‘When’ and other poems by Alice Kinsella


Periwinkle (I)

Your fingers unveiled the shell,
like the unwrapping of a present.
Little twirls on the bright jewel found
amongst greys, greens, muddied sand.

Words whistling through tooth gaps,
excitement brought by being somewhere new.
Finding me still at home, unchanged,
ready to believe any adventure.

Curled sunshine shell like the buttercup
reflection on your chin,
shimmering summer sea surface,
as we held our fingers too close
to each other’s faces for the first time.

The swirl of it, poised to spring,
and unravel into something new,
something other than the little yellow
shell, carried home from your holidays,
to share a little of the sunlight with me.

Periwinkle was originally published in The Galway Review

Tír na nÓg

In lieu of history classes we learned legends of warriors,
fierce fighting Fianna we were sure lived in our blood.

Neart ár ngéag

We waved ash branches for swords,
flew down hills on steeds with wheels,
foraged berries, scaring magpies with screams,
cleared the stream in one leap — this was our land.

My favourite was the story
of Oisín, little deer bard boy,
bravest of band of brothers,
tempted by beauty and promises,
he left for the land of the young.

We watched the tape of Into the West
while eating beans on toast
we pretended we’d cooked in camp fires,
you laughing at my Dublin dialect
dissolving with Wild West warrior words.

Beart de réir ár mbriathar

Ears hanging on the telling of legends
round camp fires, the memories of
stories, the bravery of Oisín the poet
prince and his fairy love laying siege
to time with their eternal youth.

You ran home in half-dark before bedtime,
I watched the film to the end,
read the whole story in the illustrated book

learning that no amount of love
could keep him in the land without death
that the call of age would always test.

Glaine ár gcroí

One snap of the rope, the saddle strap broke,
the fall of a warrior that could not keep fighting.

Tír na nÓg was originally published on the Rochford Street Review

The ends of it

I want to watch the clouds melt into Croagh Patrick,
sitting on the stone wall of my parents’ drive,
one more summer night that is miles past bed time.

I want to watch tadpoles grow legs
while they still have tails, trap them
in a jar and marvel at their ability
to be at once both and neither.

I want to watch the calves stop being cute
until only syrupy brown eyes remind us
they were ever splayed bloody and new on the floor
of the barn while we looked on in fleece lined pyjamas
and wellies, red-eyed and giddy.

I want to watch you smoke your first cigarette,
feel the burn of it when I try,
and the wet of your mouth on the tip of it,
want to dig a hole in the field and bury the ends of it.
Bury it deep,
where no one will find it.

The ends of it was originally published in The Stony Thursday Book

Cooking Chicken

Pink is the colour of life
of new babies’ wet heads
and open screaming mouths.

Pink is the rose hip of a woman at the heart
of what’s between her hips
and the tip of my tongue between bud lips.

There’s the hint of pink on daisies
when they open their petals to say
hello to the birth of a new day.

But pink is also the colour of death
as the knife slides between the flesh
and separates it into food.

Pink is a suggestion of sickness when I pierce the skin,
dissect the sinews, glimpse the tint of it and turn
it to the heat to kill the pink and the possibility.

It’s the quiver of the comb atop feathers,
and the neck as it’s sliced from the body
by the executioner’s axe.

It’s the colour of cunt
and the hint in the sky
when the cock crows.

Cooking Chicken was originally published in Banshee Lit (Spring 2017)


When you can say the words that are not listened to
But keep on saying them because you know they’re true;
When you can trust each other when all men doubt you
And from support of other women make old words new;
When you can wait, and know you’ll keep on waiting
That you’ll be lied to, but not sink to telling lies;
When you know you may hate, but not be consumed by hating
And know that beauty doesn’t contradict the wise;
When you can dream – and know you have no master;
When you can think – let those thoughts drive your aim;
When you receive desire and abuse from some Bastard
And treat both manipulations just the same;
When you hear every trembling word you’ve spoken
Retold as lies, from a dishonest heart;
When you have had your life, your body, broken
But stop, breathe, and rebuild yourself right from the start;
When you can move on but not forget your beginnings
And do what’s right no matter what the cost;
Lose all you’ve worked for, forget the aim of winning
And learn to find the victory in your loss;
When you can see every woman struggle – to
create a legacy, for after they are gone
And work with them, when nothing else connects you
Except the fight in you which says: ‘Hold on!’
When you can feel the weight of life within you
But know that you alone are just enough;
When you know not to judge on some myth of virtue
To be discerning, but not too tough;
When you know that you have to fight for every daughter
Even though you are all equal to any son;
When you know this, but still fill your days with laughter
You’ll have the earth, because you are a woman!
When was originally published in The Irish Times for International Women’s Day 2017

Making Pies

We picked blackberries
after school for three weeks
before dressing up and dreading
the púca’s poison spit.

We munched as we gathered,
were left with only half our spoils,
licked our fingers dry of juice,
we always came home late.

To protect their labours the briars
attacked and tore into soft finger tips.
I delved into the gushing wound, lapped up
the coppery flow and sucked out the hidden prick.

I always said it didn’t hurt.

There was an orchard in my back garden
there we could pick our second ingredient;
Apples, six apiece to make a pie.

They were high up, buried in the auburn curls of autumn.
You’d give me a boost, half the time we’d fall over,
and stain our trousers with the dewy evening lawn.

You always said it didn’t hurt.

Once, they were sparse: a bad year my mother said,
so she bought cooking apples from the new Tesco in Town.
I had to peel the stickers off before she skinned them.
That was the year I learned to use the sharp knives,
and we didn’t go trick or treating any more.

An earlier version of Making Pies was published on Poethead in 2015

Alice Kinsella was born in Dublin and raised in the west of Ireland. She holds a BA(hons) in English Literature and Philosophy from Trinity College Dublin. Her poetry has been widely published at home and abroad, most recently in Banshee Lit, Boyne Berries, The Lonely Crowd and The Irish Times. Her work has been listed for competitions such as Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition 2016, Jonathan Swift Awards 2016, and Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Competition 2017. She was SICCDA Liberties Festival writer in residence for 2017 and received a John Hewitt bursary in the same year. Her debut book of poems, Flower Press, will be published in 2018 by The Onslaught Press.

‘When’ and other poems are © Alice Kinsella

For more information visit aliceekinsella.com or Facebook.com/AliceEKinsella

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