Chronic, by Mary Tynan

I’m the person you don’t see –
The person with ME,
The person who’s hidden
Away in her room;
Often in bed,
Stuck in her head,
Maybe reading a book,
Or listening to a tune,
Making friends on Facebook or Twitter

We’ve been forgotten
For many a year,
But come a pandemic,
And we appear;
Now we can watch a play,
Go to a class,
See our friends on a video call –
Suddenly, we’re part of it all,
Included at last

But what happens to us
When usual returns?
Do we also return –
To our rooms, our cocoons?
Will we be forgotten again
When you’re making new plans –
When things return to normal?

Mary Tynan

Are You Goin’ to the Ploughin’, by Breda Hyland

And I’m still not ready,
when the day arrives,
and the alarm kicks me
out of bed.
I jump into faded denim jeans,
and second best runners,
and throw on a jacket
just in case.
“Sure it could come wet at the ploughin’.”

The neighbours have already left.
I fill the flask and grab the lunchbox
and the dark blue wellingtons,
I bought at the sale in Paul Byron’s
The day before.
Before I know it,
The early morning sun
Is flooding my eyes,
And Screggan is waking up
To the arrival of locals and strangers
And families and foreigners,
queuing to get through the barriers
“to make the most of the day at the ploughin’.”

The men in boots and wellingtons
And arthritic legs and walking sticks,
stand in admiration of the pedigree cattle,
and new breeds of sheep
never seen before.
No wool, no tails, no horns
with name they can’t pronounce
from countries never seen,
“By Jove you’d see strange things at the ploughin’.”

They saunter in groups,
And fill their pockets with brochures
And special offers,
For the day that’s in it,
And half listen to reps,
promoting minerals and vitamins
for guaranteed growth.
and it makes them hungry too
“and you can’t beat a good breakfasht at the ploughin’.”

The stands are surrounded
By girls and women and ladies
Sampling eye shadow and mascara
And buy one, get one free.
And the coat in the wooden hanger
“one size fits all” half price offer
And I wait in the queue
And it hasn’t fitted anyone yet
And it doesn’t fit me either.
And the assistant picks up her business card
“I have more online if you like to browse”
“Sound, I’ll check it out after the ploughing.”

There’s a bright yellow solus bag
Going free at the electric stand.
Well you wouldn’t be seen dead
Wearing it at home
But now it becomes the latest fashion accessory
You fill it with biros and keyrings,
And leaflets and brochures
And you enter competitions to faraway places
Never heard of before,
But you will hear of again
Because they now have your mobile and email
“Isn’t that the whole idea of taking a stand at the ploughin’.”

At midday I saunter over to Aldi
And get a selfie with Daithí
And taste the free food
And meet the neighbour that
I never meet at home
And the conversation moves
Through three generations
In thirty minutes
“and you could bump into anyone at the ploughin’.”

The men with the boots and wellingtons
Are now trying out the new machinery
And look at the size of that John Deere
And how in God’s name
Would it fit through the gap at home
If you could afford it
And the trailer to go with it
If you had enough grass to fill it.
And the sales rep says convincingly
“there’s a few thousand off today for the ploughin’.”
Evening sun sets in Screggan,
And the crowds dwindle
To get out before the rush.
I’m still browsing and I spot
The brown and cream scarf
That I have always wanted
Three for a tenner sounds good.
I wave to the camera on the way out
And hope I’ll be home in time to see myself
On television.
Walking across the car park,
Two farmers lament and moan
How everyone is carried away at the stands
“and sure no one goes to see the ploughing at all.”

Breda Hyland

Priorities, by Breda Hyland

Lipstick smudged in empty coffee cup.
You crush it nervously in your trembling hands,
waiting for his form in the doorway
and he does come,
and fixes his eyes firmly around the room
until he finds yours.

He beckons and you follow him.
Not waiting to hold the door open,
he hurries across the street
away from the thousand eyes of the night.
He bundles himself into his new Mercedes,
lights up a cigar and waits.

He thinks of home, his boring infertile wife,
she, a company director, with all the trappings
that he can’t live without.
But he wants more.
He watches you in the rear view mirror,
and ponders the ravages of time etched in your face.

You have the look of children
and burgers on Sundays,
wearing faded denim jeans
and worn outdated blouse
under an oversized belted raincoat.
Hard to believe you were once a follower of fashion.

Locking your door, he drives into the night air
and stops at a laneway, concealed entrance.
He’s been here before, you can tell.
In the darkness he spits his cigar from his mouth,
and heaves his obese body into your seat,
smoke breath heavy on your face.
You close your eyes and think of the money lender
and hope he’ll be satisfied in the morning.
Relaxing back in the driver’s seat,
he pulls two fifty euro notes from his inside pocket
and stuffs them into your sweaty palm.
‘I’ve had better’.
Sickness and anger rise in your throat
but you pull yourself together, look away
and think of your children,
born to deprivation,
brought up on love.

Home now, the whiff of alcohol greets you at the door.
You spot your inebriated husband
slouched in the living room.
His bloodshot eyes stare through yours.
‘How much’?
You toss one fifty euro at his feet,
and hope, more than anything, he’ll let you sleep tonight.

In the kitchen your children huddle in a corner.
On the table, a bottle of cheap perfume,
six rice krispie buns; one from each child
and a homemade birthday card.
A candle lights up each face as you enter.
‘Happy birthday mammy, we love you’.
Effortlessly, you carry them up the stairs
and kiss each one goodnight.
In the quiet of your room you press your apron
close to your tear stained face,
taking comfort in its’ old familiar smell.
You cry buckets.

Breda Hyland

Come Friendly Bombs (with apologies to John Betjeman)

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago (and well before Covid 19), but I think the issues it refers to still stand.

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough
It’s time to say this is enough
The future’s looking very tough
Don’t hold your breath

Don’t be disabled or be sick
ESA won’t miss a trick
You’re made to feel like you are thick
By DSS

And now we’ve left the EEC
There’s no appeal for you and me
Beyond the Tory hierarchy
Which we detest

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough
And help us as we mourn for how
Our futures bright have vanished now
Compassion’s death

Mary Tynan

Hungry for Love, by Breda Hyland

Breda is a writer from the West of Ireland.  She tells us, “I write for a pastime, about ordinary, everyday things, but I like to throw my imagination to the wind and sometimes I laugh at what comes into my mind! I write best in my head, when I’m driving through the fields, out in the open air. It’s harder to come home and put it down on paper, but I’m usually happy with the end result.”

Please note that this poem contains adult themes.

You drove me to Galway
in your Ford Granada,
to buy me a dress, you said,
for the local Macra social.

At 62 you were a devoted member,
I was a novice at 29.
Your car tax was out of date so you
hid it in a laneway nearby.

I stepped out in deep puddles
that soaked my stilettoed feet.
You whisked me past Moons in case
I spotted the designer dress in their window.

Anthony Ryan’s winter sale –
The best in the west, you said.
You bought your last suit there
twelve years ago, maybe more.

I tried on and hinted disapproval
at the colour and the style,
You couldn’t wait to get your hands on it
reduced to half price.

No time for food, you said,
you had to check the Charolais cow
and the new-born calf –
a valuable pedigree heifer.

Next year at the Claremorris show
she’d make the best continental.
You’d win the cup, not to mention the
money and the photo in the Western

and I’d get my hair done,
that place in the corner, you said,
where your mother goes,
she gives good discount on a Friday.

You had your way as usual.
We ate the bacon and cabbage,
cooked by your mother,
when we got home

And you the lucky girl, she said,
you’ll never want for anything.
Prosperous farmer, fine house
I puked her words (and the dinner) down the sink.

Later that night at the Macra social,
like the pedigree in the ring,
you paraded me around the ballroom,
proud of the female trophy on your arm.

And they all gazed and whispered.
And she an only child, they said.
And her land adjoining his, they said.
And wasn’t he always after young ones anyhow.

On the way home, another laneway,
the back seat covered in dog hairs.
My brown hair fell into the half open bag
of Maverick (or was it Frisky).

The plug of the calf dehorner
dug into my lumbar vertebrae.
Thank god it was round,
the damage superficial

And you held me like the calf
in the crush, about to be castrated,
never going to get away
and neither was I.

Your arthritic limbs caused
awkward manoeuvres in the dark.
You moaned and groaned agony and ecstasy.
Was the pleasure really worth the pain?

My dress was full length and fitted,
you cursed because it was waisted
you never wasted anything in your life before,
and I thanked god it was over

And my mind drifted back
to the dress in the window in Moons,
glad I didn’t fall for it after all –
I’m almost sure it was short and flared.

Breda Hyland

An Deireadh Seachtain

Oíche dé hAoine,
Ré don bhóthair,
I mo shuí sa chúl le deartháir agus driofúr.
Ag imirt “I Spy,”
Ag canadh amhráin,
Máthair ag tabhairt seacláid dúinn.

Deireadh an turas,
Teach sa bhaile mór,
Iompairthe isteach i lámha cinéalta d’athair.
Sceallóga prátaí,
Uncail ag aoibhiúil,
Boladh de Players Uimhir a Sé agus de móna.

Lá eile,
Sa cistín tí feirme,
Aintín, uncail, colceathracha agus Seanaithair.
In aice leis an soirn
Te agus codlatach,
Ag eisteacht le scéalta faoi daoine anaithnid.

Tráthnóna de Domhnaigh,
An filleadh,
Go dtí scoil agus leabhair is obair is baile.
Aistear níos ciúin,
Ag athmhachnamh,
Beidh muid arais an tseachtain seo chugainn.

Máire ní Theimhneáin