[ Icarus ] issue ii
[ Icarus ] issue ii
| vol lxii | mmxii
trinity college, dublin
Editor: Deputy Editor: Copy Editor:
conor leahy michael barry sinĂŠad nugent
Icarus is funded by a grant from the DU Publications committee, a grant from the TCD School of English and is supported by alumni of the College through the Trinity Annual Fund. Icarus is a fully participating member of the Press Council of Ireland. Serious complaints should be made to: The Editor, Icarus, House 6, Trinity College, Dublin 2. Appeals may be directed to the Press Council of Ireland. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sacred Heart elizabeth o’connell-
stephen mc dermott
I – V
Long Exposure kevin breathnach
Jorie Graham’s Bracelets eileen casey
Khor Wa Long sings in the midnight mirror ronan murphy
Coffee kate smyth
Eating Alive megan nolan
1960, Trinity News ran as its main story the announcement of the new scholars and fellows for that year. Among those listed was one of the paper’s editors, Edna M. Broderick, elected to non-foundation scholarship in Ancient and Modern Literature. Known already around campus as a learned and incisive critic, Broderick had also penned a short review of issue 31 of Icarus for the paper. The issue itself was unassuming enough – a sky-blue cover with no illustration. Its main attraction had been a guest contribution from a young John Montague. Broderick reserved special praise, however, for a batch of six poems by a twentyyear-old Northerner by the name of Michael Longley. ‘Mr Longley is a poet of the pause,’ she writes. ‘He has plenty of time to look for words, and sometimes finds too many. His poetry is waiting for something. Glimpses show that it will be very much worth waiting for – the most worth waiting for.’ In the classroom, we are taught to examine the cultural context of poetry, or its relationship with poetic tradition. We often forget the poet behind the poem. Few textbooks will remind us that this or that piece was written in the hope of impressing a certain friend, or of kindling a new friendship. Four years later, Broderick and Longley were married. The former went on to become one of our greatest literary critics, the latter one of our greatest poets. It is a pleasure to welcome Michael Longley back to Icarus, which he edited more than fifty years ago, and my staff and I are equally thrilled to uphold the extraordinary continuity of this journal by presenting yet another selection of Trinity’s best new writing.
on bloomsday of
Conor Leahy February, 2012
Michaelmas, 1958 by michael longley I lodged above a poetry library, all The Irish poets accumulating on Victor Leeson’s shelves in Dublin’s Wellington Road, Reflections in his shiny baby grand. Bach preludes, Pears toilet soap, bacon smells, My melancholy first Michaelmas Term, Cycling to rediscover Nausicaa In Stanford’s class, Odysseus hiding his sex. Over breakfast Victor said nothing at all And I had little to say. ‘Two eggs please.’ No poetry yet, none of that craziness, Calypso, Penelope, where were the girls? Greek Verse Composition and Latin Prose, Conundrums, three-dimensional crossword Puzzles, I banged my head. ‘The beautiful Things are difficult,’ Stanford quoted.
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The Latin love-elegy came true for me Eventually, when I held her hand During Les Enfants du Paradis In the Astor cinema along the quays. Fifty years later, in the catalogue Of Victor Leesonâ€™s poetry books, I find Like a digamma my name, and we talk In silence over the breakfast table.
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Sacred Heart by elizabeth o’connell thompson I loved a man with a burning sickness who every day set himself on fire for fear of the dark. The people who came to hear him sing delighted in watching him blacken around the edges, in trying to catch on their tongues the flakes of ash that blew off him whenever a gust snuck in the side door. Late nights he’d call me from his place; a few coughs into the receiver and I’d already be warming up my car. When I got there, I’d throw open the kitchen window and leave my hands outside to grow red and stiff, near to cracking. I’d hold them just above the pot of dead marigolds on the fire escape for as long as it took.
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Then we’d sit on the couch, his head on my chest and his body shaking on top of mine, and I’d stroke his forehead with my raw hands. That’s how I drew the fever out of him to break its back against my knees and throw it in the trash with the cores from the apples that kept him sweet. My parents used to soak rags and hang them against the holes in the walls and windows of their first house, the house I was born in. The rags would freeze solid and keep out the cold with cold. Maybe I’ve got the wrong idea.
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I–V by sophie meehan I He didn’t have the six brothers promised by the essay, he was dropped forth and that was the end. Not availing of his temper he was a fond boy. Most of all of Tristessa, his little love at the turn of the dog, who would ride home at the fall of the fowl. At present he would live at the chalet of his great aunt Lise, and the Liserie would regard plain his skin, his humble logic being so that it was responsible for pain. He only felt much at the revival of affection in the arms of his mother. Her explicit heart would pass into the heart of her son. Her brother presented her oranges on Easter Sunday. Tell me said Renaud, I demand to tell. Your child is a horror in dress and I rue the day the age of which he came. He didn’t intend to make pain repliquely would reply the mother. Courage! Renaud – sensible as he was merely in a couple of books, essays and vessels, would engineer his little services. He would drive to fix and pardon all sinned who lay in his way and offered only Andalucían oranges to sweeten his sting. II Great Aunt Lise had told me stories of Ireland. I should have realised to take these stories with a pinch of salt as she had never been there. She said that everyone in Ireland looked like skinny Bob Geldof and that he had suffered from a potato blight. She said that he had organised a concert to help potato famine victims and that is why our family had emigrated in the 1980s. I
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now hold these truths to be falsehoods. Although looking back I probably just got my wires crossed. I cried on the plane when me and Lucille were going over and I still remember why – she thought it was because I was hungry, but it was because I thought I’d be hungry forever. I was frustrated that she didn’t understand. Similar to the time in Bray when Brendan thought that I was trying to tell him that the plastic amusement arcade money was real money. I cried that he didn’t understand that you could trade the chips in for teddy bears. In second class I gave my lunch to Mohamed from Somalia every day until I fainted on the playground. I explained that he needed it more than I did. Finally we sat down and had an information session on universal nutrition distribution. I felt wronged and deceived by Mohamed and refused to be his friend until the day he invited me to his birthday party. I caved. Even at that tender age I bowed to the pressures of social politics. My godfather dropped me off to his house with a pre-wrapped mystery gift. We played pass the parcel and ate iced biscuits and cake and chocolate fingers and unfathomable amounts of fruit pastilles because Mohamed’s dad worked in the Rowntree factory. My godfather wouldn’t tell me what the present was until Mohamed came in on Monday and jumped off his chair and rolled around the floor singing I Don’t Like Mondays. Then I was pissed off that he didn’t get me a Boomtown Rats CD. He said this is why he hadn’t let me wrap it. When I was thirteen I thought Rat Trap was the coolest thing in the world. Because I thought Rat Trap was the coolest thing in the world I got a t-shirt printed in Stephen’s Green shopping centre with RAT TRAP written on it. It was the coolest thing in the world, but everyone in my class just thought I really liked the board game. No that was Mouse Trap. I was so alone. I threw that t-shirt out after I used it as an emergency
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nappy for my daughter. I still regret it. I could’ve given it to her when she grew up if I ever got too fat to wear it. I was the shortest kid in sixth class and the tallest young man in first year. I hated mass, I hated having to eat my lunch standing up at the windowsill and I hated the hurling posts. We only ever played football anyway. We only had a non-grand piano on wheels, with people’s names carved into the top and back of it with compasses. There were always messages written on the whiteboard in the hall not to move it away from the stage, but people always did. We’d have to move it back at the beginning of music class, because we were the tallest. I skipped fourth year and regretted it. After the leaving cert we burned all our books on a pyre in the playground in Crumlin. It was an oddly emotional farewell. I missed them after they were gone. III Sometimes when she looked at his eyes she could tell they had been open too long. Dry and drawn and in pain, like a skittle in the rain, running red on the pavement and leaving the ugly white candy casing for everyone to see. There she could see the way he looked up when Lucille used to pour warm water over his head to flatten his curls. Blonde now dark, strained still afraid. His cheeks were still afraid. And then his broken voice could break the day with words lower and darker toned in throat than the baby in the bath, but of the same brain. Of the same memory. It was easy to forget that Emil had once had a family that spoke French and shined in his blood. That he had behind him sediments of mind and body’s memory that none of the house he now sat in could ever share or know.
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IV My blood and hers had met for the first time at the bottom of a steel cemetery on Halloween night. I remembered: with her cucumber encumber hair up my nose, watching the fireworks, not from our kisses, but bangers in the night. Dracula and all the history back to Bram Stoker’s bed and bath hit my back like a cold fish hard. The moss I could feel in my lungs on my wet white back. Stone angels and crossfires and dates. Nothing could be given back, a bloody flower drenched in sweat. Action of years gets you what next; a girl hurtled out on a hospital bed from the same thighs that held mine on a still October night. Shit. At the time, it was nice. And suddenly I was lying there, not even awake and the dog is barking and that sound behind my head – too close to my head – of their claws on the floor, it’s like someone tapping metal off the bottom of the bath. ‘Who fell asleep first? I don’t remember seeing the end of Romeo and Juliet.’ ‘Well, you know what happens,’ I said. I don’t try to be cynical around her, it just happens. I never wanted to hurt her or her feelings, I just really, really hate her. ‘Do you think Romeo and Juliet really is the greatest love story ever told?’ ‘Well, yeah,’ she said. ‘Do you not?’ ‘No I don’t, she dies in the end.’ That’s especially why I didn’t love her; she always got real awkward when I talked about my mother. V When I hear people speaking French I feel a sense of unbearable loss. I do not want to learn it. It feels like she is different from me. It feels very far away from who I am now. But she
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always spoke English to me because she always wanted to move to Ireland after she had me. I think my dad might be Irish. I have never felt like I needed a father. I had a mother, I only needed her, I only wanted her. My mother would be enough. I have since learned that the overwhelming loss I felt meant that I didn’t think I deserved anything extra, just her. She would be enough. I used to play grief top-trumps with the kids at Rainbows and at social-care summer camps. I always won. My ‘family’ did not try to contact, and I do not want to go back there. I do not like graveyards and I think it would break my heart. Anyway my mother (mama mamy mummy) wanted me to live here so this is where I will stay. I have a life here now very different to how it is back there. When I see Sarkozy on the news I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had stayed. I wonder how different I would be as a Frenchman and I wonder if I would have still ended up with a child at this age. I try not to think about whether I would still have my mother. That is simply too painful. The time I realised that I belonged where I was, I was in my teens. I told someone in my school that my family put King crisps in their popcorn when they were watching films and I thought that this was disgusting. My family put King crisps in their popcorn. Mary and Brendan and Liam put King crisps in their popcorn. My family put King crisps in their popcorn and I thought this was disgusting. Kings are particularly cheese and onion-y. Not just Tayto, King. My family were disgusting. My family. I am not religious but I go to church, one of the reasons I am most Irish. I am not religious but I like the music and the architecture and hands clasped around rosary beads. I am not religious but when you say someone’s name in a church, something in it makes you feel like they might be safe. Peace be with you. And also with you.
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The Valley by claudio sansone let there come between this valley and the next the silence that follows the fall of weak-rooted trees, pushed aside by the wordless wind
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Long Exposure by kevin breathnach A photo shows a counterweight of no great former glory. On rusted limbs it balances, a rusted thing in counterpoint to nearby crystal palaces, conventional multistories. The shot appears inside a slim imagined volume of nocturnes, all told in ‘a vernacular of ruin’ and shot through brumous light of moon (to lend what’s known as ‘atmosphere’). Unsigned – a fact of some concern. Here are two ways to think of longexposure: to the elements, which spreads an iron oxide rash across this large arachnoid frame; and to film, where the long-held flash bestows an air of permanence
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not just upon the counterweight but on corroded longcoat who inspects the frame and wonders if a line of verse could ever be so fraught, indeed so fricative it cut the readerâ€™s tongue in two and had him callingâ€” trying to call for a tetanus shot. No, he thinks not. The lifting bridge by Sheriff Street stopped lifting long ago.
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Family Friend by stephen mc dermott
y the time the bar-staff had removed the last of the empty soup bowls and unwanted sandwich crusts, the party of funeral-goers had shrunk to no more than a dozen people. Pockets of conversation in lowered voices were spread throughout the pub like crumbs on a table. For the most part, friends and neighbours exchanged gossip and spoke of family news, having exhausted their anecdotes about the deceased already in the previous days. Occasionally, a burst of wheezy laughter from an elderly man would drown out the hum of mumbling voices: it was following one of these punchlines that a gangly man with glasses stood up from his seat in one corner of the pub. ‘Will you get us a Guinness while you’re up, Robert?’ the source of merriment, Mr O’Donohoe, asked. It was not even lunchtime, but the smell of stout held strongly in the air. Although his original intention wasn’t to go to the bar, Robert decided to treat himself to a drink for the day that was in it. It would be fitting, he thought, as he walked to the counter, to nurse a hot Jameson with his uncle just buried: after all, himself and Frank had shared a mutual love of whiskey. ‘Could I just get a Guinness and a hot whiskey please?’ ‘Sure.’ The barman began to pour Mr O’Donohoe’s Guinness. ‘That’ll be eleven altogether please,’ he said, his hand still pulling on the tap. Robert dug his own hand inside the pocket of his suit trousers, and removed a handful of coins. He placed the money on the counter as he counted it out, leaving a euro extra as tip.
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‘Thanks very much. It’ll just be a minute for the Guinness.’ He thanked the barman and turned to lean his back on the counter while he waited for the pint to settle, scanning the crowd to see who remained. Beside Mr O’Donohoe, an elderly woman in a purple overcoat had taken his seat. As she chatted to the big man, Robert thought she looked familiar and racked his brains to think of who she was. He glanced around further to see who might be able to tell him – he didn’t want to ask her himself – and noticed that the only other relatives to Frank in the pub were the O’Connors from Limerick: Sheila, Jacqui and Tommy. Mike Whelan and the two O’Neills – his uncle’s cousins – had already said goodbye to him, but Robert still felt as though somebody was missing. ‘Sorry, just the Guinness,’ the barman reminded him after a minute or two. ‘Ta.’ When he returned to the table, the woman in the purple overcoat had moved and Mrs Mulvey now occupied Robert’s seat. Robert put Mr O’Donohoe’s Guinness on the table beside him. ‘Hi Mrs Mulvey. I’ll just be a minute,’ he said, shooting the elderly man a suggestive smile when he had left the table again. Frank would always complain about being stuck talking to Mrs Mulvey every week after mass, particularly the way she never let anybody else get a word in as she spoke about herself and her children and grandchildren. Of course, Frank had always felt uneasy talking about other people’s children and grandchildren, something Robert attributed to his uncle’s lifelong bachelorhood. He saw how Frank would become awkward and have no idea what to say, how such talk took him far from his comfort zone. He continued towards the small table across the room where the trio of O’Connors were sitting, hoping they could
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answer his question about the woman he had seen. Although Robert called them his ‘cousins’, he was unsure exactly how the O’Connors were related to him, whether they were his second cousins or first cousins once removed. He knew that Frank would have been able to tell him in an instant – he had done so many times with many different relatives at previous funerals, explaining the marital ties that connected each family. ‘Good to see you’re mindin’ your health,’ Tommy O’Connor joked as Robert approached, nodding to the hot whiskey in his hand. ‘I think I earned it. It was cold enough standing in that graveyard saying all those Hail Marys,’ he retorted. ‘It was even colder by the time you finished that feckin’ speech.’ Jacqui O’Connor cackled at her younger brother’s remark. Robert’s graveside eulogy for his uncle had lasted almost ten minutes – he had even joked about boring his listeners towards the end of it. Tommy’s humour, however, was never malicious and it had become almost as essential an ingredient to family funerals as the deaths themselves. ‘Don’t mind him, Robert,’ Sheila, the eldest sibling, said motherly. ‘Frank would’ve been proud of you.’ ‘True enough. He probably would’ve appreciated you giving him something to moan about.’ Tommy knew he had gone a little too far when he saw Jacqui looking away uncomfortably. In the silence of the moment, the sound of a teacup clinking could be heard somewhere across the room. ‘There’s no need for that now Tom. The man’s only in his grave an hour,’ Sheila said sternly. ‘How’ve you been coping anyway, Robert?’ ‘I’m actually doing OK; it’s been hectic organising everything, so that’s taken my mind off the reality of it.’ Robert
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almost sounded upbeat. ‘It’ll probably only sink in over the next couple of days and weeks.’ As soon as he returned home from the hospital after Frank’s death, Robert had begun to organise his uncle’s funeral. The two had kept a close relationship, so it seemed natural to Robert to do so, especially as Frank was without a wife or children. However, unlike his mother’s funeral, for which he had enlisted the help of Frank and his two aunts, Robert had to arrange the ceremony on his own. The first thing he had done after his arrival home was to start making phone calls; his ear was practically stuck to the phone between having to talk to the undertaker and Frank’s friends and family. After that first day, Robert had his work cut out for him: he had to contact the solicitor regarding his uncle’s will, apply for a death certificate, cancel bills in Frank’s name and organise his wake. More phone calls had to be made as the timetable was drawn up for the removal and funeral. With so much to do, Robert just about had time to sleep, so mourning the loss of his uncle wasn’t top of his agenda. ‘Well that’s good. At least there’s something to take your mind off it,’ Sheila reflected, offering a comforting smile. Tommy, still a little red from the failure of his joke, muttered something to Jacqui. Robert glanced over his shoulder and noticed that the woman in the purple overcoat was back at the table where he had left Mr O’Donohoe and Mrs Mulvey. ‘C’mere. Do you have any idea who…’ he began to ask Sheila. ‘We were just talking about the time at the lake,’ Jacqui interrupted. Tommy’s face lit up in his eagerness to return to humorous conversation. The well-known ‘lake story’ had been told countless times over the years. The circumstances surrounding it, concerning Frank’s courtship of a woman, contributed to its
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infamy as much as the story itself. The dead man’s involvements with women were rarely alluded to, which made it a wonder to everyone that he had ever told them of this particular adventure. Indeed, enough people believed that it wasn’t true at all and that Frank had only ever told it for his own amusement. At some point in his twenties, he had taken a visit to the family home of a women in Galway, just overlooking Lough Corrib. During one afternoon of his visit, she and Frank had decided to take a walk by the lake in the sun: ‘an excuse for a bit of romance,’ he had sometimes said as he told it. Naturally, the woman’s parents had sensed what the young lovers were up to and hindered their plans by insisting she take her younger brother – only a child – with them. Frank, hopeful of winning their approval, even showed enthusiasm for the idea. As the three walked along the banks of the water, the woman’s brother started to ask permission to go out on the lake in a rowing boat. The woman was hesitant, saying how she was unable to swim, and expressing worries that something bad might happen. Of course, the child persisted with the idea and kept asking again every few minutes, hoping to wear his sister down. Eventually Frank, seeing another opportunity to impress, offered to take him in a boat as she watched on. Although she still had doubts, the woman agreed, if only to stop her brother asking so she could enjoy her walk. After walking for another half an hour or so, the three reached a small dock, where a wooden rowing boat was kept to help local farmers carry supplies across the lake. As Frank and his female companion stood arranging a meeting point, they heard a loud splash and shout behind them. When they turned around, the pair saw large ripples in the water, but the woman’s brother was nowhere to be seen. Frank, without a moment’s hesitation, raced down the pier and leapt in after the child. After he hit the water, Frank realised almost immediately how foolish
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he looked; the shade of overhanging trees had made the water appear far deeper than it actually was. He stood upright in the cold water, barely up to his thighs. Behind him, the brother was wading towards the bank on the other side of the pier. Frank discovered afterwards that he had tried to jump into the boat, but missed and instead hit the water. When the woman and her parents found out, Frank was mocked about the incident for the remainder of his visit. ‘Could you imagine Frank dealing with a little fella like that? I’m honestly surprised he didn’t kill him,’ Jacqui continued. ‘You know how he was with kids.’ ‘I wouldn’t have said that,’ Robert objected. Tommy and Sheila shrugged, unable to fault their sister, but Robert found himself disagreeing. His mind raced to memories of playing with his uncle as a child. He remembered Frank always getting him the best Christmas presents every year, helping Robert put them together whenever they required assembly. There were also the occasional afternoons after school when Frank would mind him while his mother worked, the two filling the time with jigsaw puzzles and garden adventures. Robert also thought of the summer holidays from school, when he would visit his uncle weekly and they would go to the local park, or sometimes on further trips to the zoo or the cinema. While Robert could see how Frank might be a little awkward around children that he didn’t know, it irked him that the O’Connors believed he wasn’t ever fond of them at all. ‘I never found him to be uncomfortable around me,’ he said, almost angrily. ‘Ah you were always close to him though,’ Tommy dismissed. ‘Even then, I’d say a lot of it’s only in your head too. You’re probably looking back with a tint of nostalgia.’ Robert was still unconvinced; he really did remember Frank enjoying those experiences. He wondered if his uncle treated
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the O’Connors differently than himself. ‘D’you ever hear about the time he caught me smoking?’ he started, in an effort to show his uncle in a more positive light to his cousins. Every day after school, Robert had gone with his two friends, James Phelan and Peter Moran, to the park for a cigarette. The three always met at the same place: among the cluster of trees by the football pitches, where they decided it was secure away from the path. One day, the three had been standing there about five minutes, chatting away as usual. Then, for a reason Robert never actually found out, Frank had walked past on the path a few feet away. ‘My heart was in my mouth when I saw him,’ Robert recalled. ‘At first he didn’t notice us and I thought we were fine.’ Robert had still gestured to his friends to be quiet as his uncle passed, dropping his cigarette and stamping it out in case Frank did catch them. Just as he felt the chance of being caught had definitely passed, Frank turned around and met his nephew’s gaze. ‘I just walked towards him. All he did was shake his head and say: “Let’s go”.’ ‘He didn’t give out to you or anything?’ Sheila was aghast. ‘I genuinely thought he was going to murder me when we got home,’ Robert laughed. ‘I’ve never seen someone so angry and disappointed, and yet do nothing about it.’ ‘What? He didn’t even tell your mother?’ Jacqui asked. ‘Never even mentioned it to her. At least I assume he didn’t, because she never said anything to me.’ Robert thought about that silent, hellish walk home. In retrospect, he knew how that silence made him stop smoking for good, the feeling that he had completely lost his uncle’s respect forever. ‘It was strange – I could feel him wanting to punish me, but
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it was like something was stopping him.’ ‘It’s the same thing I said a minute ago though, about you being close to him.’ ‘Sure our own mother used to say that you were more like Frank than your father. Maybe he just wanted to protect you,’ Sheila suggested. Robert was a little taken aback. He had always thought of Frank as a father-figure, but never close to him in the same way as a parent. Thinking about their relationship, he felt a small lump in his throat for the first time in days, regretting that he had never seen it that way. To him, Frank had always been Uncle Frank and nothing more. There was a gap in conversation as the O’Connors saw Robert looking reflectively towards the ground. The hum of talk around the pub came to a crescendo once again. After a moment, Robert somehow thought of what he was going to ask Sheila before Jacqui had interrupted him. ‘So Sheila, I was wondering if you could tell me… I’ve no idea – who’s that woman beside Mr O’Donohoe?’ Sheila’s eyebrows rose in confusion, ‘Who, Mrs Mulvey? Isn’t she one of Frank’s neighbours?’ ‘No. Sorry. The woman in the…’ Robert turned to indicate the woman in the purple overcoat, but stopped mid-sentence when he saw that only Mr O’Donohoe and Mrs Mulvey sat at that table again. ‘Hang on, she was there a minute ago.’ But when Robert looked around the pub, the coat didn’t catch his eye as it had done before. He scanned the faces again, in case she had taken her coat off, but the woman was still nowhere to be seen. ‘There was someone else there,’ he said. ‘You didn’t see that elderly lady? In the purple overcoat?’ ‘I can’t say I did, Robert. Sorry.’ Sheila’s face was blank: Robert knew she had no idea who
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he was referring to. Jacqui and Tommy were muttering to one another again. Sheila unzipped her bag, dipped her hand inside and removed her keys. ‘Anyhow, we’d better get moving. Want to get on the road before we hit traffic getting in to Limerick.’ All three said their goodbyes as Robert walked with them towards the pub’s front door, just as he had done with the O’Neills, and Mike Whelan before them. When they had reached the porch, Sheila leaned in and gave Robert a peck on each cheek, before Jacqui did the same. Tommy held out his hand, squeezing tight as Robert’s palm met his. ‘It was good to see you, safe home.’ ‘You too Robert, we’ll hopefully see you this side of Christmas.’ Robert knew this was unlikely to happen, unless there was another funeral before then. After another round of goodbyes, Robert turned to resume his place by Mr O’Donohoe. He thought again of the woman in the purple overcoat. For a moment, it dawned on him that she might be the absent relative he had thought of earlier, when he was getting his drink at the bar, but he dismissed the idea as ridiculous almost as quickly as it had come into his head.
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Khor Wa Long sings in the midnight mirror by ronan murphy For the man who hired the eleven clones of his godsonâ€™s younger brother To film the film-crew filming Sam and Sarah filming each other, For Archie Long the joiner (may he never miss a link!) I rock the cradle, cock-a-doodle, hissy hissy, oink.
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Jorie Graham’s Bracelets by eileen casey They catch the eye and then the ear, a branjangle of sound each time her wrists turn around, like the Volta in a sonnet. Scarce time to summon Baba Marta’s new born spring or Azabache’s spell. Such sliding in and out of place, plays hoop-la, stacks and restacks style and grace. Or like Sisyphus rolling bone on bone; leather, metal, shell up and down the white slopes of her arms. Octagonal, trapezium, kite, rectangular – bracelets are collars too. Snares for image, metaphor. Sometimes, they’re porthole, or telescope; rooftops studded by moonlight slanting sleek across memory maps purchased in exotic sites. They leave a band between the layers deep enough so we can sink into white spaces.
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Behind a podium, the microphone turned on – nothing coming back across the footlights – her bracelets tell Ms Graham she is not alone even if – sometimes – they snag her silks or tangle up her gorgeous hair. At day’s end, cooling from her heat, her bracelets jostle together on her bureau traces of them still breathing on her bare skin, luminous in the dark.
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Coffee by kate smyth
y black leather, high-heeled shoes clacked sternly on the damp pavement as I left the car-park and began the walk into town. I had been searching for a parking space for forty-five minutes and I feared that I had lost my appointment with the hairdresser. Wishing fervently that I had worn flats, I quickened my pace, pulling my black umbrella out of my handbag as the rain began to fall. It was warm, unusually so for Galway at this time of year. January had stretched into February without having the decency to warn me. I felt choked by my thick, woolly scarf and long winter coat. While crossing the road, I was forced to run the last few feet due to a highly inconsiderate driver, who was apparently in such a hurry that he was willing to run over innocent pedestrians to avoid slowing down. I passed the gloomy stone walls of the Cathedral and, as I was about to cross the bridge, I stopped. Standing on the footpath, on the opposite side of the street, was Isabelle. I silently cursed myself for taking this route and not the walkway by the canal. How could I possibly meet her? Here. Today. After all this time. She spotted me, waved, looked left and right, and proceeded to cross the road towards me. It was as though we were armies on a battlefield, soon to collide. This is a time for courage. Stand strong and hold your ground. ‘Hi! Oh, it’s been so long! How are you? You look wonderful!’ She always spoke quickly like that when she was nervous. Good. At least it wasn’t not just me. ‘I’m good, Isabelle. Though I would be better without this rain, I’m sure!’ Fake laugh, fake smile, neutral topic of
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the weather. She could probably see right through it. ‘Are you keeping well?’ ‘Yes, yes, I’m very good now, busy busy with work,’ she replied briskly, ‘I’m only in town for the weekend. There’s a play in the Town Hall that my husband managed to snatch tickets for. It’s so lovely to be back. It’s been so long.’ She glanced at me then, probably thinking the same thing that I was. There was something patronising in her tone. Because in order to come back, one had to have been somewhere else. In that moment, I gave up on the hairdresser. ‘What are you doing now, Isabelle?’ I asked, refusing to sound as anxious as I felt, my brain whipping my voice into compliance. ‘What do you think about grabbing a quick coffee?’ She hesitated for an instant, her eyes flicking to my face, searching for something – sarcasm, malevolence, resentment. But I kept my eyes clear and my mouth smiling, my eyebrows raised to emphasise the question at hand. ‘Well, I’m supposed to visit Marie in the hospital – she went in to get that cyst removed, you know,’ she gushed, her eyes straying longingly past the Cathedral, behind which stood the hospital (a place where very few people longed to set foot in). ‘But yes,’ she sighed, then recovered herself enough to proclaim, ‘yes of course we should get a coffee – it’s been so long, how could we not.’ We had to cross the Salmon Weir Bridge to reach the nearest coffee shop. It was a long, awkward journey for such a short bridge. The footpath was too small for two people to walk sideby-side simultaneously. We discovered this after attempting to do just that. Then, when people came walking from the other direction, with forced politeness both of us motioned to the other to go first. We made uncomfortable small-talk, Isabelle walking in front of me and sporadically turning her head to ask me questions. Job going well? Family doing well? I gave the
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briefest answers possible, and stared at the river instead of her. My umbrella gave me some protection from her gaze, and I was grateful for the rain. I watched the Corrib snake its way out from under the bridge and slither down towards the sea. The coffee shop looked out onto this river, which was surrounded by great, green trees and the buildings of Galway city. The rain made everything look more dismal than usual but the coffee shop was bright and the music was loud and upbeat, as if trying to compensate for the weather outside. People milled around, carrying coffee cups and scones and trying to find free tables. We ordered, collected our coffees, and found a seat by the window that had just been vacated by a couple with a young child. The table was covered in sugar, milk, and bits of croissants. We held our coffees in our hands, smiling politely at one another and staring out of the window, until a waitress came and cleared away the mess. ‘Well, this is nice,’ Isabelle announced, without conviction. ‘Yes,’ I replied quietly. ‘It’s good to catch up with old friends.’ She glanced at me with intense unease, as if I were a dangerous animal that may snap at any moment. I was undeterred. ‘It’s crazy. I haven’t seen you since that trip to Paris,’ I said, smiling at her. Isabelle hesitated, and sipped her coffee, clutching it with both hands as though it might help her situation. As she replaced the cup on the dark brown, wooden table, I stared at the red rim her lipstick had left on the mug. Isabelle ran her fingers through her short, black hair, and surveyed her pink nail polish closely, picking off a chip from her right index finger. She had always been pretty, but she worked very hard at keeping it that way. Of average height, she was slim, with beautiful skin that never seemed to be invaded by spots or an unruly amount of freckles. She used to wear short skirts with thick black tights,
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and t-shirts with ‘The Clash’ and such like plastered across the front. That was what she was wearing the last day I was with her, anyway. But that day in the coffee shop, she wore a light grey pantsuit, and polished, patent leather high heels. I guess she grew up. She needed to. ‘Yes. Such a long time ago, that Paris trip,’ she murmured, staring out of the window again. ‘You know, I can’t even remember what the argument was about.’ ‘Neither can I,’ I admitted, ‘but I do know that it wasn’t me who left.’ She was silent, glancing at me again before her gaze slid back to the river outside. The rain had stopped now and the sun was beginning to push through. ‘I was just so angry with you,’ she replied eventually. She was hesitant, but unapologetic. ‘There was no need to take it that far. I worried about you constantly for three days; I walked around the city thinking: This is so lovely… I hope Isabelle is all right. But you were too stubborn to even contact me, not even a quick call to let me know you were alive. And then a week later, after I’m home and have told everyone you disappeared and I didn’t know what happened to you, I heard that you were back in Dublin and you’d brought back a French boyfriend!’ ‘It just worked out like that,’ she replied defensively, crossing her arms and staring at me with defiance. ‘I didn’t mean for any of it to happen. And it wasn’t completely my fault. It was yours too.’ ‘Like I said, I’m not the one who left without a word,’ I replied, determined not to allow her to twist things around. She had always been good at arguing her point, at making me feel like I was actually mistaken, allowing just enough of a crack in my confidence for doubt to creep in. I would not allow her to convince me that things happened differently to what I
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remembered. I couldn’t recall the exact details of the argument, and I knew that neither of us had been completely rational about it, but I also knew that she was the one who started shouting first. It had been raining persistently that day. Paris is a beautiful city, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my twenty-eight years. But when it’s raining and windy and you don’t have the right shoes and your socks are soaked, the Champs-Élysées is a long trek; the banks of the Seine are harsh and unfriendly; the Eiffel Tower is a tall, unreachable giant; and Notre Dame, with its menacing gargoyles, stands ominously like a gateway to another world. But I still loved it. I remember thinking how beautiful it would all be in the sunshine, and that that beauty could withstand a bit of bad weather. Isabelle, however, hated the rain. When we returned to our hotel room that evening, she just wanted to take a bath and curl up in bed watching television. The hotel room was in turmoil; our clothes were strewn on every available surface. After arriving late the evening before, we had changed out of our travel-infected clothes, and ventured out into the city to find a restaurant. That day, after hastily removing our soaking coats, trousers, t-shirts, and shoes, and each having glorious, warming showers, the room had suffered severely. Wet towels were abandoned in piles on the red carpet and, having dried my hair, I remember sitting on the bed as Isabelle dried hers. I was already changed and ready to go out for dinner. I remember my excitement as I looked out from behind the white curtains to see that the rain had finally stopped. But Isabelle refused to go anywhere, and somehow the disagreement about whether to stay in or go out turned into a much bigger argument. ‘I just wanted to do things my own way,’ Isabelle declared, and sipped her coffee. I remember her yelling vehemently that she was sick of me
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telling her what to do, and that I was a selfish person. I remember telling her that she was a hypocrite who never thought about anyone but herself and that all I wanted to do was enjoy the trip while we were there. The argument exploded. An enormous tree of resentment and anger grew and filled up the hotel room, becoming more and more ferocious until it was so colossal and overwhelming that I had to escape. I left the room and heard one of her shoes collide with the door as I slammed it shut. ‘I was only gone for an hour,’ I said, taking a sip of my coffee and staring at her, the incredulity I had felt at the time returning to me, crawling up my spine and into my mouth. ‘How could you have just left like that?’ ‘You left first,’ she hissed, ‘I was so angry with you and I wanted… I wanted to do things my own way.’ She turned resolutely to stare out of the window again. I expected her to get up and leave, but she did not. ‘So, where did you go?’ I wanted answers. I remembered returning to the hotel room, feeling much less aggressive with the help of the stir-fried chicken dish that I had eaten in a nearby restaurant. My spirit felt replenished by the delights of a full stomach and the calming effect of the city streets at night-time. I remember that the air had a rejuvenated feel, as though the downpour of rain had caused a re-awakening. When I opened the door of the hotel room, immediately I could tell that she had packed up and left. Most of the piles of clothes were gone and the nightgown she was wearing had been abandoned on the bed. There was no note. I tried everything I could to find her. I asked the concierge, I revisited the restaurants and shops we had already been to. Neither of us had mobile phones back then. For three days I deliberated about whether to call her mother, always thinking that she would turn up at the hotel again, that she would call,
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that she wouldn’t just disappear like that. I barely slept. When I arrived at the airport to fly home, I was confident that she would be there, that she would apologise for making me worry, and that we would return home together. But she wasn’t at the airport, and I boarded the flight alone, searching incessantly for her face among the other passengers. In Dublin, I called her mother, hoping that Isabelle would have contacted her. Mrs Daly had heard nothing from her daughter and was instantly worried, and also angry that I had flown home without her. She blamed me for everything. ‘I never expected this from a girl I thought was her friend. If anything happens to my daughter, I’m holding you personally responsible, understand?’ She did not wait for a reply and hung up the phone. That week was incredibly long. I came home to Galway and sought comfort in my friends, who assured me that Isabelle was well-capable of looking after herself and that I was not at fault. What could I have done? Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but picture all the things that could have happened and all the things that I could have tried to do. I could have contacted the French police, I could have put up posters, I could have stayed at the hotel for an extra few days in case she came back. I spent my time calling all of our acquaintances, telling them to let me know if they heard from her. Although I was back at work within a couple of days, my thoughts remained in France. I felt so anxious, agitated. I think I will always remember that feeling, and it will always make me shiver a little. After eight days, I heard from a friend in Dublin that Isabelle had returned home. She was apparently delighted with her trip, and the man she had found while on it, and full of stories of experiences at a hostel in Paris’s Latin Quarter, and a day trip to Versailles. She had had so much fun that she had changed her flights and extended her trip for a few extra days. Apparently
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she did call her mother, about two hours after I did. Mrs Daly obviously decided I did not need to know that information. ‘I didn’t really think you would be too concerned about it,’ Isabelle exclaimed defiantly, looking at me over the rim of her coffee cup and raising her eyebrows in a way that proved she was lying. She was challenging me to contradict her. ‘Did you not,’ I said, sarcasm seeping out from my words like soap from a sponge. ‘Well, now you know. And even when you came back to Ireland, you didn’t think to call me then?’ ‘There just didn’t seem to be a good moment,’ she announced, shaking her head, her face tilted towards the ceiling. ‘I meant to call, but I thought it would be a good idea to let it all die down for a while and then… well, time slipped away… and here we are! How funny life is! You think time isn’t passing, but it is.’ She drained the last of her coffee and set the cup down with an air of finality. ‘I really must run,’ she said, ‘I told Marie I’d be in to see her.’ She retrieved her handbag from the floor and rooted through it. She found her mobile phone, checked her messages, and returned it to the bag. At that stage, I could think of nothing more to say. I wasn’t going to get an apology from Isabelle – that much was clear. I felt a rush of sadness and longing for the friendship that had been, a friendship that existed now like a dead thing: only in memory. But it had been a long time since that friendship had been important to me. I had not thought about it for years. It would have meant a great deal to me to renew what once was, but I guess one simply has to accept that it is impossible to control the actions of other people. So, we left the coffee shop together, said goodbye, and parted with no intention of seeing each other again.
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Eating Alive by megan nolan The car alarm sang all night heralding summer’s end – its brief impatient heat dying quickly, and dripping down the dry chimneys of our streets. The day through I dreamt of cold and the tree’s proud corpse filling with crows, portents of winter which cripple and clean, now whispering the story of we two, our first season whole, my year ending new.
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is away. Contact: email@example.com
kathi burke (Contents page illustration) Her portfolio can be found at: www.fattiburke.com
eileen casey has had poetry published in The Moth, The Ulster Tatler, The Jelly Bucket (USA), The Sunday Tribune, The Stony Thursday Book and Poetry Ireland Review, among others. Drinking the Colour Blue (New Island) was published in 2008 and From Bone to Blossom (AltEnts Publications), a collaborative work with visual artist Emma Barone, in 2011. She has won a Hennessy Literary Award and a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship. Her short story collection Snow Shoes is forthcoming from Arlen House. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
isadora epstein (Cover art; pp. 6, 12-13, 22-23, 34-35) Contact: email@example.com
michael longley studied Classics at Trinity, and edited Icarus in June 1961 (viewable at: issuu.com/icarustcd/docs/vol11no34). He has won the Whitbread Prize For Poetry and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His Collected Poems was published in 2006 by Jonathan Cape. He lives in Belfast with his wife Edna.
is a SS English Studies student who writes plays and short stories. When he isnâ€™t writing or talking with his four brothers, he mostly likes to drink tea and agonise over Aston Villaâ€™s latest scoreless draw. stephen mc dermott
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(Illustration, p. 50) Her portfolio can be found at: www.fuchsiamacaree.com
is a JF English and Spanish student. She is one quarter of theatre company The Children, who debuted at Absolut Fringe last year with ‘Does Anybody Ever’. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
ronan murphy is a Senior Sophister in English. He is lead singer with the group The Sweet Naive, who are currently at work on their debut album. Contact: email@example.com
megan nolan writes poetry and performs stand-up comedy. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
claudio sansone is a SF English Studies student and also does work in Ancient Languages and Literary Translation. He runs the Poetry Reading Group and the Intermediate Creative Writing Workshop for the TCD Literary Society. Contact: email@example.com
elizabeth o’connell-thompson is a Senior Sophister English Studies student from New Jersey. She hopes to one day make something of herself. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
kate smyth is currently studying on the M.Phil. in Literatures of the Americas course in Trinity, after completing an M.A. in Writing last year in NUI Galway. She plans to continue writing short stories while applying for a Ph.D. in the near future.
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The editor wishes to thank everyone at DU Publications, the TCD School of English, and the Trinity Annual Fund; Michael and Edna Longley; Adrienne Foran and everyone at Brunswick Press; Isadora Epstein and Fuchsia Macaree for their kind generosity; Paul Lenehan and everyone at Poetry Ireland for allowing access to their holdings of Icarus back-issues; and Fiona Hyde for her continued advice and support.
trinity college, dublin
Creative writing from Trinity College Dublin. Features Michael Longley