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Invocation










Invocation











Denise Blake









Copyright © Denise Blake 2018


First published in Ireland by


Revival Press


Limerick, Ireland



Revival Press is the poetry imprint of


The Limerick Writers’ Centre


12 Barrington Street, Limerick, Ireland


www.limerickwriterscentre.com


www.facebook.com/limerickwriterscentre


www.deniseblake.com


All rights reserved


No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.


Book Design: Lotte Bender


Cover Image: Standing on Rutland, Artist Lisa McGill (www.lisamcgillatsea.com)


Author Image: Damien Blake


Managing Editor: Dominic Taylor


ISBN 978-0-9957333-7-4


A CIP catalogue number for this publication is available from The British Library


We acknowledge the support of The Limerick Writers’ Centre Community


Publishing Project


&


The financial support of Donegal Co Council










For Ríain, Noah and Willow


May they carry the stories forward


And Laurence


Always



Acknowledgements



The following poems have previously been published or broadcast:


The Beaching - The SHOp magazine of poetry, Numéro Cinq


– Uimhir a Cúig


Rutland Island Lore - Stony Thursday no.14


For Sale: 1091 Bonnieview - Sunday Miscellany RTE Radio 1 The Dream Turns - Numéro Cinq


My Father’s Hands - Sunday Miscellany Faded in the Shadows - Boyne Berries Lines from West Cork - Southward Journal After the Shortest Day - Sunday Miscellany


In Times of Candle Light – Sunday Miscellany Christmas Show Dear Muse - Three Drops from a Cauldron


Becoming Shepherds - Sunday Miscellany This is the way it is - Spontaneity Breathings - North West Words Spaces Beyond the Front Door - Poethead Poetry Blog


Mother Goddess - North West Words magazine, Numéro Cinq Mother Goose - Three Drops from a Cauldron Lughnasadh 2017 anthology


Circus Days - Sunday Miscellany, Numéro Cinq Blending - Sunday Miscellany Moving House - Sunday Miscellany


Ultrasound - Poethead Poetry Blog


Grattan Beach - Skylight 47


Butterfly House - Sunday Miscellany


The Breaking - Sunday Miscellany


Seaweed and Rotten Potatoes - Numéro Cinq


Banishing Snakes - Abridged 0-37


Rural Sounds – Sunday Miscellany Invocation - The Irish Times, Numéro Cinq


Towards Rathmullan - on CD, The Donegal Collection, Donegal Hospice


Full Sail - Sunday Miscellany


Aboard - Numéro Cinq







With grateful thanks to Joan and Kate Newmann, Summer Palace Press for my collections, Take a Deep Breath and How to Spin Without Getting Dizzy; to Errigal Writers for all their support; the Poets’ House, Falcarragh; Afric McGlinchey, Kevin Higgins, Garden Room Writers, and the Art Dogs Group who all have prompted some of these poems; Maureen Curran for her advice; Imelda Maguire for her proofing skills, her lovely blurb and all her support; Moyra Donaldson for her kind words and encouragement; Traolach O’Fionnan, Donegal County Council Art’s Officer. Thank you to Sunday Miscellany producers Cliodhna Ni Anluain, Aoife Nic Cormaic and Sarah Binchy. With special thanks to Lisa McGill for her wonderful image for the book cover. To Dominic Taylor and the community of Limerick Writers’ Centre, thank you for publishing this collection.


And finally, thank you to those in my community who continue to encourage my work with those words in greeting: “Are you still writing? Good!”


Contents



Layers Of Time 11

The Beaching 12

Rutland Island Lore 13

Embedded In My Name 14

A Summer’s Picnic 15

For Sale: 1091 Bonnieview Avenue 16

The Return Home 18

The Dream Turns 19

Lady Liberty 20

Lost In Photographs 21

Crockery 22

Tastes 23

My Father’s Hands 24

Faded In The Shadows 25

Lines From West Cork 26

Setting The Pendulum 28

Lough Salt 29

In Flight 30

After The Shortest Day 31

In Times Of Candle Light 32

Shape-Clouding 33

Dear Muse 34

Denise Believes 35

If I Could 36

The Bridging Meal 37

Becoming Shepherds 38

Love Sestina 40

This Is The Way It Is 42

Breathings 43

Beyond The Front Door 44

In The Middle Of A Boston Wedding 45

Mother Goddess 46

Mother Goose 47

And They All Lived Happily 48

Against Words 49

Moving House 50

Turbulence 51

Circus Days 52

Blending 54

Ultrasound 55

Grattan Beach 56

Butterfly House 57

Conversations In Derry 58

The Visitor 59

The Breaking 60

Rutland Island Urchins 61

Waiting For The Island Boat 62

Seaweed And Rotten Potatoes 63

Deliverance 64

Banishing Snakes 65

Surfacing 66

Signs Of Prayer 67

Rural Sounds 68

The Rabble Children 69

Invocation 70

Crossing Borders 71

Towards Rathmullan 72

Full Sail 73

Aboard 74


Note On Revival Press 75


INVOCATION





Layers Of Time



A small silver rock, shaped into a heart,


lies on the shoreline. Layers were compacted, heart upon heart, moment upon moment, fusing into a strong physical presence.


All the threes around: three grey terriers weave along the water’s edge, three whooper swans fly towards the wild ocean, three oystercatchers feast off the low tide, they source abundance.


Rushes clutch to the rise and fall of sand dunes. Damp moss clings to bare granite and to a rusting anchor, in a choking invasion or soft protection; only each host knows what it receives.


Close my eyes, condense the richness into a perfume of sound and touch: a child laughs, waves lap


as lightly as a spoon-stir in a cup, the wind breathes on my neck and brings my cheeks to full flush.


I catch a thought before if takes hold, if only the sea was in high tide, it would be breathtaking. If only: two words as invasive as the moss.


Take a deep breath, there is beauty


already in this moment. When I next return to this place, time will have passed. Slivers


of moments upon moments, fusing into a lifetime.













11


DENISE BLAKE





The Beaching



The pod of whales beached themselves on Rutland Island, chose the isolated sweep of the Back Strand to come ashore. My grandmother in her final years would have understood.


Those long-finned pilot whales suffered some trauma, became distressed and confused. And so for her that winter when told her grownup daughter had died suddenly.


Three years later, hearing that her eldest had also passed on threw something within her off-kilter. Sent her mind homing towards the Back Strand.


The whales had wandered together, over thirty of them, swam through Scottish waters to the Sound of Arranmore, heading towards the crescent of shoreline and their ending.


She would have understood, the Rutland-born woman


who had long left the island but yearned for that place; called


for it constantly, rose from her sickbed in the middle of the night.


I need to go now. They will be waiting; it will soon be low tide. She wanted to journey, follow those already gone,


float ashore, let grief beach her there on the Back Strand.



















12


INVOCATION





Rutland Island Lore



The beached whales are gone from the Back Strand.


She stands where over thirty had lain rotting


and says, I tell you, they were here.


Long-finned pilot whales, their fierce silence,


their bruised peeling. I tell you, they left deep indents


in the sand that I believed would stay forever.


Her father stands at the island’s granite jetty


where he used to watch trawler after trawler pass by. He says, I tell you, I heard them, the way their engines would slow down in gears, the sky filled with seagulls, the way the water divided in a white wash


rushing to my feet. I thought they would always be here.


Her grandfather stands on the grass of Duke Street, names the litany of souls in the slate-terraced houses. He says, I tell you, the sixteen families would mix through each other’s homes. There was so much life.


The schoolhouse, pub, customs house. How they rowed to the Port. I thought there would always be islanders here.


They carry the stories: scraw cut from soggy bogs, herring-saturated waters, seamen who navigated


by instinct, Napper Tandy landing with French forces, whole buildings lost under shifting sandstorms,


and how, even on these Rosses islands nothing would grow when the potatoes rotted.














13


DENISE BLAKE





Embedded In My Name



The woman on security at Belfast airport said, Fill out this boarding form, and don’t forget your new name. I can spot newlyweds a mile off. Earlier, sunlight had shone through cathedral stained glass windows as McGill became Blake.


Years beforehand, a young bride was seasick


on the ocean crossing to their new life in the States when Eileen McGlinchey had become McGill. Before that, before she had even met Basil McGill, herself and a friend spent an office afternoon picking names for an imaginary daughter. Denise appeared from the ether, hung in anticipation.


Way before that, Mary Callaghan met Pat McGill who had travelled from Gortnavilly to Schull. Neither knew that spores of dread lay in his lungs, would make her a widow with small children, his name on a gravestone with Callaghan in-laws.


Parallel to that, Sarah Boyle left her island home to marry her suitor, a newly qualified vet,


under the disapproving eyes of Mother McGlinchey.


Before that, Sea Captain Boyle met Brigid Melvin


in a boarding house in Ballina, married her, spirited her away to a salt-soaked island where only potatoes grew.


And moving forward from them all: the Blake name carries forth, our sons grow onward, the trail continues.











14


INVOCATION





A Summer’s Picnic



Back in the Sixties: a weather-worn picnic table covered in paper plates, jugs of iced tea, bowls of Mom’s coleslaw and sauerkraut, Tupperware with cold cuts and home-bakes as family converge at the centre of the park. Children on the seesaw and swings, a lifeguard blows his whistle at the pool, squirrels run up trees, the ants begin their invasion.


Cleveland is on the distant skyline. Lake Erie will freeze over in the winter. Early next summer,


I’ll belly-flop off the high dive, my brother will fall


from a slide. A storm will rise violent off the water


on a July 4th. in the future. The time approaches


when we’ll be visited by loss. Not this day, as we gather


around a sturdy table, laden with love and security.






























15


DENISE BLAKE





For Sale: 1091 Bonnieview Avenue



This single-family residence is in Lakewood, Ohio.


A colonial-style building, white aluminium siding,


central location, suitable for raising young children. Two flags fly from the front porch: the Stars and Stripes and a Tricolour, although the Irish credentials of 1091 are well documented and don’t necessarily need flag-waving.


The porch contains a glider and chairs that can be covered by car-rugs, shaped as tents during summer sleepovers. Living-room area is dilapidated in a cozy, kids-running-about, kind of way. The fireplace mantle carries stockings for Santa and various school-made ornaments. Dining room has space for Sunday brunches and Thanksgiving dinners.


The sparsely furnished kitchen holds a homely atmosphere filled with aromas of freshly baked yeast-bread or chocolate Whoopie Pies. Side-entrance with screen door is perfectly placed mid-house for the return-from-school shout, Mom! I’m home! Stairs lead on down to the basement for shelter during Kansas-type tornadoes and nightmares of Oz.


This residential property has four bedrooms and one full bath. A bathroom door opens onto a small balcony where children carried from their sleeping can witness their first eclipse. Electric fans fit into window frames. Bedrooms are big enough for three daughters, a baby boy and homesick immigrant parents. Tooth fairies and Easter bunnies do deliver to this address.


Bonnieview is divided by the Nickel Plate railway line. Freight trains passing are as soothing as a lullaby, the tracks provide boundaries: you can Trick-or-Treat that far and no further, but carry stories of young men dying while playing Chicken. Sidewalks have squirrels, neighbours’ dogs, lines of ants, lightning-bugs and a safe space for learner roller-skaters.




16


INVOCATION









1091 Bonnieview has a back yard, driveway and detached garage which are all prone to appearing bigger in memory than reality. The property was built in 1914, has had many careful owners, is still remembered by one family that lived there in the ‘60s. This mid-range purchase will provide a suitable residence


for a young family needing the foundation of a happy childhood when later visited by tragedy. The proximity to Lakewood Park ensures that the buyers of this house will always know it as home.







































17


DENISE BLAKE





The Return Home



When History clicks her fingers, lives alter. My father says it was during those days, after Martin Luther King was murdered, that he realised it was time to leave, time to transplant his family back to Ireland.


He heard Robert Kennedy’s speech,


read Cleveland’s Plain Dealer over


and over: The mindless menace of violence


stains our land and every one of our lives.


While they waited for the city to erupt in riots the Dream became as fragile as a firefly’s light. He must have thought of his job Downtown, the opportunities we had all been given.


Eight weeks later as my father waited in a queue outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, filing past Bobby Kennedy’s coffin, his surety solidified. He knew there would be changes. We couldn’t flit lives seamlessly from Ohio to Donegal.


Settled home in Letterkenny, if he had regrets, he never shared them. But when riots erupted on Northern streets, he must have shuddered.
















18


INVOCATION





The Dream Turns



Everyone sees what happens on the front porch, we were lucky to have a swing-set in the back yard. I was going to be a ballerina, until I saw how much practice it took be left standing on my tippy toes.


Holy smokes Batman. My mother saw me belly-flop


off the high-diving board as she was stuck behind a fence. There were birthday parties on picnic tables in the park, lightning bugs, and fireworks on the fourth of July. The Yellow Submarine was just one long cartoon.


I was thrilled when Oswald was shot. Hated Johnson



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