Emalyn Sharp

It was a very long walk
Exhausted, I barely had the strength to stand
I wanted something to lean upon
So I took a nearby stick in my hand
I was playing a game
I thought I’d have a little fun
The stick turned into a snake 
I didn’t have the sense to run
I wouldn’t drop it
I let it coil around my arm
It was dangerous
Intent on causing harm

The snake opened up his mouth
Then dug his fangs into my heart
the pain spread through my bloodstream
this was just the start

The paralysis set in
help would come too late
My vision had been blurred
I contemplated my fate
Actions all have consequences
Innocent as they may seem
That’s the last thing I thought of 
I slipped into a psychotic dream
My life was swelling up
I could hardly breathe
I had let the snake sweep me 
right off of my feet

I was addicted to the venom
It was hard to survive
The beady eyes that destroyed me
Also kept me alive

The medics found my body
Revived it from the fall
Made an antidote from the poison
The snake hid from us all
Gone but not forgotten
I writhe in pain at night
The memories of the cool scales
The pain of the sharp bite
The subtle hiss of promises
That never meant a thing
Wrapped around my throat
I still feel the sting

The cure is common 
No one need suffer
If only it worked that way
There is always another


Delilah Scrudato

I just want to go to sleep.
fall out and not breathe.
I don’t want to live another day.
How did I come to feel this way?
My disease started it all.
The first time I picked up, I started to fall.
But now that I’m sober
I see my life’s not over.
I’m starting a new beginning.
Now I’m not just breathing, I’m living.

Like So Many Meadows

Fabrice Poussin

The old man of barely five feet died under the cask
falling to a war he could no longer win
he shed a tear as he recalled when he was
a warrior in the trenches meant for graves.

There was a truce in his heart when he gave up
his body shaken by the sharp cut of a rifle and
everything came to a stop as he collapsed
too young then to comprehend the shock.

Sometime in the middle of this existence
a pilgrim to the field he remembered the sounds
canons screaming in agony, men exploding like shrapnel
and he knelt near the grave never completely filled.

Eyes closed he saw generations
across millennia, come to the same land
and the ground trembled with ghosts
under the uniforms of this world.

Now a lawn large as a country, grows manicured
nourished by the blood of comrades
if only they could join hands, forces
to plead in unison for another day with their kin.

Long ago, thundering creations turned to stone
and will again once another madness subsides;
for now, the old soldier sleeps in his tomb
holding onto this moment of peace.

Saturday Pastime

Fabrice Poussin

Daddy looks in the mirror to see
the image of every late Saturday night
puffy eyes, some darkened blueish areas around
and surely a rich iron red paste upon his lip.

Week past, it was a broken nose
a mouthful of a taste he could not recognize
bruised ribs and a scraped knee
but when did he fall?

His pockets full of cash he would have smiled
had the pain been what he knew
only it was a new encounter this time
with a shaking to make him feel old.

Another weekend on its way
at a great distance from the cubicle
where he spoke of lifetimes with strangers,
made promises rehearsed like a horrible tragedy.

The little girl never knew why he cried when she hugged
the massive frame of her personal giant
her tender curls pressing upon his cheeks
all she could see was a grin in the warmth of his heart.

Tomorrow they will hasten to their private place
pray for a future she will relish
explore the park hand in hand
common, lost in the society of simple lives.

But first he will rest comforted by her puerile caress
mother for an instant to the wounded hero
nurturer to a father without hope
unlikely savior, she knows to kiss his mighty brow.

Infant in this tortured city, touched
by the vertigo of his lost senses
the nightmares have vanished within her puny palms
and he feels himself floating in her secret heaven.

If They Knew of Pompeii

Fabrice Poussin

Among forgotten hieroglyphic treasures
scattered on floors of ancient stone, sealed with
the sweat of enslaved workers under the whip
they too are buried with invincible pharaohs.

Tall above the modern dwellers, a Parthenon
resists winds so strong Socrates had to die
its marble like ice for so many visitors
on a photographic pilgrimage for their elders.

Forsaken by centuries of death and dust
an arena where last breaths entertained
stands as a testimony to what may have been,
a successor to great dynasties.

The explorer may walk the distance of a great wall
pondering such a structure into deep space
contemplate the far away plains
where no intruder dares to venture any more.

High above the sea they thought of an Eldorado
the safety of a gilded empire in mysterious clothes
sacrificed the innocent to appease the Gods
high priests, would-be masters of another sun.

A tower of steel still stands on its supposed graveyard
it overlooks fields which saw too many sudden ends
for well-meaning citizens on a quest for a new freedom
upon a promising summer for simple joys. 

They sleep now, these monsters with signatures
carved profound like incurable scars on the souls of the meek;
it is good to remain quiet, to listen to the breeze
for all is finally still now above the memory of the oppressed.

Christmas Log

Fabrice Poussin

Dreams are strange for the young boy
when time seems to move at leisure
upon another Christmas in the land.

It will be warm in the stranger’s house
so tall with the wisdom of ages
at the end of a day almost too cruel.

But he awaits with open arms
with the kin he gently nurtures
for it is the grandest day yet.

There will be a meal of hours
laughter, smiles, endless embraces
a game of cards open to all.

Decades have melted into the ground
souls gone and new ones come
leaving just a taste of time behind.

The girl has labored with child’s care
to mix the saintly nectars of this precious hour
made magic for all eyes to feast.

Wooden log for the hearth
now a grandiose desert for the wealthy
an eternal world in chocolate grooves

Light Switch

Madeleine Park Hager

I remember you
in contradictions that
part my chest

Ribs turn in to
knives and I
am bleeding memories of you

The tattoos left behind by your lips
form an inky shadow that follows me
under the weak light of dusk

I lift up a trembling hand to
turn off the light, then remember that
I’m afraid of the dark, without you.

The Law of Gravity

Madeleine Park Hager

A heart
that falls in love
must also
fall out.

is the law of the heart;
yet we create our own prison
trapped by walls
made of memories

a purgatory
where time moves backwards
and all we can see
is the precious time we had,

Feeding the Sea

Madeline Park Hager

Your tears feed
the ocean and
sculpt its waves.
Cry, let the sea
hear the droplets fall
from your eyes
as they become part
of something bigger
than they ever imagined


Lorraine O’Byrne 

Sisters of Mercy, Galway

I tiptoe past the beds, groping my way through the dormitory. The gloom my shield. Latest victim, Pauline, lies curled up in a foetal position on a mere sheet, sniffling in her sleep. Something rankles. Poor sod must have wet the bed again. I throw the blanket over her then melt into the corridor. Silent as a wraith.  

The Virgin Mary leaps out at me from her sanctimonious perch on the window sill, amid intangible threats that lurk elsewhere in the shadows. Shoes squeak from a room to the left. A pungent odour of antiseptic wafts through the air. Someone flicks on a light from behind. Sister Joseph pushing a trolley heaped with towels and sheets. She’ll recognise me. Gotta get out of the open.  

Finding a door at my shoulder, I shove it aside. Stumble into a closet and wait for her to pass. Sister Joseph has the hearing of a flea, but she can smell fear a mile away. Sweat pools behind my neck and slithers down inside my clothes. I twist my hands, powerless to block the overwhelming panic about to drown me. The light goes out and murk descends in the hallway once again.  

I’m so cold, goosebumps prickle my legs and arms, and I can see the vapours from my breath billow into the frigid air. I rub saliva from my mouth, straighten, and will myself to think through the fog that fugs my mind.   

It will be morning soon and they will be searching for me. Hugging myself to keep warm, I glance down at my stained brown smock that is almost threadbare from constant use. At my knuckles, skinned from scrubbing concrete floors. Flinching at every rattle and floorboard creak, I squeeze the Claddagh ring suspended from a chain around my neck, close my eyes and recite a prayer in my mind my grandmother taught me when I was little, to give me courage.  

Angel of God
My Guardian dear
To whom God’s love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide

My breathing slows, and I scrutinise the little room with new eyes. A black habit dangles from a hook to the right and below that a tunic, wimple and gleaming black shoes. My hands are shaking so much, I struggle with the baggy habit and stuff my hair into the wimple. It’s just the right fit, tight against my skull.  

In my haste to escape, I knock a small bag of linen to the ground. I pick it up to cover me in case anyone questions what I’m doing. Heart pounding, shoulders back and striding with a confidence I don’t feel, I emerge from my place of hiding, praying that no one will see me.  

A weak shaft of light filters through the grimy windows overhead, revealing a grey dismal sky beyond, a promise of the day to come.  

The habit is so long I step on the hem, stumble and drop the bag. A voice stops me cold.  

‘Sister, goodness, where are you going at this hour?’ 

My gut clenches, screaming to flee and it takes every last ounce of willpower not to lunge for the stairs just four feet away. Rigid with fear I turn. Hands twisted in a ball at my side. 

Sister Concepta’s glasses rest askew halfway down her bulbous nose. Chocolate coats her face and biscuit crumbs muddy her tunic. She glances up as I turn around and squints. My mouth goes dry. 

‘Bit early for deliveries, isn’t it, Sister Margaret?’ she clucks. ‘What’s the world coming to – delivery vans at half seven in the morning. Lord save us and guard us.’ 

I’m so relieved that she doesn’t recognize me, air whooshes out of my body with enough force to cause a tornado. I shrug in reply, hoping to God she’ll leave it at that, but needn’t have worried as she’s off grumbling to herself down the corridor. Rosary beads swinging. Still shaking her head in bafflement. 

Clutching the bag full of washing, I rush downstairs to the basement. One ear cocked for activity upstairs. Out of breath, I toss the bag on the ground, and spring to the door. Cobwebs cling for dear life to crevices overhead. A pump hums in the corner. Empty boxes tossed upended in a pile. Clanking pipes. 

The bolt jams at first, I yank it back, my hands slippery with sweat and it opens. Cold air hits my face like a bucket of iced water. Nothing ever felt so good. As soon as I am free of the confines of the institute, I bolt up the street and lose myself in the maze of the town. 

A Volkswagen Beetle ploughs through a puddle drenching me. I gasp and jump back on to the pavement for safety, just as a green bus advertising Kellogg’s Cornflakes on the side, and belching smoke out its rear end, trundles to a stop not far from where I wait. The bus is my knight in shining armour. Arriving to my rescue on the nick of time. I scan the destination overhead. Salthill. 

The driver, round and bearded with black hair, steps out for a smoke. I hop on when he’s not looking, huddle at the back, and pray that my good fortune will hold out until I get to my destination. Babbling girls in school uniform get on the bus. Forming a wall in front of me. Concealing my presence. 

A weary sun dapples anaemic hedges scattered throughout the estates as the bus meanders along cobbled streets and squares, stopping now and then to let more passengers on. Heat sears my face; finding it hard to breathe I tug at the wimple. 

At the next stop, the girls disembark and a small slight middle-aged woman carrying a loud orange handbag, and a folded newspaper tucked under her left arm, boards the bus. She sits down opposite me, scans the headlines, then puts the paper down, and stares out the window. At the third stop, she gets out. The newspaper still on the seat. 

I pick up the Sun Herald and skim the first page. My eyes are drawn to a paragraph on the left column. Report exposes overcrowding and neglect at The Sisters of Mercy care home.  

I chuck the newspaper aside. The town slowly chugs to life. Up ahead the steeple from St. Mary’s Church pokes into the sky, like a beacon towering above the houses directing me where to go.  

I don’t have the luxury of resting. My heart is racing. At the last stop, I jump out. Pull down the wimple, and gasp at my reflection in the glass as the bus sputters away; my colourless cheeks and matted brown hair shorn to almost within an inch of my skull.   

I blink in disorientation at the buildings, the warren of streets around me. Everything looks so different. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be. My mind is smudged by hazy memories. I don’t know whether to go right or left. But I have to keep moving. So, I head west towards Salthill. Head bent against the biting wind.  

It doesn’t take long before I discover that I’m lost. My feet ache from walking, the shoes are pinching my toes. People are glancing curiously at me as I pass. Pointing and whispering. My head can’t take it anymore. I have to find Gran soon. If only I could remember. I press my knuckles to my head as if that will somehow release the memories trapped inside.  

The sun disappears behind a cloud. A gull swoops to the ground. Church bells chime out the midday hour. It’s been almost twelve months since I’ve seen or heard from my grandmother. What if she has died? Gripped with sudden panic, I stop and clutch a railing for support. I find it hard to breathe. A cyclist goes by in slow motion. I can’t hear the chuckles from the young couple pushing twins. Banging, clattering and hammering from a nearby building site has stunted my hearing. Weak from hunger and lack of sleep, I try to focus as everything whirls around me.  

A garda car pulls to the curb. I register the arrival too late; a guard jumps out; bull- necked, and cross-eyed. Marches towards me.  

‘Louisa Sheridan, stay right where you are.’ 

I spin on my heel, but the long habit hampers my escape, and I collide against two elderly ladies in headscarves carrying shopping.