‘I Saw Beckett The Other Day’ and other poems by Órfhlaith Foyle

Photograph of Her Brother’s Skull

They give you to me,
a numbered skull from a high shelf
and in my hand you are
a strange brute thing – a thing I hardly see
-my brother.
The clean smooth bone of you
– the whole of you no longer with me.
In this room of discovered skulls,
I have lost my memories
And the photographer fixes your dead stare
for his lens.
In this room of skulls,
Your face is lost,
my brother,
and I grips hard to what is left.

After Sunday Mass in Malawi

After Sunday Mass they whispered:
‘he was a poet, perhaps.
A dissident, yes.’
He ignored the spies in his classroom.’
Then someone else also remembered:
‘Of course, this is not our country.
We are Whites, you see

I Saw Beckett the Other Day

I saw Beckett the other day
in the doorway of that café
where you took his photograph.
You know the one…
when he looked up at the lens
and realised how he could
haunt us all.
‘Hey Beckett,’ I said
Rejoicing in my discovery of him;
his hand on the door, his eyes
skimming over the interior image
of cigarette smoke and coffee.
I stood beside him. He rubbed his face so
he might recognise me. I smiled and
said even I didn’t know what was
happening these days.
Even I could not stop the end.
He nodded, coughed and looked sly; his teeth were
yellow over the pink rim of his lips.
He mentioned the photograph. He said his face
had collected worms under the skin as if ready for
death and he smiled to show them dance
spasmatic with age-spots and veins.
Someone entered the café. Someone left.
Beckett touched the hair above my ear.
I stood on tip-toe so he could whisper down.
He said nothing. It was just a kiss
with the cold wind at our feet and the
smoke and egg friendly air
released in draughts between
the opening and closing of the café door;
Which he stepped through to find his table
and entered some other world,
under greasy lights
coupled with table shine and coffee cups,
and thoughts of death, where she stood
groomed for an entrance, were held back by
the odd moments of life
that still strung the useful breaths
Beckett used to blow his coffee cool.
‘I Saw Beckett The Other Day’ and other poems are © Órfhlaith Foyle

Órfhlaith Foyle’s first novel Belios was published by The Lilliput Press. Her first full poetry collection Red Riding Hood’s Dilemma (Arlen House) was short-listed for the Rupert and Eithne Strong Award in 2011. Arlen House published Foyle’s debut short fiction, Somewhere in Minnesota, in 2011; its title story first appeared in Faber and Faber’s New Irish Short Stories (2011), edited by Joseph O’Connor. Foyle’s second short fiction collection Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin (Arlen House 2014) was chosen as one the Irish Times books of the year. Her work has been published in The Dublin Review, The Wales Arts Review, The Manchester Review, and The Stinging Fly.


Órfhlaith Foyle was born in Africa to Irish parents and now lives in Galway, Ireland.

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