SPOTLIGHT: Strange Magic by Jay Rafferty

Talk about a green thumb

The memory of you
makes dandelions shoot,
spring, sprout from my skin
in small tufts. Their white
afros bob from too-long
necks out of my belly button,
under my nails, on my shoulders
like an emaciated angel
or a half-plucked chicken.

You make me a plot of weeds
that I can never be sure is
completely culled.

A Fowl Vendetta

feathered foe,
I address this
to you.

The raw hatred,
the bile in my throat
at the sight of your sour plumage
that turned me against
liquorice all-sorts.

I’ve seen you, met you, been
cornered by you
in the most
unwelcome of places.

At midnight waiting,
malingering on my path home.
Patient, I’m sure, for me.
Born to be seen alone
to haunt me.

Monochrome spectre,
the stone in my shoe,
the shade of sorrow.

Bad luck abounding
in your wake.

You are to me as
Your ilk singing at 5am:
Ungodly. Unwelcome.
Unwanted. Undesired.

Harbingers of dawn, of theft.
Why spoil my day?
You that are solitary creatures
designed as that bad omen.

Not Old Nick’s nastiest work
but the nettle that irks me most.

I address this to you:
to the singular,
to the lone magpie.

A one finger salute,
How is your family sir?

A Letter to my Sister

Dear N.

All is well here,
or as well as can
be expected.

It’s been snowing
but there’s only
ice left tonight. Too
cold for fun. We tried
to make a snowman
but by the time work
let out we’d have
needed a chisel.

Your boys would’ve loved
it. It was a proper snow,
not the slush we’re used
to. You could pulp this
kind, make projectiles.
I wouldn’t have escaped
their barrage. Four against
one. Been that way from
the day and hour you made
them. Do you remember

when I was young, that one
winter we got a proper snow?
The Christmas night when the
streetlamps turned the fields of it
fantaesque and the children in our
neighbourhood had a snowball fight?
That blade a few houses down
caught the corner of my eye
with one, a stone packed
in its heart. You remember
I swore blue blazes at her.
Fucking bitch, this and that,
roaring and bawling. If my wee
cheeks weren’t already red from
the cold they were after that tirade.

It must have been funny
from the outside. Me, barely older
than your son, my godson is now,
effing and blinding like a punter
having a poor day at the track.
I don’t know how you kept
a straight face. I couldn’t have.
You were a saint,
still are.

With love,

The Canal Queen Cometh

Just past the Sugar Island bridge,
on the half-sunk banks of the canal
is a high heel. Off white, getting offer
by the day, it’s stuck there in the mud
and moss and filthy run off of the town.
The ducks pay it no heed, as they do too
the tire and trolly abandoned further
upstream. Their green shining heads
bob on to some unheard headbanger
mix. The shoe stays put. Lost, desolate
by accident or design. Maybe the heel
was here first, before the water ran
through, before Sugar Island bridge,
indeed, before Sugar Island.

Perhaps Gráinne had to leave it,
on the run with Diarumid and no time
to rescue the footwear for fear of Fionn.
Or better yet,
Macha, belly full of babies, swung it
asunder in a state, off to a poor start
against McNessa’s new filley.
Or better still,
St Brigid bequeathed it as refuge
for the frogspawn to shelter
from the mallard menace.
Better the history we write ourselves.

The truth is not as thrilling
or ancient. More likely than
not swinging by the strap at an
ungodly hour, on the road home
from a bar somewhere nearby,
lost on the upswing and its absence
unnoticed till the morning after. A sister
bereft. It’ll stay there, lodged in the bank
like the sword in the stone, forgotten, patient,
waiting for a worthy one-footed soul.
The Canal Queen Cometh.

Picture Postcard

The Modernist master’s likeness
sits on the dresser— propped
up against a busted lamp— as
stiff and unsullied as the day
I bought it from the newsagents on
Fleet Street, or the day it was printed.

It’s that classic grey scale image we’ve
all seen before. Paris, 1928. Abbott’s work.
Seated, looking off to the middle distance
like a cat leisures to watch flies of an afternoon.
On the one limp hand two rings, big as coat
buttons, rude and ring finger adorned.
The wide brim hat at an angle, acute
as ever. The ash plant in his lap too thin,
not fit for leaning on. His jacket seeming
to swallow him everywhere but the wrists,
with the scratchy static texture of tweed.
The mouth isn’t lax nor taut, softer really,
more like it’s on the cusp of opening, has
the idea to open at the very least. You’d
miss that goatee, three furry lines, capital T,
unless you looked closely. The spectacles all
but dim his dark eyes, half-blind to boot,
their obsidian frames hiding what? Eyebrows?

Is he bored? Regal? Pensive?
What all could he be waiting for?
Another grant from Miss Weaver?
Praise? Acclaim? The Parisian metro line?
The photographer to loan him five francs?
Young Beckett to dictate a letter to?
This picture postcard sits on the dresser,
propped up on a busted lamp, free of ink.
If the master is waiting to be stamped
and sent he’ll be waiting a long while yet.


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