Alone on The Blackstock Road
I buy a yellow armchair
and a stone grey bookcase, carry books
from the attic in Ireland, choose titles
I think speak something of me.
I sit at the table and watch
buses stop outside and strangers look,
my hackles rise, I lift a shoulder
and twist my back to them.
I turn to write another
note to self and you: Finally
you came; distant as a far moon,
you didn’t look at my books.
But, close in the dark I opened
the book about words. You lit the page
with a candle’s light and I read
how to be ‘Alone’.
Aqui me pinté yo
I live alone above a Japanese take away,
the hallway smells like last night’s dinner.
I put flowers on the bookshelf,
beside the silhouette of a woman
pulling up her stockings. I stick
a self-portrait of Frida Kahlo to the fridge,
with a list of small domestic items
I need to make a house a home.
In my bedroom bits of clothing spill
from suitcases I’d like to give away.
Rain on Rathlin Island
The rain that salves,
that smoothes the fibres
of a frayed heart,
the rain that draws you into warmth
like the harbour
of your grandmother’s arms
or her bed at midday in childhood;
That was the rain that day. Kind rain.
We walked to the other side of the Island
past yellow iris, rushes and the lough
to a family of mottled seals,
at the inlet at Ushet.
I planted my feet on the rocks
stood legs apart and gave myself back
my name, called it into the rain bringer.
I sent my name
where the Atlantic swirls up in the Irish Sea.
Rue lighthouse on Rathlin casts gold light;
a thurible swings the Sea of Moyle.
Western Isles of Scotland rise;
peaks in incense smoke.
Stones are lichen marked;
mushroom, terracotta, olive green.
Nettles spring, heathers crop, harebells drop,
thistles brighten violet to white,
they wisp their creamy beards to breeze,
to bird song, to a man’s voice from rocks above.
Sycamore’s arms reach,
gather honeysuckle in.
A six spotted burnet rests lace wings;
black, red, on stem green.
Bees move in blackberry flowers,
open, pink in bloom.
A daddy-longlegs floats,
trampolines the ferny verge.
The old mine in the mountain opens low;
dank – heavy drops fall slow.
The black lump rises fast – gut to throat,
a skim of coal is hard pressed in soft palm.
The long slow beat of a sea bird
brings blue expanse to basalt cliffs.
Purple waters rock and sway,
back again to Murlough Bay.
I thought the moon was a man,
into the distance of a different universe.
I thought I was the earth,
the tide, the wolf;
the woman he turned his face from.
I thought the earth was dark, barren,
the tide, a witless,
In my mind’s eye
I saw the wolf, dull-eyed and bent,
no light to cast her shadow into.
But you taught me the moon.
The moon, the moon, look at the moon,
it is a waxing crescent.
She is orange in the sky tonight,
low and full over Red Bay
and the world is pregnant with her promise.
“Alone on the Blackstock Road” and other poems are © Aine McAllister
Aine McAllister is a poet from the Glens of Antrim, who works as a Senior Teaching Fellow at UCL IOE. She is currently completing an MA Poetry at Queens University. Her work is published in journals and she is working towards her first collection. She is interested in exploring how poetry gives voice and using dialogue as a tool for writing and for facilitating writing.