Poems from ‘Alchemy’ by Fiona Perry


You are as naked as a shucked oyster
so, my breasts are slashed and raining pearls
for you, my suckling child. The universe
has too many doors. A terrifying flower
unfurled overnight to tell me if they took
you away or carted you off to die
like pink tender veal. I would be prepared
to stand on my own mother’s shoulders
to push you back up to the surface, to stop
you from drowning— and she would want that—
because she too must have discovered this feral
wisdom in the bloodied wake of birth. Everything
is unfastening around me, voluptuously, in ways
I cannot understand yet. For now, I must be patient
occupy this hinterland and allow the stars to realign.


The Jesus Woman

After James K Baxter

I saw the Jesus Woman
milling around the school gates.
She wore grey marl track pants,
her hair was scooped up into a pineapple bun.
her breath smelt of coffee and ginger biscuits.
When babies cried, her breasts leaked milk.
When she smiled, birds flitted like glitter
among the trees. When she screamed
tectonic plates shifted. When she laughed
everybody got high.

The Jesus Woman sat in a café
and selected her twelve disciples.

One was a schoolgirl panicking in an airport toilet
soon to be married in an unfamiliar country.
One was a waitress who dropped her stillborn child
into a storm drain on Good Friday and ran away.
One was a grandmother who couldn’t read or write.

One was a freshly-battered office manager whose
husband supported a football team that had just lost 99-0;
One was a self-harming solicitor who advised
clients in an office festooned with original artwork.
There were seven others. But their identities have been
suppressed to protect the powerful.

The Jesus Woman said, ‘Ladies, from now on,
the rain will wash away our worries’.
She did no miracles.
She sometimes sold old clothes on eBay.

The first day she was arrested
for having a backstreet abortion.
The second day she was beaten by villagers
for accusing a pillar of the community of rape.
The third day she was charged with being a woman
and given twenty five years in a Magdalen laundry.
The fourth day she was sent to an asylum
for admitting she wasn’t cut out to be a mother.
The fifth day lasted for four years
while she worked as a comfort woman
constantly within the grasp of soldiers.
The sixth day she told her abusive father,

“I am the light of the world.
I am the one who brings into being.”

The seventh day she was set on fire:

the flesh of God was burnt to ash.

On the eighth day the earth stopped turning.
All of creation began to cry.

Every night these tears are collected
into a bottle for reckoning at the end of days.


Intensive Care

it does me no good to pay
attention to the shushing

sound of the ventilator or
the incessant twinkle of

machine lights, let me
pretend to follow

you (like a scuba diver)
gliding through lough waters

the passing of the Bann
Foot Ferry above us

chugging its cargo of suited
and booted brylcreemed boys

girls with shiny evening bags
resting on swing-skirted laps

our bodies are clouds now
we are wearing crowns

of marsh thistle we
want to stay just here

but currents are carrying
us away in their eddies

you reach the shore
and stretch out on your back

inviting me to place my head
on your belly, the weight

of it makes you smile because
this is how it once was

me curled up like a nautilus
sleeping in your womb

Poems from Alchemy © Fiona Perry



Fiona Perry is the author of Alchemy from Turas Press (October 2020), a book termed as ‘an intriguing and compelling début collection from a poet who is already strikingly in command of her craft. Mingling daily life with the numinous, these poems reflect on love and loss, on the milestones of lived experience. These poems travel through time and space: from the magic of ancient birds in a New Zealand landscape, to the intensive care ward where a loved one lies dying; from the daily round of household tasks, to the dreamworlds where memory, imagination and reality merge’. Fiona has won the Bath Flash Fiction prize for her story, Sea Change. Her work has been published widely in Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and India. Recent work has appeared in Lighthouse, Not Very Quiet, and The Blue Nib. She contributed poetry to the 2019 Label Lit Project for National Poetry Day, Ireland.

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