“Síle Na Gig” and other poems by Libby Hart



Most paintings portray you
as a placid woman bearing a salver,
as if you were offering cupcakes,
rather than the two breasts
that were sheared from your body.

If there is anguish, it’s half-hearted.
If there is blood, it’s a thimbleful.
Such feeble depictions of brutal revenge.

Some say you were then rolled
over broken pottery and scorching coals.
Another version sent you to the stake.
But does the method really matter?
It’s enough to learn you were tortured for saying, “No”.

They held you down for him and raped you for him.
They tied your wrists for him and cut off your breasts for him.
They stoked the tinder for him and burned you for him.

All the while he kept his gaze on the small fire that you made.

Note | Previously published in Cordite Poetry Review (ed. Curnow, N.), Issue 91, May 2019 (cordite.org.au).


Ursa Major

Ursus arctos horribilis

this is where the whirlwind stops.
Right here, among dark incantation.
Look around you, use those grizzly eyes,
for soon you’ll turn polar—a bulk of light
with clumsy paws. The blood-thud of constellation
shall roar inside your ears.

For now, remember the startled face,
the swift lift from grass and the bear hug embrace.
Remember his hands. Remember why your tail is longer.
Your words growl as thunder.

Note | Previously published in Wild, Pitt Street Poetry, Sydney, 2014.



I met a death collector when night came seeping,
his spooklights harried cloud.

Each was ghostbone,
a white-hot spindle of flash then roar.

When he touched me, life cleft into after and before.

Gravedigger’s grip of lightning flower
now brands my skin for provenance.

One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand.
Then crack of thunder. Then lash of storm.

Note | Previously published in The Stony Thursday Book: A Collection of Contemporary Poetry, (ed. O’Donnell, M.), Limerick City & County Council, Limerick, 2015.


The Chorography of Longing

The rain at sea.
The word, rapture.
Blue-smoking darkness.
Its cargo of mysteries.
Phantasm and sprite.

This lonesome apartment.
This night-long sleepwalk.
How we wake in separate rooms.

This haunt of hinterland.
This homesickness.
This thudding.
Its roaring, rushing sound.
The clutch of your hair.
My hand reaching out.
An echo of satellite song.
Of siren speech.

This unbroken code.
This all-or-nothing.
Our thoughts at half-mast.

Of when to settle.
Of when to quit.
Of overworld and underworld.
Field and fallow.
Slow work.
Each wing-made murmur.

A host of sparrows in the bushes.
A qualm infusing this dark hour.
The holy well, its heft of coins.

Misfortune instead of miracle.
Lost instead of left.
Weight of unspoken words.
Of windborne memory.
Ardent holler.
Our bodies break too readily.

Note | ‘Blue-smoking darkness’ is taken from ‘Bavarian gentians’ by DH Lawrence.
This poem was previously published in Underneath: The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2015 Anthology, Axon Elements (International Poetry Studies Institute), University of Canberra, Canberra, 2015.

Síle Na Gig

I wish for you
to sow this field
of six senses and seven sins.

I am not wanton,
but wanting.
I call only to you.

Even in stone
this body
remembers you.

I fidget with supple invitation.
There’s nothing more than me
and this world inside of me.

Note | Previously published in This Floating World, Five Islands Press, Parkville, 2011.

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