‘The Last Fire’ and other Poems by Helen Harrison


Nineteen forty-five was like that
Free-wheeling to the crossroads;
Fifteen miles later; her own birth-place;
Travelling was the best part, the wind at her back,
A greeting ahead. News from home….
Roaming the familiar lanes, sisters
Continuous chatter; away from the
Clatter of feeding hungry hens, pigs and
Cows. She could roam without children,
For a day: To pause for some rest.
A small slip of time away from the chores
That shaped her life. No sooner had the
Ceili begun, it was time for the door: among
Promises to write, feeling satisfied to have rested
Those tired limbs. She’d set off, her frame;
Feeling heavier, cycling up hills, the thrill
Of the annual visit finished; her spirit slightly
Diminished, yet younger. She’d relay through letters,
How when she got back to the crossroads….the
First thing she’d hear; to spoil her wonder
Were her pigs squealing with the hunger..


Evening, and there is nothing
To tempt me indoors.
Warmed from a day spent in the sun;
I spin it on my fingertips,
Pass it, to my team-
Scoring goals
Win rolls of respect. Talents
Swaying to the chants; that
Tribal-like victory dance.
Ball of mesmerising fire –
Football skills that inspire. Cool
Moves; dipping, diving,
Thriving, in the company,
Until friends slip away,
As they are called in –
One by one.
Alone, with a crimson sky;
The breath I take is sharp
Like loneliness,
As the night turns – flat.


How are you managing for heating oil?
Do you know that Mrs Mullin died?
I hope you like onions with your stuffing?
You said in your text that you’re on nights next.
Heaped on offerings of food,
Hot pans make mood for flavour.
Television. Loud repeated soaps,
Water hissing on stove. Potato
Peelings blocking sink – no time to think;
Can I help? I question her red face,
No it’s alright – clean the windows instead –
but listen; wait until after you’re fed.
I can smell the sweet potato peel
Upon my skin – and I visualise walking
Amongst the summer rows.
I pick over the box of earthy potatoes.
When I pull one that is perfect
I turn it in my hand like a gold nugget –
Buried in my memory – a charm.
I peel back happiness from the soil,
Memories drop into a watery bowl;
The day we planted them – sowing
Love which had lain on the edges.
Uncertain, I nearly threw love out
With un-seeded tubers; to decay in hedges.
Instead I wrapped them and stored them
In a cold shed – for spring planting;
I can already see your face shining pride
At flowering drills; you stand with a wide-stance;
The posture of the accomplished soul – your eyes,
Stare lovingly at each planted offering.


Even as the tides subside
I glide the horizon like a black-
Backed gull.
Waves of awe unleash
A various world of
Words I find deep in the folds
Of a sail-weathered wind
Like golden grain in my hand
Rolling the currents to fly
Against a limitless sky.
I harbour the salt and the scent
From bays of seafaring faces,
The sea of pearled possibilities
Where beneath the rim and the rhythm
Coral, shells and speckled fish
Water me with colour.


You gathered sticks
To bathe the night with fire,
You, in your element
Smiling watery eyes;
Happy sighs – as you bent.
The next day your soul gathered
Over your cold body
To be buried under sticks and clay….
These poems are © Helen Harrison

Helen-2[1]Helen Harrison was raised on the Wirral, seven miles from Liverpool, by Irish parents, and has lived most of her adult life in the border countryside of Co Monaghan, Ireland where she is married with a grown-up daughter.
During 2014 she was awarded a bursary from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to study poetry for a week at The Poets House, Donegal.
Her poems have been published in A New Ulster, North West Words and The Bray Journal.Her first collection of poetry The Last Fire was published during 2015 by Lapwing. Some of her poetry can be found at poetry4on.blogspot.com
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