“Dive of the Kingfisher” and other poems by Ria Collins

Dance of the Samurai

I danced in my Communion dress
barefoot dervish
mother read aloud from Illustrated Poetry,
I found my plastic sword.
I dreamt I was a samurai
lived at the foot of Mt.Fuji,
wore armour and mask
raven hair in a top-knot.
Princess Tsuru, daughter of Ochi Clan.
I practiced the Five Rings Of The Sword,
meditated and studied
the way of the warrior.
Father transformed an old camogie stick
to a majestic Naginata sword.
Grandmother gave me a gold silk skirt,
jacket of azure velvet
with extended shoulder wings.
I wrapped black calico around my waist
and placed my sword in the Obi.
At school, I carved a mask of such ferocity
teacher placed it in a bag,
told me to carry it home.
Now, in the evenings, I put on my wedding dress,
let folds fall over hidden scars,
I lengthen the woven rope
feed it slowly towards him, and wait.
My mask slips down. I prepare for war.


Dive of the Kingfisher

I am tired of being a woman
suckled and torn from childbirth and men,
hands wrinkled from years submerged,
I clasp at dreams that trickle through the plughole.
Forgotten, uncoffined. I must wait.

I am tired of grinding cumin,
coriander, mustard, and cardamom
while I taste only emptiness.
Children loved and well-fed have left,
I move from person to person.

I shoulder the clouds of my mother,
blackened January,
rain falls inward, time contracts,
chalk bones, weightless, skinless,
unseen madness in colourless veins.

A sparrow of small movements
I move around crumbs, claws light
ready to dance through the sky.
I should be a bird
a thing of beauty.

Perhaps a kingfisher,
with azure underbelly
cloaked with emerald wings,
a brilliant blue flash
across the Universe.


Elegy to some Mysterious Form

From Katy in Dublin to Ruby in Liverpool 

Misshapen walnut
nestled hard against my palm,
as I searched for your soul
in pitted holes.

I looked for a connection
to your core,
all I saw was
mismatched joints, a jellied eel
of jumbled vertebrae.

I held your flaccid nothingness,
soft against the dampness of exertion,
translucent beads like tears
dropping from my skin.

Should we wrap you tenderly
in love and lace,
or allow you to be sluiced
In some unknown place?
I do not regret
housing your short journey.
please try to understand.

When they informed me
of incompatibility,
my body spilled,
the severed cord
my decision.

Now the jagged space
blurs without sides
where you should be,
you haunt my melodies
with your legacy.

I see you in some mysterious form,
tall and proud, watching us.
exotic plumes, unruffled,
having waged a war
of constitutional law,
about our rights
but what of yours?

You left us here to wonder.


No Survivors

Translucent shadings, surfacing gut thrusts
which threatened to choke
their broken promises.
It had to stop.

Lost in make-believe, she was cold,
hardened as ice-cubes,
used up tulips returning to the soil,
or curled magazines yellowed with time.

He never faltered, dull ink-coloured
the crushed bloom of her dreams,
no milk or honey to soothe
saltwater dabbed on the ache.

Friends safely distanced, children cowered,
insulted in his world of men,
his dammed silt anger –
she, his punch-bag.

She fought for a job, trialed escape –
sick-days, unhealed wounds
bones protruding through the stretched skin,
always in denial of one-way dialogue.

Sun glinted on flint through glass,
she grabbed her chance, danced around a shadow,
left hand raised in defence as he sniggered
the air bent blue.

In her cell, stone wrapped retreat,
memory dimmed, she stares through the edge
a closed loss, broken children in care.
– no survivors.

No glory, just burn of pain
but she loves him still.
Long before the beginning
there was going to be an end.


To Rothko

I would like a lover like you
concise, with depths of colour,
a definite touch
to reach the heart in me,
brush me with strokes,
urge me outside myself
until my breath gasps.

You would show me
how form subsides then soars
from cobalt to violet
crimson to gold
a tightrope between worlds,
absorb all fear and thought
in a perfectly formed frame.

Feet firmly planted on wood, unshaken
like a tai-chi stance,
“as above so below”.
A white line spills across canvas,
in the centre, stillness.


The Stanhopea and the Mexican Boys

In the shade of a tropical garden
under a sherbet sky,
the Stanhopea orchid stretches
purple daubed petals
emitting its scent,
vanilla and chocolate peppermint.

Hundreds of orchid bees
lured from twenty feet
by two blood maroon eye spots
beneath the belly of the sepals
suck the essence for propagation
in the sweet seduction to follow.

Twenty yards away
in parched streets,
young boys caught, waving guns,
drawn to crimson sorrow,
fall with a kiss of gunshot
while the Barons watch.

The Stanhopea ripens,
in one short burst.
Like the Barons the bees will leave
when the petals fall.

“Dive of the Kingfisher” and other poems © Ria Collins


Ria Collins worked as Director of Nursing for many years. Now living in Galway, she has read at Clifden Arts Festival and Galway Library open mic events. She has been published in Skylight 2016, shortlisted for Over the Edge New Writer of the Year 2016 and longlisted in 2017. She was shortlisted for Poems for Patience 2017 and in 2018. She attended workshops in Galway with Kevin Higgins and Dublin Writers Centre with Mark Granier, Jessica Traynor and Adam Wyeth. Most recently she has performed a collaboration of her work with music at the Cuirt International Festival of literature 2018.

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