‘Reverse Emigration’ and other poems by Alice Lyons

Reverse Emigration

When I boarded the plane, everyone looked like Uncle Tom
ruddy, some were empurpled
grey hair or auburn in terrier thatches
pale blue of eye
a smidgen of resignation:
the tribe.
I thought We are driving to the interior
I thought, holy god
the airline upholstery
was Kavanagh, Ní Dhomhnaill and Heaney
handwriting. I thought
holy shit, this is the maw.
The maw.

The Boom and After the Boom

The Shannon when it washes
the shoreline in the wake
of a cruiser slurs
exactly like the Polish
language you hear in LIDL
on Friday evenings, seven p.m.
payday. That’s what
Gerry says.

The river surface offers
space to the song:
hammer taps of Latvians
and Poles nailing planks
of a deck. The place
between water and sky
holding sound. It is underloved
and an amphitheater.

Latvians and Lithuanians
are nailing planks
of grooved decking.
It will be a nice feature
of that riverside property.
! Their tap-tapping
underscores the distance
between this side and that.

Winter gales have made swift work
of the billboard proclaiming
REMAINING Crumpled up
on the roadside now
two-by-four legs akimbo
a circus-horse curtsy
or steeplechase mishap.


Greed got in the way. We built a fake estate.
Levinas said to see ourselves we need each other yet
doorbells, rows of them, glow in the night village
a string of lit invitations no elbow has leaned into
(both arms embracing messages). Unanswered
the doors are rotting from the bottom up.
It’s another perplexing pothole in our road, loves.
Hard core from the quarry might make it level,
hard core and cunning speculation into matters
concerning love and doubt, concerning want and plenty.
O the places where pavement runs out and ragwort
springs up, where Lindenwood ends but doesn’t abut
anywhere neatly, a petered-out plot of Tayto tumbleweeds,
binbags, rebar, roof slates, offcuts,
guttering, drain grilles, doodads, infill, gravel !
A not-as-yet nice establishment, possessing potential
where we have no authorised voice but are oddly fitted out
for the pain it takes to build bit by bit.
When the last contractions brought us to the brink
of our new predicament, we became developers.


You e-mailed your whole desktop, which is typical
  the blue of it Scrovegni chapel blue
a smile I’ve never seen before it is aware of smiling
reveals itself to the camera in the computer.
Squared-off angels, no they are JPEGs, hover
over a faux Polaroid you switched to sepia mode
so I wouldn’t look like a geyser
a river of years to reach such tender self-regard
for a moment you are unencumbered
by the monster critical eye (you meant geezer)
scissored hair blunt and sister-like and merciful
your entire kitchen liquid in the glossy Frigidaire.
It puts me in mind of Fra Angelico, those tricky frescoes
(I seem to translate everything to quattrocento time)
Christ in a blindfold, eyes like poached eggs gazing
down and inward, the gathered regal robes
the marble throne all white and pouring up, yes
like a geyser pouring up while Roman soldiers
unencumbered by their bodies beat and spit and mock.
I have always loved those arrested gestures
the mute green rectangle beautiful as your computer
in Philadelphia where Safari’s compass points
permanently Northeast and the Finder icon smiles
twice and benevolently straight on and in profile.
from Poetry Ireland Review 100 (ed. Paul Muldoon)
Note:  Versions of ‘The Boom & After the Boom’, ‘Developers’ and ‘Reverse Emigration’ first appeared in Poetry (Chicago), December 2011. A Poetry Foundation Podcast The Woman Who Quit featuring work by Alice Lyons.

Alice_Lyons_sepiaAlice Lyons was born in Paterson, New Jersey and has lived in the West of Ireland for fifteen years. Her poems have appeared in publications such as Tygodnik Powszcheny (Kraków) and POETRY (Chicago), as public installations in Staircase Poems at The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon and as poetry films in cinema and gallery screenings worldwide.

She is the recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry, the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary, an Academy of American Poets Award and multiple bursaries in literature and film from An Chomhairle Ealoine/The Arts Council. Her poetry film, The Polish Language, co-directed with Orla Mc Hardy, has screened in competition in over 30 film festivals worldwide and garnered numerous awards including an IFTA nomination. Her new poetry film, Developers, premiered at Oslopoesie, Norway in 2013. She has lectured in English and Fine Art at Boston University, Maine College of Art, the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Queen’s University, Belfast. She holds a Ph.D. from the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University, Belfast. She is currently curator of Poetry Now, Dun Laoghaire.


Alice Lyons

Curator Poetry Now 2015

Mountains to Sea Book Festival

Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin

Curator | The Dock
Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim

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