I carry the mountain range. I was yet to black out. the cold sweat drip-drops on the back of your neck dawning on me, it was a billboard-level ‘no’ leave him chained wipe away the shameful blinks 50

and drown out the bleeps China’s great wall alienated on a shower curtain. I carry the mountain range and there’s been a rockfall.



by Dana Bagirova

1. all i own is my xylophone of bones, nostalgic bookmarks, accumulated, rising dust everything is falling apart and i don’t know what to do i don’t know how to stop it

they’re all straight and they drink with a straw the snails are gone and the grass no longer sings

Somebody knocking on the door. I know a couple of tricks Want to see? leave. 2. When you try to swallow a pill, but your throat rejects it And it starts dissolving in your mouth, so bitter and grainy


Confused Comfort = Complacency FREE IT UP 3. It is time to deconstruct. Revert to the most elementary of forms. Imagine that. I love Every single part of me No more fruity \ skull-splitter frustration step away from the mirror and maybe go see their tricks.

4. The Middle Ages are only middle if the end is near My little dark age, so little, and oh, so dark. baby I don’t shoot for the stars, but sometimes planets fall into my backyard. they crush my lawn, they break the washing line. meteorites land, and things go extinct, including the snails. Here we go again, another K-Pg this week, I’ve lost count. I rattle my box of tic tacs for adults Stop pinching your softness.


5. I have gone against the grain. This fishy planet With its impersonal waterfalls Suddenly feels Like a home My tathāgata. Turn your fist into an open, extended palm. come.


twinkle twinkle little worm



by Phelim Ó Laoghaire

How long can one survive this peace? They cut the weed with weed, it takes the edge off. A hard softness in your address. You cut the sky out of your poems just to prove it. A table and nothing else, not even time. Not even once. Removing the pronoun from a poem won’t take self out, but maybe writing naked without pen in favourite cave is still fun. Or like, just worth trying once to see what? Sun actually as much about out in open field and all sort of... Or just walking around - under no ideal conditions. A good line: a hook: a sinking ship; but what will we call it? Twinkle twinkle, twinkle. Twinkle. From particular retention to general expectation: beautiful in every sense of the world. In her “everything is presence”. Subtitled: “notes on a table edge”. We hold our breath, it eats, sleep; dreams exit via the lights. The exit is a long construction, comprised of many interlinking-


“your fucking elegy”


I., Feargal, Billy, Tobias, Fionn, and mom

by Anonymous

But we always make love with worlds. Fuck is under so much pressure to preform, it does everything. Setting some poor mother’s eyes into the back of the head. Setting the scene. Or just setting the work on fire. It’s a joke - just another bad joke that keeps getting repeated. Through the wall: your iphone skips a couple centuries. Over the fence: “This fucking tune!”and it is. All night, it just is. On the big ball of blue: reading between between words, miracles, lighters, and suchlike effects of beings and odes, all to be and not. What a night to lose our youth - yet you’re thinking of how young you’ll look when you are sixty (if you are reading this - lets meet up already) on a day like today, like a beach party and yes you are all invited too. Just writing to say, K is in hospital / hope you got home. Just writing a poem about all my friends. Just going to bed - not feeling it. “he slept in late while under me they didn’t, for years, all night.” Just listen to AMYGDALA side B by Narcissus on repeat and maybe one day Fionn will tell me all about it. (Ryuta Abe have my babies!!) Fucking words, right? But kinda like that you don’t like it. Same old story. Same old “same old”. Don’t even say it. Like love. Like a bad joke. Just like a poem Phelim would write. If he was here with us, and not always going out of it. In my dream me and J visit you at the hospital and you are in good form with lots of letters. We all sit down at a beautiful table but there is no food here. The service in my dreams is nonexistent. Still, there is always the world to awaken to and we can order take-out regardless of whether. And Jess will show me how to dismantle pomegranates, a Real fantasy, a real good laugh at Oedipus. Is it weird if you invite my parents? Yes. What aboujust yes and also yes! It’s called being a Nietzsche boy, you just gotta embrace it. Who’s left? If you could write the poem of anyone in the group, who would it be? Probably Ava. Something about a poetic image graphed by the real in all its mundanity, or was it the other 56

way around? Telling me you could cut my hair if you weren’t crazy, well let me tell you bb... you’re not crazy you’re just bi-polar. Just out here, just having a good time. Bit like le sun. But this is “your fucking elegy” and you’d better like it! Under the skyless moon tonight but full of data - oh let me waste it all on you, big dada. All night. So thirsty, but don’t want to waste a single byte. Tell me how you hate all these tiny machines. All night. “Yes yes you can bring your friends too!” These tiny boxes, souls, poems, a trainwreck. I’ll bring the speaker, you bring your big fucking mouth, ol’ buddy ol’ pal, friend of a friend, love of the world, to night. Sound travels, just don’t forget your suncream.



by Siena Swire

Don’t leave, you had said. And I had felt a sickness germinating inside me, a tobacco blotched malady, a deep drought. Would you ever, you would ask. Yesterday pins of ice attacked my sultry skin like leeches. Its fossilised debris licked my clothes, fetishizing me into a sea wrecked ghost. Millions of thousands of spotlights looked on, thirsty and carnal. And in the distance, in the unattainable remoteness - the sugary laughing shore of those I love. *

on being home alone. Now I’m thinking about loneliness, and what it means to be alone. Why do we fashion that which we simultaneously spite? I don’t even know what I’m saying, what this is. Dominic Raab annoyed me today. His pixelated improvisations were fitting for his role of robot, repeating the dripping electric algorithm men have been programmed to follow, utilising slimy charisma and charm as currency and profit. I smirked pointedly when he did not succeed.


Here is a gent’s cigar slobber, A selective voyeur in his prandial, Serendipitous in recline, Dripping Lolita on lap. * Yes. I had said. Yes. I would.


Metallic man smiled while his waft of sin bled.

by Siena Swire

Today I was in a cheese grater. I told him. Of mountains so coarse they could chop off your head! Metallic man smiled while his waft of sin bled. Mental their tears of dew, of pearly erotic sweat, I said. Metallic man smiled while his waft of sin bled. They’re destitute you see, stagnant and drained. They’re contoured with cold, freezing your brain. Metallic man smiled while his waft of sin bled. Aid them please. Please aid them, I pled. But metallic man just smiled,

while his waft of sin bled.


The Chimera

by Xun Liu


Ten Little Schrödinger’s Cats

by Eve Smith

The first cat appeared dead on a Tuesday. Peeling the season’s first apples, I noticed it through the glass doors splayed out like phlegm on the grass. Behind its body, trees in full green ballooned up to set the stage for it. Dead things had appeared before. Rats. Big fat ones displaying their bald pink bellies in the middle of the hallway. Frank said it was just an infestation and he knew someone who could fumigate the house. I knew none of them could have been alive in this place. I told Frank at dinner that a dead cat had grown in our garden. He frowned into his bowl of spaghetti and told me it was probably asleep. Or, he said, maybe Erwin Schrödinger had something to do with it. Frank likes to say that quantum physics is the only reasonable science out there. Because - Carlotta, he says, staring just past my right temple - something can be both alive and dead, guilty and innocent, depending on which result we are looking for. I tell him he chooses to interpret science like that because he is specious. Shoving out his chair, he drops his plate in the sink with a clatter. I am curled upright on the sofa like a foetus. Frank tells me that making the cat into a cheap murder mystery won’t bring Lucretia back. Keeping my hands around my mug until they feel like they have turned into molten metal, I tell him that the cat is dead and this house killed it. Frank slams the door. My tea grows quivering rings in its middle before suspending into flatness. He does not come to bed that night. I hold And Then There Were None up in front of me and wonder if Frank has gone back to England. A scraping sound draws me to the window. Lit up, Frank is shovelling dirt into a hole like a figurine soldier. The cat’s body is gone. After three months of auditing his lectures on romanticism during my natural sciences degree, I remember the day Frank called me forward. Seeing him at the bottom of the steps with my essay on Mary Shelley in his hands, my stomach shook with the beat of my heart. He was the kind of teacher that 62

had no gripes calling people stupid. Shaking his knee on the edge of his desk he said ‘you write as if you could chop your hands off and then go about your day as if nothing had happened. It’s incredible.’ For the first time I had the sense that I could create things and they could be important. Frank might call himself a poet, but he doesn’t let himself believe in emotion. Long before his mother was actually gone, he told everyone he met that his mother was dead. As a child he walked to school every morning alone expecting to come back to the house and see her milky limbs flattened, lying cold on the bed. Carlotta, he tells me, if you don’t take hold of your emotions, life will continue to push you into the grave. I can’t remember when the phone calls started. Frank sighs heavily into them, as if his breath is communicating some sort of code. He tells me not to touch the phone but I manage to get there before him. Pressing the plastic hard against my jaw, I hear the girl’s breathing ring through the static. She hisses that she knows all about the others. I start to tell her I didn’t touch the cats; that the house is killing us all. The line goes silent. Frank yanks the cord away from the wall. I told you not to go near that, he says, some crazy girl wants me to lose my job. Frank had now dug up most of the lawn. As the leaves fell, the apples grew mouldy spots on the tree before dropping, shrivelled, onto the patchy grass where a thick stench of meat rose. Skeletons of the trees cut into the sky. There will be no more apple cake. Frank has taken away our gas oven, saying he didn’t want me to go all Sylvia Plath on him. In the ruins of the kitchen he prepares crustless sandwiches with a dull knife. I tell him his country had a national search hunt for Agatha Christie when she checked herself into a hotel under the name of her husband’s mistress. A year to the day passes since Lucretia’s door was last opened. I pour my sleeping pills down the drain. The Local is stuffed down the side of Frank’s chair like the hair growing out of a wart. His university is spread over the front page under the title My Fair Lady in Bed. Girls as young as 17 being blackmailed into sex by one of the literature professors. After one of them got pregnant she was harassed night and day with threats of death if she kept the baby. No names were given. He’s in the garden digging again. The soil has stuck all over his body. The police are at the door when I open it in my nightgown. They ask for Frank and when I turn around he is already coming up the corridor, smiling. With his eyes on the men, he kisses my face and tells me everything is okay. The house’s shadows close in around me as they leave. Where I touch the cold and wet of my cheek, my fingers come away black. Sunlight falls in and drains from the kitchen as I sit in front of the glass doors. More and more cats appear on the dirt like pus-filled spots and I start to think maybe the house really is Schrödinger’s box. 63

Frank arrives at the front door and tells me it is all over now. Pushing past me, his footsteps crumble dirt onto each beige step towards the bedroom. Mud bleeds from his body into the sheets. I wake up to the sound of screaming and wonder if it is coming from me. My tongue peels away from the roof of my mouth as if coated in dust. With my body locked under the ceiling, I ask Frank if he can hear the sound too. I shake his shoulder but his body only wobbles like uncooked chicken. I creek down the stairs. On top of the flood-lit dirt, with its flesh bursting against its purple skin, is a baby.


Sisterly Advice

by Charlotte Moore

Begin to organise more Than the hairs on the back of your legs. Expect an excess of regret, Lacking remorse. Give up on all dreams. Walk under ladders and signposts, Drink more water and Wash your face. Don’t just sit ! Even when you can’t stand The alternatives. Fight hope with handfuls of clutched death. Coil it up, Blind yourself, Never consume it, Believe you are passionate punctual and productive. Do not ease yourself by smiling ahead, instead Look back, out, into pouring rain. Think only of feeding the lacking living, Easing a burden not your own. Look for no recognition. Die forwards rather than under. Mark yourself out for greatness Having struck dirt 65

In all your clutching. Mumble in public, and in private halls Annunciate. Do not tell him what you think of him Until he has gone. Work under the assumption that nothing Can come of it. Pick your scabs, leave craters. Do not find out what anybody else Thinks is beautiful, only strive To somehow become it. Neglect casual greetings, adopt a quizzical air, Let doubt fester. Collect rain water In a milk carton With the top half cut off. Expect your friends to pack you up And leave you out to dry. Take precautions, leave first, say thank you And don’t bite.


And again

by Sarah Joan

waxing lyrical on the couch over Bournville. It’s Thursday. We could talk about things but it seems too late for that, For the picking sides and lines of defence. So we don’t. Instead it’s empty agreement, Old before our time, Denouncing the world’s woes (that shouldn’t feel so unsolvable yet) And the dishes, The dust, The need for change. I emerged in the morning to the familiar mess of sleepy sex And the mishmash maze of the kitchen. Like my mother before me I set about the suds blindly, Stopped only by the pain in my back And the sight of a snail sleeping in the milk saucepan.



by Jamie O’Toole


The Frying Pan

by Robyn Gill

I went to IKEA in search of something to save my marriage. I thought an extravagant pillow or an industrial-looking lamp or a jar of pickles covered with soothing Swedish writing might win back my wife’s affections. I wandered through show apartments, sitting on the couches and pretending to watch television on the blank screens. I contemplated consumerism, materialism, whether I should get a hot dog and ice-cream on the way out. I bought the frying pan because I thought it would make things better, when in fact it only made things worse. My wife enjoyed it initially. I wrapped a bow around its handle and it was a pleasant shade of pan that went with our kitchen’s colour palette. It was non-stick, of course, that was the best part. Everything I fried left its base easily, satisfyingly stick-free, not like our old pan where half the scrambled eggs would remain caked at the bottom. Cleaning that pan had been such an ordeal. This was different. This was special. I began to develop an obsession with the new frying pan. I would only cook with it, neglecting all our other pans, saucepans, baking trays. Every evening I’d wash it gently with warm soapy water, singing its praises in a soft voice. My wife accused me of loving the frying pan more than her. I denied it in a final feeble attempt to salvage the marriage. She knew I was lying, of course, and told me to leave. I wasn’t surprised. I knew she felt more affection towards the voice in her office lift that told her she was going up than she did towards anything that I ever said. I took the frying pan with me. 69

I also took the entire contents of both our sock drawers, because I thought I should do something cruel. Myself and the frying pan got on fine at first, spending our days chatting and cooking. But it was hard to adjust to cooking for one. I began to miss my wife in the piles of leftovers that accumulated from dishes I used to make for us both. After a while, things began to change with the pan. It started with a slight discolouration, which might have been imperceptible if I didn’t pay such close attention. Then, it began to show signs of wear, scratches and stains that wouldn’t disappear no matter how rigorous the washing. I feared what was coming but I was in deep denial. One day, I made an omelette. Usually the pan would cook an omelette perfectly; it would peel away and plop fully formed onto my plate. But this time, despite a generous coating of olive oil in an attempt to prolong the inevitable, the worst happened. The contents stuck to the bottom. I had to soak the pan in warm water and scrape peelings of cooked egg from its base into the bin. I cried the whole night. The next morning, I called my wife and asked if she would take me back. She agreed, as long as I brought the frying pan with me. She said she missed it, as well as her favourite pair of socks. I went back to IKEA and bought a new pan and contemplated the concept of starting over.


in the dream it was good, maybe

by Megan O’Driscoll

maybe in the dream it was good because i didn’t put it into words maybe in the dream it was good because i could see the painted lines on the road maybe in the dream it was good because i could trace them with my fingers while we drove maybe in the dream it was good because you had a map that lead back to me maybe in the dream it was good because i followed the map for once is it hot to have sick and disturbing dreams? is it hotter to talk about them or to keep a secret for once? I want to post all of my secrets on the internet so that everyone knows I have secrets. I want to have friends I can nurse intense public affections for. All my love’s a party piece. Look at me quick or I’ll have to start over.


Filthy Work

by Megan O’Driscoll

If I moved to a new city to drown myself, I would still find something to love there. If I couldn’t move with the loneliness, I would still come back to bed. If I thought it was nothing to be proud of, I would still do this filthy work. If I spend long enough with anything, I will fall in love.



GALE AITKEN Gale is a 2nd year English student who does not wish to be perceived but does wish to be Seen. This is why they keep writing deeply confessional poetry and then submitting it to publications. They can be found in small dark spaces when things get too loud. DANA BAGIROVA Dana fundamentally has no fixed identity, but she is buddies with the moon and that ocean around us. Just a fish in a space helmet really. Sporadically a pinecone collector. LAURIE BOLGER Laurie Bolger is a London based writer. Her work has featured at Glastonbury Festival, the Royal Albert Hall, TATE, Sky Arts and across BBC platforms. Laurie is the founder of The Creative Writing Breakfast Club featured in Time Out’s One Good Thing. She is currently working on her second book Call Me Lady a collection of poems celebrating autonomy, love and her working class Irish heritage. @lauriebolger_ AVA CHAPMAN Ava Chapman (she/they) writes poems & drives too fast. Influences include Charli XCX, her grandma, and every unlicensed therapist in the state of Wisconsin. Find more of their thoughts at @avatherose most places. GABRIELLE FULLAM Gabrielle Fullam is the incoming editor of Icarus? Seriously? She knows about 3 words. On our first date, she told me I was ‘totally class’. I felt special, but then she referred to light-up childrens runners, a loose brick in the path, and her own mental illness, as “totally class” too. She has (had?) a recurring problem with tenses, but one day, I woke up and realised that when she referenced our love in the past tense, it was no longer a mistake. Maybe I was trying to resist the inevitable. The divorce was messy, made no easier by her lawyer’s insistence that I ‘drop a rofl in the chat’. ROBYN GILL Robyn Gill recently finished her final year of English and Drama. Her story was inspired by a real frying pan.



ELLEN HIGGINS Ellen has been on Erasmus in Italy this year. SARAH JOAN Sarah Joan is a second year Drama and Sociology student who likes painting, tahini porridge and making faces in the mirror. AOIFE KEARINS Aoife Kearins is from Sligo and has recently finished a maths degree, for her sins. XUN LIU Xun Liu is a PhD candidate researching on Cognitive Metaphors. In life, she is fascinated by expressions of visual metaphors inspired by poetics. MEG-ELIZABETH LYNCH Meg-Elizabeth is in the final-touches phase of a degree in Philosophy. She has a beautiful and gentle little dog called Bessie who is fantastically old. Meg has loved Bessie during the writing of every poem she has ever written. Meg-Elizabeth writes mostly memoir-based poetry and fiction, and can be found on all platforms @MegElizabethABC CHARLOTTE MOORE a little not-to-be-taken-seriously girl, who hasn’t even grown into her nose yet ! ALEX MOUNTFIELD Alex Mountfield is American in the same way as Boston pensioners and the imperial military presence at Shannon Airport — he showed up in Ireland one day and they haven’t been able to get rid of him since. If he absolutely has to edit this magazine next year, it might as well be with Gabi, since he’s already her divorce lawyer. Though that may be worrying, considering that they have a pretty poor track record together (she lost the kids).



MEGAN NÍ MHATHÚNA Megan Ní Mhathúna is a multilingual writer from North Dublin. Their work has been been published in Alle Augenblicke, Tuathal and The Irish Times. They hope you have a lovely day, everyday. BRÍ JOYCE Brí Joyce is a second-year English Studies student. MEGAN O’DRISCOLL Megan O’Driscoll is happy to be here. She likes salt water, drawing pictures for her friends, and smiling with her teeth. EMER O’HANLON Emer is a PhD student in Classics at Trinity. She tweets about books, 18th-century eccentrics, and ancient statues @apearlclutcher. PHELIM Ó LAOGHAIRE Rex is back! So too is the sky, just look at the clouds, looking right back at you, blinking in the sun. FIONN O’SULLIVAN Fionn is a third year neuroscience student, currently attempting to learn Tibetan. At some point in the past, preserved in this sentence, he is writing this, listening to you now reading it in your mind. Like we’re all this one big snake that thinks its self is ‘other,’ and through time. These words were our moultings. JAMIE O’TOOLE jamie is a fourth year student of English in TCD. She has become tired of delaying and abstaining and now vows to wholly intuit her path. EVE SMITH Eve Smith studies languages and over-empathises with squashed snails.


CONTRIBUTORS SIENA SWIRE Siena Swire is a second year English Studies student who is currently mourning the rapid progression of time! Featured: NERYS WILLIAMS Nerys Williams’s first volume Sound Archive (Seren, 2011), was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Forward prize and won the Strong first volume prize. Her second volume Cabaret was published in 2017 by New Dublin Press. She is an Associate Professor at University College Dublin and has written extensively on contemporary poetry and poetics. Her current research project– Poets on Air: Producing Poetry at the BBC, looks at the collaborative relationship between poets and radio producers at the Third Programme. Nerys is also completing a third volume of prose poems _ entitled Republic.


MASTHEAD Editor: SOPHIE FURLONG TIGHE sophie loves the mountain goats, icarus, aoife, problems by jade sharma, formula 1, pigeons, new yorker comics, and filter coffee. that being said, they would abolish everything if you let them— even this, even you. Public Relations Officer: AOIFE CRONIN Aoife Cronin is a final year sociology student. She likes spending time with her friends, making posters and staring into the post-graduate abyss

Icarus acknowledges and thanks Trinity Publications for making this issue possible. Icarus is a fully participating member of the Press Council of Ireland. Serious complaints should be made to: The Editors, Icarus, Trinity Publications, Mandela House, Dublin 2. Appeals may be directed to the Press Council of Ireland. Information concerning copyright and permissions can be found at www.icarusmagazine.com.



love ! love ! love !