Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Poems by AM Cousins

AM Cousins

New Irish Writing

Poems by AM Cousins

December 26, 2020


i.m. of Eavan Boland


Our nun schooled us in all there was to know:

how to measure, parse, recite, memorise;

how to bear witness under duress and —

in the unlikely event of a miracle —

how to greet and welcome a bishop.


When the unimaginable came to pass,

we formed a half circle on the cement yard;

our visitor extended a gracious hand

to our nun and we watched her black serge skirt

fly up to catch the air, parachute

to a crinoline as she sank to her knees,

her poor face purple, My Lord on her lips.


She struggled to her feet, regained her balance

while we sweated, trembled in the knowledge

that our homemade skirts would not disguise

a clumsy curtsy should we be called upon.


Not one of us was invited to step up

and demonstrate obeisance to The Anointed.

Before he left, we cheered his parting gift —

a holiday at the nun’s discretion

and, of course, the episcopal blessing.


So, I knew what I was doing last September —

when readings and recitations were over —

I dropped to my knees in front of the poet,

but I didn’t dare to kiss her hand

or touch the hem of her sensible garment.





The time we brought you home —

that first night when you woke

in the small hours and refused

the teat of your brand-new bottle,

clamping your mouth shut only

to open it to wail inconsolably —

I was sorely tempted to hold you

to my breast but feared you would

pull away and search the shadows

for a glimpse of her ghost.


The next night was little better —

the crying woke the house

and we moved from room to room,

I rocked and sang and kissed,

cajoled, then wept along with you —

I thought you might have sensed


that a hundred miles away,

a young woman — in a single bed,

in a single room — breasts bound,

her bleeding staunched,

nursed her phantom child.

AM Cousins’s poetry has appeared in literary publications including The Stinging Fly, The SHOp and Poetry Ireland Review. Her work was highly commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition 2015, 2016 and 2019, and her poem Not my Michael Furey won the FISH poetry prize 2019. Anne is a regular contributor to RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany. She lives in Wexford town and her first collection of poetry is due to be published by Chaffinch Press in 2021.


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