[ Icarus ] issue iii
[ Icarus ] issue iii
| 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. email@example.com
Lucky Carmichael elizabeth o’connell-
Carla’s Dream Song ronan murphy
Lost tim smyth
Esperanza paraic o’donnell
In Kin andrew stephens
Between Glass and Hawthorns
Excerpt from Grain elizabeth o’connellthompson
How Death Comes conor leahy
the term ‘undergraduate poet’ is a close relation to ‘village idiot’. Sure enough, Icarus only needed to print a single issue before it was satirised. Released in Trinity Week of 1950, Licarus was a free pamphlet written by ‘All Sorts’ and edited by one ‘Bertie Bassett’. A gag from the 1950s there for you. Being able to emerge unscathed from ridicule is an important test of the integrity of any piece of writing, and to ignore the possibility of ridicule is a fault only of the over-earnest or the self-important. Millions upon millions of us write fiction and poetry. Moreover, many such millions seem to approach the act of writing with a peculiar lack of self-awareness. As a hobby, it is especially prone to inducing in oneself that lame and persistent fantasy of winning great fame and recognition. Not only do these fantasies obstruct a relatively simple, personal pleasure, they also make you look like an almighty eejit. I am generally disinclined to copy and paste poetry out of context, but I am fond nevertheless of W.H. Auden’s lines, written in 1936:
it has been said that
Art, if it doesn’t start there, at least ends, Whether aesthetics like the thought or not, In an attempt to entertain our friends.
The first poem I ever wrote was printed in Icarus. It was pretty crap, but that’s beside the point. I don’t know if I’ll continue to write once I graduate from Trinity, but the act of writing – or having attempted to write – as an undergraduate has led to the formation of many of my closest friendships. For that reason, if nothing else, has it seemed worthwhile. Conor Leahy March, 2012
Lucky Carmichael by elizabeth o’connell-thompson He kept two pennies in his pockets, one on each hip, that he said he’d put on his eyelids the day his ship came in or went down. As for the bulge in his jeans, that was a rabbit’s foot.
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Lunar Maria by david lynch
y father, as his sanity failed, decreed himself a Noah of the still and the dead and went about with a notepad cataloguing stones and stars and other bleak insensate things that they may be redeemed, at Judgement Day, from the final deluge of obscurity. He became particularly fascinated by the moon and set about perpetuating it in ink, contending that if the universe be infinite then all things are small. He analysed it, asked questions of it, attempted odes to it, made sketches of it through the cycles. He read books about it. He left his bed in the smoky pre-dawn chill and lay down in the garden, in the clover and dew, to watch clouds smear it and creeping day siphon faint its glow. During this period whenever anyone asked him the time he’d answer, ‘Half-past-sixty-six,’ which was his age when the directive arrived. That the directive – to be a questing Noah, a mineral Christ – had come from on high was something that he never queried, because it was so obvious. All the more so because of the indelicacy of its timing, a classic hallmark of such phenomena. Stooped and shoeless, bound loosely at the ankles with his own briefs, he tottered from the commode one morning in a gust of sulphurous corruption and stood, knuckle-kneed, between the cooker and the fridge, declaiming, crack-pitched, splendid indeed. Alongside him my mother went shirrp-shirrp-shirrp in the frying-pan with a spatula and kept it up for the entirety of his announcement. She seemed not to be listening but must have been. He was a difficult thing to ignore in that moment, given the smell, and the voice, and the crown of window-light
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a-dance like flame on the hairless scalp, Elijah borne aloft in his bathrobe. He had a lot to say. He fairly spoiled my breakfast. He was sixty-six, my mother forty-five. I was sixteen. There’s no great saga to tell of their meeting and courtship except to say that he was older and she was younger and that she would have always, barring some anomaly, been at some point impelled to begin the death-watch, to witness his daily fall sooner and in more innocence and with a greater degree of personal clarity than most wives do. The one thing, I feel, worse than such an inevitability is its fruition, which must have come even earlier – and less kindly – than she’d feared. Which is probably why she chose to shirrp-shirrp at the frying-pan rather than turn and act when he came into the kitchen with his underpants around his ankles. The inevitability had not weighed on me, so the fruition was not so terrible. Nor was it so terrible that his work saw him bolted up in the garden shed for hours every day, drawing, scribbling, scissoring, classifying, compiling, because I’d always found the old man to be a bit of a bastard – and an ungodly bollocks at his worst, but that’s another story – so anything that kept him at a reasonable distance seemed to me acceptable. If anything, the process of decline made him more interesting to be around: this progenitor of mine whom I hardly knew, this private, unasked-for god, this half-educated former helmsman on a fishing trawler would point across his picked-at dinner plate in the winter evenings, bid me turn and, trailing a fingertip across the window, name for me the basalt fields that bruised the moon, the oceanus and maria, the laci and pali and sini. – Sea of Serenity. Sea of Tranquility. Seas of Moisture, of Islands, of Rain. When he’d had his vision and came into the kitchen like that my mother’s shoulders began to tremble. Shirrp-shirrpshirrp. She looked frightened. Or my eyes were imagining it,
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troubled from blinking, from the shock of the whole thing and not knowing where to look. The first time he went out to lie in the garden she rang for an ambulance, thinking he was dead, sprawled there like that, a moonlit corpse with a look of rapture on its face, the old fool. But she didn’t call his name or step out to check him. She just stood looking and shaking and whispering, ‘Is he gone? Is he gone?’ For a while afterwards I couldn’t help wondering if she’d had her fingers crossed behind her back. – Sea of Clouds. Sea of Crisis. And that big one, the Ocean of Storms. I pointed out once that thousands of people had already done the work of perpetuating the moon in ink, to say nothing of the stones and stars. He ignored me and went out to his shed. The next time I said it I had to dodge a fist. The next time I said he smiled and told me that those others were scientists and astronomers and poets, not people. I told him he was a fucking lunatic, but he didn’t get the joke. – Sea of Fertility. Sea of Nectar. He was an old man when he shot me into my mother and, thus, on out into the world. He was an old man when he kicked footballs at me and when he hit me with his slippers. He was an old man when he began to disintegrate in front of me, first with his pencils and his shed and his boxfuls of crumpled notepads, then with his forgetting where to put the milk or find his hat or what my mother’s name what was her bloody name for Christ’s sake the slut the bloody bitch. When he came into the kitchen that morning it was an old man’s cock he bore beneath his paunch, and I’m not sure why that surprised me. – Sea of Cold. The finger wavered against the pane, and lifted, and left no mark. The potatoes sat grey as stones on his plate. My mother was looking at the clock. I was looking at the moon, still, and
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saying to myself, When this is done, however long it takes, years or decades, when this is done, and he’s contracted to a hand, or a foot, or a cracked blue eye looking out from a rotten bed, or a fumbled cough, or a crumpled notepad, you make sure to… you make sure to… And I forked a potato from his plate onto mine. And that’s just a little bit of how things were with my dad.
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Esperanza by paraic oâ€™donnell I The things I did to keep you from harm no scissors ever touched your hair poor Abuelita Rosa said, the sacred names it is a nest of snakes in my bath I lay a whole night in the churchyard in my wedding dress, cold as the font and lizards slipping between the stars just to give the dust what it wanted. II A child that filled a bowl with songs for every half-dead dog in the yard encircled your fevers, your heartburns with lime flowers, such a child
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should not hang up a satchel of secrets every day after school everything it said in dreams I did I wore a bracelet of scorpions locking the sting deep in my fist until I felt nothing but your name was the call of the witch bird making its cage in the mesquite the face that shrieked at flames found my heart at every window was seen on the bus to Juarez the wings of an owl for a veil and nothing warm for the journey.
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B-A-T by adam keogh
he Louisville Slugger Ash Pro, the official bat of Major League Baseball, 33 inches long, 30 ounces heavy (-3 length / weight ratio), medium barrel, long taper, thin handle, medium knob, pro cupped end, pro grade timber, unfinished and flame treated. *
This was the kind of weather he liked: cold, windy, crystal clear skies. On days like these the world seemed presented in sharper focus. Everything suddenly became very clear-cut when you strode through a near-deserted housing estate and the wind was so dry and biting that it threatened to blow you into dust. There was none of that muddled conscience of a humid summer heat, the casting off of inhibitions or sudden uncharacteristic changes of heart that seemed to go hand in hand with days spent baking on hot grass and sand. This was decisive weather. This was weather that did not abide the fence-sitter. This, he thought, was the right weather for the day that was in it. He grabbed at the collar of his coat with his right hand, nuzzling his chin into his red scarf. Walking there, head bent, one hand up about his neck, the other ramrod straight and down by his side in an overcoat so big it never even reached the cuff, he looked almost like a determined old amputee. There was no spring to his step, no swing to his arm. He walked with a kind of purpose you rarely see in such uninhabited locales. The houses around him sat almost entirely empty, their bay
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windows and frosted glass doors yawning out onto unseeded lawns. Had he not been so intent upon his task, the thought might have occurred to him that but for the handful that stood defiant, that desperately attempted to assert themselves as ‘homes’ by way of a line of juvenile laurel or box along their borders and a lone car parked in the drive, these houses for the most part resembled long, winding lines of the lobotomised, standing to non-attention, gawping mindlessly as they faced one another and waited to be filled and emptied, dressed and undressed, interested not in the ‘how’ or the ‘why’ but only the ‘when’. In contrast to these comatose giants his quick stride leant him something of the demeanour of an ant. He walked on, unawares, set to, hell-bent. *
Their echo lingered even after the large double fire doors had swung shut with a heavy clunk. The hall was ringing with it. He walked out towards its centre, kicking stray balls towards the gear closet as he went. Each one was struck just so, so that it would roll lazily up towards the crash-mat that leant against the far wall, its impact leaving a small indent in the mat’s blue lining, and then roll back a foot or two to rest there on the baseline for easy collection and storage. He came upon the last ball and stooped to pick it up. Bouncing it three times, he walked slowly up towards the threepoint line and set himself: feet shoulder-width apart, right slightly in front of left, right hand cupped underneath the ball, left leaning lightly against its side in support. He bent his knees, bobbed up and down on his toes, stared intently at the hoop, focusing, the whistle clinking lightly against his chest. And then, in one fluid movement, he shot, arm locked out, wrist flicked, feet never once leaving the ground, his whole body
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pointed and arched out towards the net as he leaned back on his toes and fell – actually fell – back onto the hardwood floor, keeping his eyes locked on the ball as it traced a long arc up, up, up, and then silently fell just short of the rim, landing with an uninterrupted thud onto the court below. The sound rang out. He could taste the remnants of the roast beef sandwich of an hour past rising in his throat. The ball trickled towards the door, knocking once on its burgundy façade before coming to a rest under the battered pommel horse in the corner. The place was so empty. As if in answer, the door opened a crack, and out popped a dark pony-tailed head. She looked about the room, her eyes finally landing on the figure sitting splay-legged on its far side trying to bore a hole in the wall off to her right. ‘Oh,’ she said. He looked up. ‘Kindez,’ he cleared his throat and began to pick himself up. She stepped inside, her severed head growing four feet of white cotton polo and navy blue tracksuit bottoms. She began moving sideways towards the benches that ran along the near wall. ‘Sorry sir, I forgot my jumper.’ ‘All right then, quickly now.’ He walked towards the corner, making a bee-line for the horse and the offending ball hiding under its belly. Fishing it out, he turned back out to the room at large, stepping blindly into the girl’s path as she made for the door. ‘Sorry sir, I...’ she made to go around him. He moved in the same direction, blocking her again. They moved back and forth like this once more, three times, four, until they both began to laugh awkwardly. ‘Hate it when that happens, don’t you?’ He stood still now. She smiled up at him briefly and gave a small laugh through her nostrils. She took a decisive step to her left, he one to his
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right. ‘Have a shot, Kindez’ he said, presenting the ball. ‘But sir, I–’ ‘Just have a shot.’ ‘Sir, I have to get to class.’ ‘One shot.’ ‘… I’m not very good, sir.’ ‘There’s no one else here, Kindez.’ *
‘Hello... Mr Mendel, isn’t it?’ ‘That’s right.’ ‘Nice to meet you, have a seat.’ ‘Thank you.’ ‘Now let’s see, Mendel, Mendel... ah here we are, “Attentive and compliant. Takes instruction well. Shows good ability at most sports and excels in track and field in particular. Punctual and well-behaved in class. Could benefit from extra-curricular training.” A glowing report by all accounts, Mr Mendel. I wish I had forty others like her.’ ‘Indeed.’ ‘I’m sure the other teachers have said no different.’ ‘She seems to be coping nicely.’ ‘She does.’ ‘…’ ‘She surely does.’ ‘…’ ‘Did you have any questions for me, Mr Mendel?’ ‘Not exactly.’ ‘“Not exactly”?’ ‘No, nothing important really.’ ‘I’m afraid I don’t understand.’
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‘Did you ever play any sport as a child, Mr Carrington?’ ‘Well of course, I–’ ‘I used to play baseball.’ ‘... Baseball?’ ‘Strange one, I know. Not often you hear of people doing a thing like that in... in... well, in a place like this. But that’s just me, Mr Carrington; I’m a strange one.’ ‘…’ ‘I was never a big man, but I tell you I was fairly handy with that bat.’ ‘…’ ‘I could fairly do some damage, if you know what I mean.’ ‘Mr Mendel, if we could just get back to your daughter–’ ‘Oh, my apologies. Please.’ ‘Well unless you have any questions...?’ ‘Do you know what I’d do if anyone were ever to lay a hand on my daughter, Mr Carrington?’ ‘Mr Mendel, what are you–’ ‘Purely hypothetical now. No need to worry.’ ‘…’ ‘What I’d do is, I’d take my old bat – I keep it under the bed see, for burglars and things, you know – I’d take it, and I’d go to their house, and I’d knock on the door and I’d wait for them to answer. And when they answered, do you know what I’d do then? Well, Mr Carrington, I’ll tell you what I’d do: I’d beat them. I’d beat them to within an inch of their life. I’d beat them until they forgot what it was like not to be in pain. And then I’d keep going. Because, as I’d be the first to admit, if there’s one thing I tend to lack when I get going it’s restraint, Mr Carrington. I know, I know, it’s a terrible thing to have a temper, and I do try to keep a lid on it. But sometimes you just can’t help yourself... Sure you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?’
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‘… I don’t appreciate being talked to this way.’ ‘Talked to what way, Mr Carrington? Sure I’m only having a friendly chat, am I not?’ ‘… I don’t appreciate being threatened. And I sure as hell don’t appreciate being accused of... of–’ ‘Accused of what, Mr Carrington?’ ‘You know exactly what... Mr Mendel.’ ‘Tell me.’ ‘Please leave.’ ‘Hang on there till I finish my little story, Mr Carrington.’ ‘...’ ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be out of your hair in no time.’ ‘…’ ‘This is the good bit see. This is the bit that really gets me, to tell you the truth. You see, what I’d do before all this... this unpleasantness, what I’d do is I’d actually go and talk to the little bastard, and I’d tell him what I was going to do to him. I’d tell him I’d come to his house of a Saturday, or maybe a Sunday even. You know, one of those days he’d be lounging around in his jocks and scratching his balls, like. One of those days he wouldn’t exactly be mentally prepared for a formal introduction to my little wooden friend, ha-ha.’ ‘I’m calling the guards.’ ‘Oh no need for that Mr Carrington, I’m nearly finished. See, what I’d make sure to mention to the fella – or the lady for that matter; sure we’re living in dark times these days, Mr Carrington – what I’d make sure to mention is that this might happen next week, it might happen next month, it might even happen next year. I wouldn’t even know myself, you know the way. It’d happen on whatever day I thought was right for it, you get me? And who knows when that kind of notion might take hold of man.’ ‘Get out of my office, right n–’
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‘Every day he’d wake up and he’d be thinking to himself “is today the day he’s coming? Is today the day I’m going to die?” And that’s the real scorcher here, Mr Carrington, that’s the thing that really tickles me. Gives me the jollies so it does. Sometimes I’ll be sitting there reading the paper of a morning and the thought will just pop into my head and I’ll just start laughing to myself. The wife thinks I’m going mental so she does. But you and I know it’s because if anything like this were to happen – and god forbid it ever should – your man would be out there pacing back and forth in his dingy little house wondering how long he had left, and I’d be the one putting the fear into him. Isn’t that just a lovely thought now, Mr Carrington? Isn’t it just?’ ‘…’ ‘You stay safe now, Mr Carrington.’ ‘…’ ‘I’ll be seeing you.’
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In Kin by andrew stephens
hey strolled from street to statue, from walkway to arch, to a hill in the middle of Phoenix Park and flattened the grass until blue was dark. The year had been blunt until the last thirty minutes of the last day of the third month. Every move revealed a branch of stars and then the moon. Low enough to take when none are looking, low enough to colour in, low enough to roll away again. The two lay on their backs watching only. Stars overhead at night time, eye-white bright and blinking once for yes, twice for three yeses. Flash signals to find our way home in a heavenly game of cosmic join-the-dots. Everything a starling. A whirling murmuration bound to go together. In flight to find the way by a silver thread. In vertebrates and in non-vertebrates. To make this ascent vertebra by vertebra towards a home unsupported by cellar stone. To one last game of spot-the-difference. Left eye silver, right eye gold, one cherub here, eleven cherubim there. Another move, a brother branch. Pluck goes the picture. Auto zoom, face detect, no need for flash. See the climber quivering in quest. Where palms and knees no longer need rest. To that place Kin to that space! To loves-me only and no lovesme-nots. Let us yes, let us each, let us all join-the-dots! From tooth to fin to mandarin skin. Where not a quiet thought turns in a jaded mind. Blind, they walked South through the gate and out of the park, over the walkway and under the arch, into April whoâ€™s always frightened by March.
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Carla’s Dream Song by ronan murphy We are the shrinkers and we breathe For nought but sex and ectoplasm, And we’ll hear nothing of exorcism Or mickey dodging. Rathe to loathe And rathe to weave the wind, we meet To twist our giggles and skin the toad In Paddock’s Bar on Banebale Road Where love is trampled underfoot. Sty the blue sky between a snigger and a frown. Hail Black Squirrels and the Crown. Dog dreg sarc and the rain grey town. Hail Black Squirrels and the Crown. Connesty and fartistry, laugh it all down. Hail Black Squirrels and the Crown. In the salt green womb we can safely drown. Hail Black Squirrels and the Crown.
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Lost by tim smyth
e could have died. The treads of his car-tyres lost grip on the road and skidded over the greasy film of mud with a gritty sizzle. The front of the car tipped into the ditch. Branches cracked and battered against the windscreen like attacking hands. The impact jolted him forward, his seatbelt garrotting him at the diaphragm, and as he gasped winded he heard Dave Fanning and his interviewee continuing their discussion of the relative merits of Dylan’s middle period. He spent a minute or two in the car-seat checking to see if any ribs were broken before realising that he had no idea how to check for that. Then his attention turned to the sales reports he had left bulldog-clipped together on the passenger seat. The bundle was now distributed all over the floor. This was the sort of thing he’d been told to prepare for by the older hands at Doyle’s, the agri-insurance company he worked for. The most he’d done, though, was to keep a pair of wellies and a golf umbrella in the boot, disdaining the advice purely because the men who gave it to him reminded him too much of Jack Lemmon’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross. Worrying about the same things as they did, he figured, might drag him into the same morass as he figured they were in. There was a gravity to that kind of thinking: sharing their concerns was just the start. If he thought like them, before long he’d end up acting like them. He didn’t have any illusions about his importance in the world. Doyle’s was hardly a leader of the field, and the greatest career height he could attain
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wouldn’t be all that tremendous. Even so, he didn’t want to get too comfortable with the low-aiming older hands in the place. He knew he was diffident, but these guys were so discreet they seemed to want to be invisible, and the way they’d spring back from an open doorway when someone passed would be comical if it wasn’t so pathetic, as if they were trying to apologise themselves out of existence. He had enough of a tendency to do that without letting their ways rub off on him. But most of those thoughts melted away when he got out to check the damage. It was idiotic to think that not finding out what sort of things you might need to buy from a garage – and perhaps finding out how they worked – made him like the more pathetic figures in the company. It was just sensible. Not that they’d have been of any help to him. The ditch was wide and had swallowed the whole front of the car. The rear section hung over the brim of the gap, and the sides were skid-trailed with mucky gravel. He scuffed his foot over the ground and wished that he hadn’t tried for one last sale on the way home. Looking up he saw dark clouds swagging low overhead and was glad that he’d at least brought boots and a brolly. Up ahead to the left he saw a gate and figured that if he headed in that direction he might be able to get help at a house nearby. Even though it was impossible for anyone to steal the car, he still locked the car. The gate was an easy climb, and so was the first quarter of the way up the hill. The patch of earth before the gate had the soft give of warm cake. Rain and hoofmarks had left a mass of shapes like sucking mouths, and the mud tugged against his steps as he made for the track of slick clay snaking its way up the hill, the path worn by herds as they made their way back and forth between barn and pasture. He reckoned that if he followed that, he’d at least come to a farmyard, if he didn’t spot the lights of a house from the hilltop first. He hoped
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that’d happen first: the plan had been to chance a quick sale on his way home for the football, only judging by his watch he had already missed the first half. It wasn’t as though he was a particularly fanatical supporter, but the thought of not getting to see the match robbed him of a whole set of associated comforts that he craved all the more strongly for being out in the wet in the middle of nowhere. To be sitting in front of the television, stockinged feet resting on the rad, maybe a sandwich on the table near to hand – the idea gave him a feeling like a sting in the pit of his stomach. He supposed he should want to see his wife a bit more, what with only calling her once during the whole AGM weekend, and he felt guilty that he didn’t. Worse than both those sensations was the irony of having to look to a farmer for help, given that part of his job inevitably included pulling the wool over their eyes in order to sell policies. He’d even done it on the way home, just outside Castledermot. On the way back from Dublin he found he’d been a bit shaken up, though he couldn’t quite figure out why; it was a sensation that he often had after drinking one cup of coffee too many, only this time there was no caffeine to blame. It was a vortex at the centre of his thoughts, that agitation, sucking in his attention and making him think of how his hair was sneaking back from his temples and how there were grey hairs among the fine spray over the backs of his hands. Even having hair on his hands was a bad omen – all the older salesmen had that. He was starting to have more and more in common with them, and that was at a level that he couldn’t even control. Was the same thing happening to his personality? Was the contagion already dormant in him? Would it be long before he, too, was sitting red-faced at a crowded bench spilling more of his pint than he was drinking, making lewd comments about waitresses, forgetting the names of
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footballers? No, there had to be a difference between him and them. There had to be something he could take control of. Selling a policy – that’d do the trick, or at least stave off the thoughts of the inevitable slump until another occasion. So he drove on, eyes raking right and left, ready to alight on even the most remote possibility of a farmhouse. And then, outside Castledermot, he’d seen a long driveway bisecting a pair of newly-mown fields, the sides of the gouges cut by tyres shiny, the long rows between hedgehog-spined with yellow stalks. It was the right time of year to be a salesman: the stock had just been taken of the year’s harvest, and there was a sense of pessimism always descended over the estimates for the year ahead during the middle of winter. Sell them a sense of certainty and you’d be set. They brought him in for a cup of tea right enough, but when he set out the price-list the hemming and hawing began; they had a good handle on their own finances. They were an old enough pair, though – trying to strike up a bit of friendly conversation was a non-starter. It was a bit patronising to expect that they’d be grateful for the opportunity for a chat with someone outside of their immediate family, but it was usually a safe enough assumption. It began to get frustrating after the sixth time they went through the full list and the twelfth time that the husband asked him: ‘And you’re sure that’s the price?’ Obviously they intended to buy – that had been obvious from the second tea that had been offered – but they must have reckoned there was a way to haggle down standardised prices. Before long he started to feel the smooth flow of his patter begin to gum up as his frustration built. He’d had enough. At least he’d tried. He knew the moment would come back to him in years to come, denuded of specifics but not of its shock of frustration; that the hot welter of bitterness he felt rising in his chest would be just as volcanic
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when he was swapping tales in his fifties with the other gang of lads about to be put out to pasture as it was now. Knocking back the empty cup in a feint of draining dregs, he pulled the sleeve back from his watch and started gathering the documents into his briefcase with a quick slithery hiss of plastic sheet-containers. He left one catalogue on the table, the one that offered details of the policy that had kept coming up in conversation with the older man. ‘Sorry, now,’ he said. ‘I’m away to London tonight for a board meeting.’ Before he knew it the words had leapt out of his mouth, a direct quotation of a routine one of the older men had chucklingly recited in the hotel bar over the weekend. And, before he could stop himself, the quotation kept coming. ‘I’d best be going; I figured I’d call in on my way given – if you’ll forgive me – the way things looked outside. You’ll know yourself how hard a year it’s been for everyone, and how competitive things are set to get over the coming spring and summer. But here,’ – he proffered a card; the way the farmer reached for it told him that it was working – ‘Actually, hold on,’ – he scribbled the office secretary’s number on it – ‘This is my personal number in case you can’t get through to me on the other one.’ In the moment before the farmer spoke he could practically see the course his thoughts were following – just as the old hand had said. He was confused by the desire not to show his hand by expressing too much of an interest, a wish to conduct the whole thing on his own terms, and the knowledge that he’d be better off trying to bargain here than he would over the phone. The man watching him knew he should feel a surge of pride and strength and whatever else, but instead the sense of discomfort he’d had in the car just got worse. ‘Hold on there,’ said the farmer. ‘We’ll only end up
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forgetting to call you…’ And so, after another, entirely staged examination of the catalogue, and a final, cursory discussion of terms all three of the people in the kitchen knew off by heart by this point, he signed and handed over a cheque, and nothing changed in the salesman’s mood. Thinking back over the episode didn’t make him feel any better. He’d actually ended up more like the people he was trying to avoid becoming in pulling that kind of trick than he would have if he’d just headed home. It was no use. By now he was three-quarters of his way up the hill and he turned around to see if there was a house anywhere in view. Overhead, an oilstain sunset leaking through piled drifts of cloud, less light radiating from it by the minute. He couldn’t see the place he’d started climbing – the hill was ringed with a thick fog, reducing his vision to a few-metre-wide circle around his feet and hills and fields so far away that all he could make out were dim curves and the dark lines of hedges separating one square of land from the next, the dark lines that ran on straight and broke off at right angles, the whole thing assembling a pattern that he was too low down to make out fully. While he thought of that, a moment of eerie peacefulness came and went when he didn’t take a frustrating look at his watch or search in the gloom for the light of a house. Each pull of air left a cool sharpness in his lungs, and then the rawness in his throat that followed made him feel as though he had gulped down ice-cold water. The noise of faraway cars was softened by distance to a sound like the wash of waves. He felt like he was hanging in space, or floating in a cloudy lake midway between the bottom and the surface. It was the thunder-sound of a tractor barrelling down the road at the foot of the hill that shook him out of his daze,
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and then he felt the first twinge of real fear at realising that he couldn’t see a single light gleaming out of the fog, and he realised that he’d’ve been better off sitting in his car so he could have met the tractor driver himself. But of course it was too late now – the bright cone cast by the headlights widened at the gate and then thinned out and vanished and the tractor was gone. He wasn’t sure how many more minutes he spent trying to calm down enough to figure out what to do, but it wasn’t long before there was a flash in the hedge to his right at the foot of the hill, and he saw the square of the yard beyond the hedge light up silver, and then he heard the clack of bootheels over concrete and hoped their owner’d turn left at the gate and come get him. He wondered if he should call out, or if that would make him look silly. ‘Nice evening for a walk,’ called someone from the path leading up the hill. ‘I suppose it is,’ he sighed. ‘What’re you selling?’ As he got closer, the salesman could see that he was a man in his mid-forties, heavily built but not overweight, and with a cigarette hanging between thick, gloved fingers. ‘Nothing now – insurance, usually.’ ‘Well, I can’t see you doing much business up here.’ David laughed for relief. ‘No, I don’t suppose so.’ ‘Come on down sure and we’ll get you on your way. Warm you up first, then get that car winched out of the ditch. You might want a lesson on how to park while you’re at it.’ ‘That could work. Here, I’m David.’ The farmer took off a glove to shake his hand. ‘Vincent,’ he said, with a curt nod. ‘What’s your company?’ ‘Eh. Doyle’s.’ Vincent gave him a crooked smile.
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‘The way your premiums’re gone I should probably leave you out here. But maybe we can hammer something out. Come on anyway.’ He clapped David on the shoulder, and then he set off down the hill and David followed on behind him.
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Between Glass and Hawthorns by éadaoín lynch The train moves through bare-boned trees. Hedge and brush slide into view, mapping out brown fields and bogland. I look through glass to turlough pools – Five hours away, he is reading far too much into snow and roses. I wish less for drought than for his closeness. Ink is no good across all that water, and the turloughs might be gone tomorrow. Later, I yawn while he is Smiling, apologising for his tardiness. As he speaks, I reach out to him, but there is more than glass between us.
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Excerpt from Grain by elizabeth o’connell-thompson
here’s a stiffness that enters your spine when you catch headlights in your rearview mirror. Each vertebra locks into his brother and screams in a non-regional accent a news clip about serial killers, about gang initiation, about murderers in the back seat, about secret police, about cults. You abandon the beat you were drumming into the steering wheel to listen to twenty-four different tales of carnage. Or thirty-four, depending how you count and how well you’re held together. A lot of the time, even though you know it’s nonsense, you just have to keep your back straight and your eyes on the road ahead until the other car turns, which it will. If you’re taking Riverside Drive away from town, though, one of those bones is probably right and the cops will find you still smouldering in a dumpster behind the disused department store a little after breakfast. Lucky for you, if you didn’t miss the turn, you can take Bramble Lane through the golf course and claim sanctuary on Curtain Road until the river runs into the bay on the other side of the green. You meet all four seasons back there, which can be nice if you’re sick of the one you’re in. It’s always green on the fairway thanks to that grass you can buy that rolls out like carpet, but the mercury has a hard time climbing above freezing. Your skin could be crackling warm from the beach with trails of sand gummed onto your arms by melted ice cream and Jack Frost would still sneak up to breathe Chantilly lace onto your windows around the twelfth hole, where you turn right and the road really begins. There were rumours going around that he’d
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lost his touch and started tracing patterns from library books about spiders, but most people are sure that Jack still spins by hand. No use asking any of the golfers – men who talk about the fine breaks in their trousers and taxes – because there aren’t any windows on the carts they rent. Their caddies all know to pack an extra sweater, though. It’s spring by the time your tires hit that first bit of dirt and gravel, and there’s no hope of topping twenty-five when you’re kicking up dust. You have to take it slow: you have to let the yellow pollen off the sunflowers and hollyhocks the size of birches (and better at stopping any breezes that drift up from the river) settle on your car; let the ripe skunk cabbages fill your dust-dry nose with a bitterness that stings enough to draw blood; let the radio turn to static, then turn it all the way down so you can’t hear anything but gravel spitting out behind you and your own eyelashes tapping against each other as you blink away tears. You don’t look Tito the horse in the eyes when you drive past the unnamed farm on the west side of the road. He’s the chestnut runt in the green blanket. He’ll follow the smell of the dust on your wheels all the way back to your house – hang the rain – and swallow you whole while you dream. The neighbours will forget what they know and think that the places where his hooves split the ground are new potholes and shake their heads and complain about the governor. You will never be found. Before the trees start up there’s a telephone pole memorial, covered on all sides with staple-gunned tee shirts and ribbons. Its base has a nest of candles and plastic flowers nicked from graves in the cemetery that got cut in two when the new highway was built. No cars have ever crashed on that road, so it’s not for anyone in particular, but plenty of lost souls slip their silvery arms through the sleeves of the tee shirts on days when the moon refuses to leave the sky. That’s summer. They spend
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all day trying to wriggle free of the staples. If they manage to get down and go walking toward the woods, the tree with his roots above ground stops them. He doesn’t let anyone without shoes into the woods on account of the bone shards and poison ivy, oak, and sumac blanketing everything up to the parts of the trees that only bats can reach. And no civilised person goes walking around with no shoes on. The road through the woods is coated with slick autumn leaves like black ice when it comes to skidding. Midway in, around October Twenty-seventh if you were to cut up the rows of a calendar’s dates and lay them flat against a roadmap, there’s a house with a light on in the attic at all times. In that attic a woman files her teeth with a special edition Mary Kay emery board that came with a small tube of lilac hand cream. She uses those pearly whites to shred the tyre swings she has her son saw down from trees in local backyards. Doesn’t say much since words can’t make it past her teeth without getting cut up and leaving frothy bubbles at the corners of her smile, but she likes to hum; a lot of Gershwin numbers or the odd Kitty Wells ballad while she drags the rubber through her mouth. When the strands get really fine they shake with her humming and help the tune shimmy into the road to meet the ear of whoever’s driving by, kind of clumsy like someone who says, ‘I love you,’ too soon. The woman has a shelf of head-and-shoulders mannequins that look on as she works and limit their conversation to passive-aggressive comments about the music selection. She uses them as models for turning the rubber strands into wigs: beehives, pin-curls, bouffants, pageboys, victory rolls, finger waves – nothing too modern, and always black. Folks call her Mrs Ford. Her son brings the wigs to their respective backyards and puts them right where the swings were by dawn so all the mothers can have a hairdo that doesn’t go flat or frizzy in the rain.
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It’s hard work, but not thankless. Women in station wagons bounce down the road, not a hair out of place, and leave baskets of groceries and fashion magazines and energy-efficient light bulbs and, of course, special edition Mary Kay emery boards at the stop sign that marks the north end of the road. Sometimes the uniformed gentlemen buried there wake up and use delivering the baskets as an excuse to go calling on her. They rarely leave with anything other than a new set of black sideburns to cradle their crumbling heads and a stern look from her son as he sweeps bits of their fingers and ribs off the porch. No such thing as an idle soldier, though. They found where in the woods the Improvement Committee dumped all the slate that used to make up the sidewalks, and they decorate doorsteps with slabs of the stuff, covered in scholarly quotations – Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, and the other sheet-wearing greats – all written in red clay from the creek that runs behind their beds. They heard about the campaign to keep kids reading during the school breaks from the turkey vultures that bring news to all the dead things, and were trying to do their part to keep young minds learning. At first kids mostly fried eggs and worms on them in the midday sun of the hotter months and made the one with the cleanest fingernails eat the feast. That got old pretty fast, or they all got in trouble, because after a while they stopped bothering and started sticking the slabs in their garages to use as sleds in the winter. They streak the snow bloody as the words wipe clean away, and shatter into shooting stars when the kids jump off and let them hit the back wall of the old schoolhouse that rots at the bottom of their favourite sledding hill. Once, a shard of slate flew back the right way and caught Bill Callahan in his right eye. Christie Rommel had to pack that side of his face with snow until her older sister came back with their dad in his Jeep. Bill didn’t like the pirate jokes about his eye patch at the time, but he got fun again a
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few years later when he started stealing beer off the back of delivery trucks. The kids drank them in the hole that was going to be the high school’s swimming pool before the state ran out of money, and Bill would put bottle caps behind his patch and everyone had to guess how many. Whoever guessed right got to go with Bill to the dump and split the refund money. When girls won, he’d take them the long way there down Curtain Road and recite a poem for each season and try to kiss them by the end. He sells shoes to army wives and widows in D.C. now. There was more slush than snow the winter that somebody started cutting the heads off the figures in Nativity scenes all over town and sticking them at the entrances of Curtain Road. That wasn’t too weird, in that it was the kind of violence people associated with the holidays: Christie and her sisters threw delicate Christmas tree ornaments at the cement walls of their unfinished basement; their mother slapped them when they refused to sweep up the mess and called them whores of Babylon as they slammed out the front door; Mr Rommel, Mr Callahan, and all the other Misters cut more firewood than would ever be necessary to justify the time spent sharpening their axes at night; Bill’s little brother threw his tumour-ridded dog in front of a truck so he could get excited about a new puppy for Christmas. Everybody needs a release. What startled people was the man in his late sixties who started protesting in front of Town Hall. He had a sign that had, ‘Save Christmas, Save Our Town, Save Your Souls,’ painted in long green letters and delicate holly boughs at each corner, and photocopied pamphlets with pictures of the bodiless heads inside. When people approached him to ask why he didn’t just go inside to lodge a formal complaint, he would only give a low whistle and hand them one of his pamphlets and a note card that read, ‘Smile – You’re Special.’
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How Death Comes ( from the Middle English) by conor leahy When my eyes mist And my ears hiss And my nose grows cold And my tongue enfolds And my mug sags And my lips go black And my mouth twists And my spittle drips And my hair drops And my heart pops And my hands limpen And my feet harden – It’s all too late! It’s all too late! The grave is at the gate. Then do I fall – From bed to floor From floor to hearse From hearse to stove From stove to earth, And the earth shuts up – My new home squeezes at my face. I don’t care about the world.
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kathi burke (Contents page illustration) Her portfolio can be found at: www.fattiburke.com
isadora epstein (Cover art; pp. 6, 15, 25, 28-29, 39) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
adam keogh is a Senior Sophister Film Studies student from rural Co. Wicklow and is an aspiring writer and filmmaker. ‘Mouldable’, a short documentary about his father’s experience as a potter and artist, is available to view on YouTube and his short stories can be read on his blog, 1forsorrow2forjoy.tumblr. com. Contact: email@example.com
conor leahy is a Senior Sophister English Studies student. His poem is an adaption of a 13th-century Middle English lyric. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
hails from the Burren, and herein admits to overindulgent reference to Louis MacNeice. She is a final-year English student in TCD and hopes to one day make something of herself. If anyone feels the need to get in touch, her email address is email@example.com.
is a Senior Freshman student of English, and otherwise has run out of different ways to phrase this information in bios. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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fuchsia macaree (Illustration, p. 50) is an Irish illustrator currently
doing a masters in London. Her portfolio can be found at: www. fuchsiamacaree.com.
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
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
is a software engineer, linguist and writer. He graduated from Trinity with an M.Phil. in 2000. Further samples of his work can be found on his website, partialshade.net.
tim smyth is soon to leave Dublin for France, having defeated Dave Preston once and for all in their war of words.
was born and lives in Dublin. He is in his final year of studying Italian at Trinity College Dublin where he has closely studied Dante’s Commedia. He also has a degree in Sociology.
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The editor wishes to thank Michael Barry and Sinéad Nugent for the great pleasure of working with them on Icarus this year; everyone at DU Publications, the TCD School of English, and the Trinity Annual Fund; Adrienne Foran and everyone at Brunswick Press; Grace O’Malley and Jean Sutton for being mad sound; Paraic O’Donnell for permission to print his poem; and Fiona Hyde for everything else.
trinity college, dublin