Issue 1

Medbh McGuckian
Three poems

Antipersonnel Mine

Only 19 years old , but I was called “Father”
By a dying German soldier. He was old and fragile,
He did not have a weapon.
He lay twisted around his right leg,
But when he saw the red crosses on my arms and helmet,
His mouth stretched as if shrieks
Were coming out, he reached for me
And cried ‘Vater!’

I bared the wound at midthigh,
Put sulfa powder on the exposed bone,
Covered it with a compress, tied a loose
Tourniquet.He was graying fast.
I stuck morphine in, he wasn’t eased,
I gave him another eighth of a grain
And watched him lapse into shock.
I felt as if I too had been shot
And yearned to be dead.

Gordon got ripped by a machine gun
Through the right waist. We were cut off
In foxholes by ourselves.
I tried to knock him out.
I took off his helmet, held his jaw up,
And whacked it as hard as I could.
I hit him up by the head with his helmet
But that didn’t work. Nothing worked.
He slowly, slowly, froze.

I knew of shelters built inside
Transformer housings, which are typically covered
With metal-plated doors marked
With warning signs featuring
A skull and crossbones.
The people inside would drape
High-voltage cables over the iron doors,
In front of which they would place wet leads,
They were completely dry
And warm enough for someone to lie
On the floor even during freezing weather.

We don’t have water. Everyone wants to drink.
People are simply burning up.
By chance I found one litre
While I was clearing away rubble.
Edka and I each had a little bit,
And then I took it back, practically full,
To our room for the others.
Lanna came over-she is terribly thirsty.
I gave her the bottle and said,
“You drink first’. Marion came over.
Lanna drank a third and asked him,
“Do you want a little water? Drink some and leave
Some for Rena. He drank
And put down the bottle.
There was not a drop left.

At the Hand and Pen

The large river the city does not have
But would be stopped by nothing, flowed
Towards the jail at the edge so everyone could
Tell themselves, I went.

How many times had they closed the university,
Shut down the lecture series? The horizons
Had all been pleated like doubt-peacocks
Shooed away. Like Fay,

Cut in two by bombs, holding her little girl
Low-breaking by the hand, or the ones shot
At crossroads. She sprinkled holy water
Where the pavement was uneven.

He took his ballot out of his pocket,
Raised it to his forehead, then traced
The sign of the cross with it over his chest
And placed it in the box.

Broken Pot Used as Writing Material

Re-entry to your econiche
Is like the beautifying of a cathedral.
One reads these cloths of stem stitch,
Laid or couched stitch as natural numbers,
One reads a clock from twelve to six
Asserting that they moved when they didn’t.

Boundaries shift for the whole hand,
The left must close a pattern guided
By the right, since signals from the two eyes
Fail to recognise an everyday face.

Every third word is a repetitive
Covering of the mouth, you swim
From core state to fugue state
In undirected milky water
To a black-filled circle.
Which is your fully-fledged city
Dwindled into a village.