‘The Price’ and Other Poems by Jane Clarke

Every life

She fills the days with movement, cuts back
on coffee and wine, eats blueberries, red peppers,
broccoli, kale, writes down the words she won’t
let herself say, like arid, fallow, barren, ache.

The man on the radio says every life is laced
with loss, that’s what makes us whole. She reads
a book about Buddhism to learn how not to
want, adds to the list of places it’s best to stay

away from; supermarkets, coffee shops, beaches,
hospitals, parks. She pretends the temperature charts
haven’t taken the pleasure away, stops herself
thinking of names, Oisín, Molly, Sinead,

won’t let herself hope when she’s a few days late,
lists her consolations and tries to avoid the questions,
like how did this happen to them, what was it they did
or didn’t do, how will they know when it’s time to stop.

by Jane Clarke

First published in Mslexia, 2012


Against the flow

One day you knew you must turn,
begin to swim against the current,

leave the estuary waters, brackish
with sediment, head upstream

through riffles and deeps,
millraces that churn in spate,

over sheets of granite, across weirs,
into rapids that thunder-pound,

squeeze between boulders,
to the upper reaches of the river,

those waters of blanket-bog brown,
where you’d find a place in gravel and silt

to hollow a dip,
to spawn a life of your own.

by Jane Clarke

First published in Ambit, 2013


The Price

You could fit my father’s farm
into two of my husband’s fields,
that’s why I left, a girl of eighteen,
for the arms of an old man.

Four counties south of the shore
where my mother heaved armfuls
of kelp and carrageen into a creel,
I folded my life into his,

bore him four girls and a boy.
I scrubbed his floors, kneaded his bread,
carried water from his well.
In his wordless way, he was kind

but what price two ponies for a trap,
rooms lit by gas, books on shelves?

by Jane Clarke

First published in Ambit, 2013


The Suitcase

As a child I didn’t understand
that despair was a neighbour
of love and if you were lucky
it stayed beyond the garden gate,
just visiting from time to time
to borrow sugar, test faith.

As a child I didn’t understand
that when my mother showed me
the nightie, toothbrush, nylons,
miniature bible and summer dress
she kept packed in the suitcase
under their bed, it was herself

she was telling, I can go, if I want to.
Sometimes I checked
had she emptied it yet, sometimes
I wanted to shout, go if you’re going,
why wait? I didn’t understand
it was the suitcase that helped her to stay.

by Jane Clarke

First published in Poetry Wales, 2013


On the Boat

On the boat we were mostly virgins,
we talked about who we were going to be –
waitresses, seamstresses, nurses,
we didn’t talk about why we had to leave.

We talked about where we were going to be,
the wooden frame house with a picket fence,
but we didn’t talk about why we had to leave
as we touched the lockets around our necks.

The wooden frame house with a picket fence
led to talk of lost villages, lost streets
as we touched the lockets around our necks.
We didn’t foresee tenements that grew thick as trees

when we talked of lost villages, lost streets
and the diligent men we were going to marry.
We didn’t foresee tenements that grew thick as trees,
the suitcase of memories we would have to carry

to the diligent men we were going to marry
when we were waitresses, seamstresses, nurses
nor the suitcase of memories we would have to carry
from the boat, where we were mostly virgins.

by Jane Clarke

First published in the Irish Times, 22nd November 2014


© Jane Clarke


Jane ClarkeOriginally from a farm in Roscommon, Jane Clarke now lives in Co. Wicklow. She holds a BA in English and Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin and an MPhil in Writing from the University of South Wales. She has a background in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and combines writing with her work as a management consultant in not-for-profit organisations. Her poems are widely published in journals, newspapers and anthologies, including The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Rialto, The North, Poetry Wales, Mslexia, Agenda, Ambit, Abridged, The Interpreter’s House, Envoi, The Stinging Fly, Cyphers, The Shop, Crannog and The Stony Thursday Book; Tokens for the Foundlings Anthology, ed. Tony Curtis (Seren Books, 2012), Anthology for a River, ed. Teri Murray (River Shannon Protection Alliance, 2012), The Fish Anthology, ed. Clem Cairns and Jula Walton (Fish Publishing, 2012) Listowel Writers’ Week Winners Anthology, (Writers’ Week Listowel, 2007 & 2014), The Roscommon Anthology, ed. Michael & John O’Dea (Roscommon Literary Heritage Group, 2013), International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge Course Companion, (Oxford University Press, 2013), A Telmetale Bloomnibus, ed. Clodagh Moynan (Irish Writers’ Centre, 2013), The Hippocrates Prize Anthology, (The Hippocrates Press, 2013), Leaving Certificate Higher Level English Course Papers, (Educate.ie, 2014); She received the Listowel Writer’s Week Poetry Collection Prize in 2014 and has won a number of other prizes including Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition (2014), Poems for Patience (2013), iYeats (2010), Listowel Writers Week (2007). Runner-up in the Poetry Ireland/Trocaire Competition (2013) and the Listowel Writers Week Poetry Collection Competition (2013), she was also shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition 2013, the Hennessy New Irish Writing Literary Awards 2013 & 2014, the Hippocrates Prize (2013), Mslexia Poetry Competition (2012), Fish Poetry Prize (2009 & 2012). In 2009 she was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and was awarded an arts bursary by Wicklow County Council. Her first collection will be published by Bloodaxe Books in 2015.

8 responses to “‘The Price’ and Other Poems by Jane Clarke”

  1. It’s Saturday morning, I’m making crepes for the still waking family and I just wanted to pass the time, but j got à punch in the gut out of nowhere. I’m in tears (in a good way?)


  2. Re Jane Clarke’s poems: Love the articulation of actuality through a sinewy syntax of quick breaths within in a longer held breath like a prayer. The voices ring true in the resounding stillness.


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