“Prostrate” and other poems by Mary O’Connell

The First Cut is…

for Ifrah Ahmed
A fat red sun comes up above the trees.
Ngozi claps her hands, today’s the day
her gran will bring her to Shangazi,
her mother’s aunt.”You must be brave”, they tell
the eight-year-old, who loves to hop and skip
along the dirt-tracks where the lizards play.
They walk for miles, but she discovers tunda;
mangoes and papayas in gran’s cotton bag—
a special treat for this her special day.
gran’s hand tightens as she walks into the house.
The windows are all darkened and a fan
on the ceiling makes a whirring sound.
Then she sees a bed with shiny instruments
and pushes into gran to hide her face.
The old one sits into a wing-backed chair,
cradles Ngozi in her arms and speaks:
“It won’t take long, my love, just look away.”
A touch of steel, and then a scalding pain.
“Now you’ll be ready for your wedding day.”
she hears them shout, as they raise and place her
on the bed, lying on one side, both legs tied.
Tears burn her cheeks, her throat feels sore and dry.
She shivers in the heat and feels betrayed,
invaded by a mutilating blade.

Amaryllis Belladonna

Something rising from the earth invades my life,
flaunts shamelessly in my place of refuge.
For weeks it lay folded in its verdant sheath,
then slowly pushed out its raw obscenity.
Interlocking petals mimicked loudspeakers
that blazed out without warning,
a ‘triffid’ broadcasting calamity.
It stares me down, daring me to look
into its crimson gullet, falling into black.
Yellow stamen at its lip protrude
to mock me with a snide gap-toothed leer.
Why should a gifted pot-plant snarl my peace?
Could the seeds go back to adolescence
coming upon the secret bloom of blood?


The Muezzin’s cry
calls you out of sleep,
you wear a cloth
that cancels all your curves,
walk to the Mosque to find
your place behind the latticed screen,
supplicate heaven
to send no more distress,
the belts of gelignite
that rock the square,
the Prophet’s message twisted in the sand.
fragmented symbols rising in the sand.
Prostrate and other poems is © Mary O’Connell

Mary O’Connell has had poems published in Southword , Best of Irish Poetry 2008, and the Café Review, (Portland ME). She taught languages and English and now lives in Cork city. She also had some success reciting her work in Strokestown and Derry. She has been fortunate to have been mentored by Paddy Galvin and Greg O’Donoghue in a workshop at the Munster Literature Centre, and often writes about nature and classical mythology, as well as taking an ironic look at public figures and events. A regular at O Bhéal, she has twice been asked to read for visiting American students.
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