Monday, 8 June 2020

Poems from the Backroom 85: Attracta Fahy

Cúirt Festival Galway 1992, RS Thomas, Paul Durcan, Simon Armitage, Liz Lochead, Iain Crichton Smith, Anne Frater, Ian Duhig. The skies were blue and my pockets were filled with money having just been at the Limerick Poetry Festival where, if I recall correctly, the organiser Noel Bourke turned up one day with a sack of euros and started distributing them to the angry crowd of writers, whether they’d taken part or not.
During the Cúirt Festival I met the self styled ‘Bard of Poteen’ who was giving a reading and distributing samples in the park. He was blind, for reasons which became quickly apparent. Later in the afternoon I was fished out of the canal by a wonderful young librarian who dismounted from her bicycle and assisted me to my lodgings. God bless you Loretta O Donowho!

My guest in the Backroom today, Attracta Fahy, is from that strange and wonderful city of the west, with its herons, its canals and its idiosyncratic public houses. She is a psychotherapist by trade and a fine and individual poet. She has been published widely in magazines including 'Banshee', 'Poetry Ireland Review', 'The Blue Nib', 'Poethead', 'Coast to Coast to Coast', 'Orbis', 'Crossways' Literary magazine, 'The Curlew', 'Picaroon', 'Honest Ulsterman'. She was shortlisted for the 2018 'Over The Edge New Writer of The Year', and was a nominee for the Pushcart Prize. She was the October winner in Irish Times'  'New Irish Writing 2019', and shortlisted for the Allingham Poetry Prize in 2019.

‘Dinner In The Fields', published by Fly On The Wall press, is heavily influenced by her work, her farming background, and her close affinity with nature and her children. Her dreamy poetry moves easily through myths and memory, mapping, as good poetry should do, herself,  her land and her people.

Here she reads ‘If I tell the truth’ which is transcribed below along with two other poems, 'The Priest Said' about the death of her father in an accident and 'Our Sleeping Women' a reflection on generations of women gone.

Three Poems in the 'Galway Review':

Poems in 'Blue Nib':

If I Tell the Truth

I wasn’t always honest
It was all about perspective
the silent space of muted tongue
a ‘yes’ to presumption
how one sees Rapunzel,
protected, or snared?

I was like an old worn shoe, how
it curves into the shape of feet
I into your desperation.
I’d watched my father, learned
his skill: natural rock, piled in layers,
roughened slab, each piece unique,
each answering to the master’s eye
making stone walls a craft.

I didn’t crochet like my mother, but knew
how to catch your hook, thread deceptions
into lace, stitch, mend, plait fabrications,
seam my shawl.

Birds who fly must return to earth,
in the garden, a wood pigeon,
industrious, makes her nest.
Tolerance knows
we all evolve from some one family,
and you were part of mine.

The Priest Said

There was nothing dignified
about my father’s death.
He drowned in a slurry pit.
It was a cold wet Saturday
evening in March – people
going to Mass,
followed the priest,
to our shed, in the field.

I had slipped amongst them,
unnoticed, searching in hope
of finding him alive, while hearing
their prayers for his dead soul.
I watched from a distance,
the ambulance, fire brigade,
guards, and neighbours with slurry
tanks, to empty the pit.

Shrinking into gut’ wrenching
pain as the search had continued
for nine hours.
I was there when he was pulled
out, like a calf just born.
Later, sealed in a brown bag,
he was thrown inside our front door.

When he called to our home,
the day my father was buried,
the priest remarked
what a dignified family
that people had mentioned,
we were; we had not cried.
My siblings proud of his praise,
I stayed silent.

Our Sleeping Women

I think of my grandmothers,
their faces etched in mine,
their strength sleeps in my bones.
We meet in fields of crows,
their voices speak through the wind.

Old graves sloped down
from our farm. As a child,
I played house, tea sets
on tombs, innocent,
listening to spirits.
Daughters left to work
with duty not to themselves
but others who cared little
for the objects they’d become.

From the clay they cry
the song of the crone,
dreams of lives unlived, hope
moves in the soil beneath
my feet, rises in my breath,
they call – willing me on
with their work,

let your blood bleed
for daughters defiled, mothers
abandoned in shame,
scrubbed of sin in laundries.

Don’t listen to scavengers
who have taken your use,
their fear ripping your pleasure.
Starve if you need, until you’re heard.
Scream yourself into your body.

Your face ours, your womb creator,
the only real home, your self.

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