Poems from ‘Available Light’ by Maria McManus

from ‘Émigrés’


What is going on in your heart?

Prisoners of war live here

Throw off your gaudy vestments,
spring’s best and brightest fig
and let me see you naked
and then, more naked still —

Put your heart
in my hearts cavity.
Slip it in.

Bring your worry beads if needs be.
It’s not too late
to shred all documents
of denunciation.


Now we must
hunt by ear and
put our trust

 in gossiping swallows,
the hooded crows, the herring gulls,

the wryneck’s potent drum.



Between silences
take notice
of the imago
of your stolen self.

Sold back
but at what price?



Collect wishbones,
place them in charnel houses,
quarter the ground
to make sure and certain
none are missing –
these things bring a plan to grief.



The song-birds are drowning,
the sea is now a cemetery.
      The song-birds are drowning,
      the sea is now a cemetery



Life’s comforts
are honeycombed
and treacherous,

      and moths
      appear to drink your tears
      while you are sleeping


from ‘The House That Stood For Happiness’


This nest offers its mouth
to the sky. Blades of grass
imprinting against the limits,
fresh as linen. The house
that stood for happiness was lost–
but the heart beats on
for that which curves
and holds,

returning its call,
its sound.



Where there is light,
I want this place –
between heaven and earth,
a high place for dreaming,
a marriage of moss and down
cupped just out of reach,
given form from my breast,
pressed out with my body,
a dress to fit, breathed into.

I made good
these un-helpable
palpitations—I put them to work,
searching out the place that knows
the choreography of forest-love,
where the world and its hostilities
are muffled, suffocating, far away –
beyond the trees’ cordoning
I have found a place
                                   to sing.


Maria McManus
lives in Belfast. She is the author of Available Light (Arlen House, 2018), We are Bone (2013), The Cello Suites (2009) and Reading the Dog (2006) (Lagan Press), she has collaborated extensively with others to put literature into public spaces. She is artistic director and curator of Poetry Jukebox and an active organiser and founder member of  Fired! Irish Poets.

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