Issue 7

Rita Ann Higgins
Three Poems

O Sole Mio

My friend was having an affair
with a married man.
They used to do it
in an old warehouse at the docks,
before the Celtic Tiger got teeth.

As she undressed
he likes to sing Mario Lanza,
and afterword’s
when she was having her fag
it was more Mario.
She always said, Bravo,
blowing smoke in his face.
They laughed.
Sometimes they did it twice
and for the big finish
he’d blast out Santa Lucia.

It ended badly
when his wife found out.
They say she gave him
a dig in the mouth at mass
knocking out his gold tooth.

Others say she took
a pinchers
to his pretty parts,
squeezing so hard
it affected his voice box.

Years later I met her in Zhivago Records,
in the aisle between the tenors
and the five- for- twenty five box sets.

I asked her how was he now.
she didn’t know, only she heard
he was spotted a few times,
walking around the new docks
his hand in the air, his mouth open,
miming like mad.

The Builder’s Mess

Toxic and tired is the builder’s mess
in post-Celtic-tiger-Ireland.
Now that the bubbles’ burst mother
the ghost-estates are everywhere.

A -bank- owned- builders’-mess mother.

All those estates
six hundred and twenty, maybe more,
few finished, loads unfinished.
Unsightly and neglected
dirty faced and dour mother
toxic and tired mother.

The Olympic rats run in and out
of unfinished drain pipes,
up bare-stairs,
devouring lagging jackets
in hot presses that never had heat.

Someone high up in a department,
reeking with negative equity
calls all the ghost estates,
a phenomenon mother.

The homeless guy who is barred
from the homeless shelter
for urinating in a doorway,
he calls them a shame mother
a crying shame mother.

Some were completed and vacant,
some were found to be occupied
some were found to be empty and occupied,
all at the same time mother.
Others were bought but never built mother.

And what do the sons and daughters
of the Celtic tiger call them mother?

The ones who camped out in the floods
to get the semi with the decking,
and the snooker table lawn mother?
The ones who queued
with their deposits in their pockets,
their unborn children up their sleeves
their shaved backsides hanging out.
What do they call them mother?
They call them a travesty mother.
Visiting My Father at Christmas

How hard could it be?
Duck in, a bit of small talk
duck out, dodging the bullets,
and fire a few myself
how hard could it be?

The booby traps are under
the quality street box.
Tread softly, start again.
It will be easy
a piece of cake,
dyspepsia maybe
or no heart scald at all.

A short journey
or a long haul,
the choice is mine.
Watch out for black ice
by nature sly
by day a looking glass.

There are no footpaths
no kerbs to fall off,
this territory is wide open
a plate under foot.

Words matter;
words don’t matter
speak when you’re spoken too.
Spokes are a snare
silence is the hardest station
remember the fifth commandment.

Plenty to talk about
the frost, the treachery of ice
the black ice.
The heat of the room
the great fire,
that’s a great fire
the Quality Street
and who brought them.
The new couch and chairs.
That’s a lovely couch, is it new?
the great fire,
we did the fire already,
next get-out clause where are you?

The television,
same bloody programmes every year .
That television is going back.
The turkey, yeah the turkey
tough as the sole of my shoe
mind you the stuffing was champion
the ham, yeah the ham.
a pillar of salt.

Then the more mundane,
do you know anything
that will get rid of heartburn?
Snakes and bladders.

Then down to the knitty bitty,
he was working up to it
lifting the head as if to say something
then saying nothing.
Silence is a tough station.

I had that heartburn
two years ago when you called as well.
Where did you get that cape outa?
Strange looking yoke for a girl to be wearing.
Is it second-hand?
People wear anything nowadays
any old rag at all,
it looks like a shroud.

It would look good on you then.

You were sharpening your tongue
for a week for that one, he’d say
I’ll bet you don’t know the Irish for shroud though!

The years between us
ticked and tocked, snaked and bladdered
down the whole gastric acid afternoon.
The Christmas tree glistening
the talking clock saying nothing ,
not a hiccup at all.