“Swimming” and other poems by Eimear Bourke

Cerebral Sorbet

I’d like to take my brain out

Just for a day.
And put it on ice
Cerebral sorbet

A chance to cool down and let these thoughts melt away

A hollow cranium could be lots of fun
My skull drying out while I play in the sun

I’d go to the beach and get salt on my skin
Under the waves,
With the fishes I’d swim

Deeper and deeper
To dark blue I would dive
Where ringing in my ears would signal
I’m alive

I’ll come back of course.
There’s no other way

A brainless lawyer in the sea cannot stay.

Sand ‘tween my toes, I’d walk to the shore
Encephalon recharged
Bad thoughts no more


Attempts to summarize nine years in a page

First, there were bubble-gum candy shoes and a low-slung ponytail
You. Standing in the hallway of a dorm filled with 2011 college girl energy.
Which you were lacking.
Half nervous. Half apathetic.

I had my own reasons for coming out to say hi.
In bed with a beautiful boy. But wanting any excuse to get away.

Unhurriedly yet firmly a friendship formed.
Small gestures like doing one another’s dishes. Chatting over popcorn and MTV.
Invariably leading to hangovers, and four friends in a single-bed.

Time trundles on.
Priorities and personalities change.
New sexualities and new focuses are found.
There are drugs, lights and endless amounts of paperwork and studying.

Sometime mid-2013 (I think); we come together on a peeling couch
In a friend’s apartment on Cork Street
And after that nothing is quite the same.
Not wanting the sex. Not wanting you.
Wanting to hurt another person. In a far off place.

But alea iacta est
The death knell of one form of friendship
And the beginning of a new era.
The “Complicated, What’s Going on Years?”
I wouldn’t take them back.

Like a drawstring purse. I hold them close to my person.
Even still.

Memories of phone calls that lasted ‘til the early hours of the morning.
I’m a lawyer now. And you’re in pilot school in Spain.
It’s 2016 but we’re watching a 2003 Louis Theroux documentary over Skype.
In the laptop screen glow and the breath in my earphones, I could tell you anything.
But I can’t. There is so much not said.
But only sometimes.
Other times there is nothing there. We’re just watching neo-Nazi children play guitars at 4am.

Every time you’re home we’re holding hands beneath bedsheets.
Is this normal?
I feel like I’m losing my mind. And losing all sense of what our friendship once was.
And talking to you is like talking to a wall.
So in 2017 I pick freedom. After that, I don’t talk to you at all.

Until 2019. When things aren’t quite so raw.
When we meet for a formal coffee I can still see that nervous teenager in your eyes
What do you see when you see me?


Cycling to Howth in Autumn

Spokes spinning
faster than our lazy legs are pedal

Out of time

Adults on bikes
Cycling to the past

The sun’s reflecting off your backlight
I’d follow you anywhere
Not just to the beach


An Explanation


You’d imagine there’d have been a broken plate,
—I’m wracking my mind—
But in the rubble of six years, there’s not one household item.

I can think of whispered furies,
On cobblestoned streets in Temple Bar.
Or even drunken outbursts,
And shrieks  —like wounded kittens screaming—
For everyone to hear.

But like there’s no home,
There’s no friend to turn to.
There’s no advice you can ask for,
Not when you love in a box.
(You can scream but no one can hear it)



I used to dream –and fearfully I’ll add
–Why not be honest?
That one day it would be real.
I don’t know how it would have happened.
Or what you would have done.
It probably wouldn’t have been like in the movies,
Where you’d grab my hand and say she’s the one.

A quieter victory I guess.
An L’Oreal moment.
Where you’d turn and say she’s worth it.
If even just to me at first.



What happens when there’s nothing left?
I’ve always watched the waves flee to sea.
As a young girl, I didn’t believe in reconciliation or salvaging.
But the waves that go come back.
Still —they don’t break the same.



And so from the heights of a top bunk
We plunged
Into the wet depths of a deep blue sea

As children, we couldn’t have understood that no lifeboats would come
That one would swim ashore, while the other treaded water endlessly
Incapable of forgetting the coloured fish and dizzying euphoric rush of salt on wet skin

Mermaids they were
Half-legged and half other that no one else could understand

Yet you walked ashore and resigned me to a life as a whale

Coming back on occasional twilight eves
To swim with me in the moonlight
To dance under the waves

Water pounding against our eardrums
Eyes flooding with burning confusion
And yet it’s calm

and what is that whoosh and crash
The rushing promise of you coming home —

It’s gone forever.

You crash upon that shore
Green blue turns to white
And I sing this lonely whale song

Having become a woman you can’t possibly understand.

So I wait.

To be harpooned,
Or to drown, to die.

Swimming and other poems are © Eimear Bourke

Eimear Bourke is a 27-year-old Irish lawyer who has always been interested in poetry and writing. Born in Dublin and raised in Navan, Co. Meath, she graduated from Maynooth University in 2013 with a degree in Law and English. Her writing focuses on interpersonal relationships and Irish seascapes. She is inspired by Yrsa Daley-Ward and Rita Ann Higgins.

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