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From Doll House Windows

Lorraine Carey

Copyright © Lorraine Carey 2017

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


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: Lorraine Carey

Managing Editor Revival Press: Dominic Taylor

Formatted by: Stephen Riordan

ISBN 978-0-9957333-5-0

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

Dedicated to the memory of my beloved sister Siobhan (Vonnie)

‘Poetry is a diary kept by a sea creature who lives on land and wishes he could fly.’

Carl Sandburg


Acknowledgements are due to the editors of the following where some of these poems, or different versions of them, were first published:

The Honest Ulsterman, Vine Leaves, Quail Bell, Live Encounters, A New Ulster, Poethead, The Galway Review, Poetry Breakfast, Olentangy Review, ROPES, Striking A Chord Anthology (Listowel) and Voices from the Cave Anthology (Revival)

Thanks to my editor and fellow poet, Mike Gallagher. Always generous with his time, Mike has been a great mentor and most importantly, a good friend. His invaluable advice, suggestions and his unwavering ability to answer my never ending queries were always appreciated.

I’d like to thank all my friends and fellow members of the Seanchai Writer’s Group.

Thanks also to Paddy Bushe, Ron Carey, Sharon Gariepy Frye and Eileen Sheehan for their time, generosity and support and to everyone who has helped me in many ways on this journey.


Lorraine Carey is of Donegal. Her poetry displays both the durability and the brittleness of Donegal’s granite and flint clad landscape. Trust me, as you explore this extraordinary collection, you will not come away unscathed. Great boulders of verbs and craggy nouns will stop you in your tracks: poems will sidetrack you through fissures and areas of pitting and darkness that will often prove uncomfortable but their quality will mesmerise you. This is a collection that, like polished slabs of granite, will prove to be unique.

Poetry, for me, is a conversation with oneself. As such, a good poet is the ultimate truth teller because it is difficult to lie to oneself. Lorraine Carey is a very good poet. She is unflinching in confronting bleak memories that lesser poets would blot out or simply be unable to face:

We set the table without being asked.

Father's portion was a scraping into the Stanley.

Gravy hissed, slid down peat, balls

of brown mercury skied off briquettes and coals,

raced to the grate.

Another trait of this accomplished poet – gallows humour - rounds off the poem:

Her patience drowned with the dishwater,

as she closed the door without a goodbye,

to walk the three miles to cross off numbers.

In the title poem, one is left to wonder at the brilliance that produces a touch of verbal magic which somehow manages to redeem a scene of abject squalor:

The woodlouse dropped off the ceiling

like flaky plaster, landing on the candlewick

that failed to keep me warm in the two roomed house.

In damp darkness feeding on their own waste.

Racing rafters for the little heat

in a temporary dwelling, five minutes from Grandma's.

Firecrackers explode throughout the collection as if it was a celebration of Guy Fawkes:

The stew simmered with her, as she stirred.

The scraping of the pot tore

through the silence of homework.


I can taste it now, decades later

the sweetness stark against the

blatant metallic,

the raisin cinnamon burst,

a shooting star of memory.


Anxiety and tremors plunged

into gaping pockets of a cardigan,

bobbled by reluctance to wear an alternative.

The poem ‘11 weeks, 5 days’ inevitably draws comparison with Sylvia Plath’s Parliament Hill Fields, because of their common theme of miscarriage. Where Plath’s work seems over-clinical and impersonal to the point of detachment, Carey’s poem, like all her work, explores events at a more human level; she is always aware of our frailties and of the feelings and emotions that make us tick and interprets them in terms more akin to Hughes than to Plath in their earthiness.

Your Late Present

She came head first as I opened like a

slow flower on your birthday.

A moulded little head, topped with

black ash, remarked the midwife

peering through my legs

as my womb, her frenetic room evicted her

methodically in thirty second spasms.

Compare this to Hughes poem ‘February 17th’, and you will recognise why he is one of her favourite poets. There is no shirking, no running for cover for either of them. They are the children of harsh landscapes where consequences take second place to being true to themselves and to their art.

When Lorraine Carey travelled from the port of Fenit to join our writers’ group in Listowel, she alighted fully fledged. We recognised immediately that the bar was being raised and that comfortable, vacuous, vapid verse would no longer hack it, that ugly verbs would rule from then on.

It was a great honour to be asked to edit ‘From Doll House Windows’, the first of what, I am sure, will be many collections from the exciting talent that is Lorraine Carey.

Mike Gallagher


The Glass Panel

Collecting Eggs

11 Weeks, 5 Days

Ducks in Watercolour

From Doll House Windows

Nostalgia in my Kitchen

A Rail Trail

Kinnagoe Bay


Gulls at Lunchtime


Doll Parts on the Shore

Your Late Present

Walking Nowhere

Storm Chaser

At Your Wake

Mr . Kane

Layering Time

Home for Christmas

The Red Sleigh

Hosing down Nests

Whirling in the Grey


Travels in July

Pretending to be Fish

Boston Common

Funeral Rights

After the Thaw

North Tower, World Trade Centre

Barrow House

Licking the Spoon

Alice and her Stilettoes

Dog Days

Counting Backwards

Trances and Trapezes

Ipsos Beach


Christmas Firs

Dublin Bound from Casement

The Interruptions from Brent Geese

Little Rings from Holly Grove

Violin Practice

Slea Head

The Castle

It Wasn’t To Be

The Meeting

If I Could Speak

Dressing Up

The Glass Panel

Glass sheets stacked,

their backs against the studio wall,

angled for safety. I prepared a jigsaw

of butterfly parts and waited.

The grinder spun sherbet glass

from a wing, smoothed the rough

off a petal, now curved to fit in.

Water flicked little jets,

cooled the glass, a queue formed.

Jewelled colours to my right, a rippled

pile of ruby, emerald and turquoise,

sapphire underneath cast its darkness.

Adhesive stripped from copper foil,

coiled curls fell away.

The soldering iron propped in its holder,

heated the lead strips, silvery paths for

Borrowers. Melted mercury fell and flowed

into the tiny rivers of my piece. I soldered off

unwanted ends as they dropped onto an old table,

rough with splinters, fanned with sun

through the dusty skylight.

Cattle bellowed a field down.

Antennae unfurled as the tutor curled threads

from tiny pliers, threads of shiny pewter.

A soldered drop attached feelers,

magnets to our dust, microscopic

remnants of us danced in the studio’s light shaft,

down the winding lane where the butterflies

gathered in late, humid May.

Collecting Eggs

I followed her like a little chick

my scuffed shoes almost tripped over themselves

as I tried to catch up with her billowing apron.

She vanished into the first darkness

on the right. The hen house reeked

of droppings and damp straw,

still warm from feathered behinds

shuffling over eggs in June's fetid heat

Gulls squawked as the gentle chug of half-deckers

sliced calm on the Foyle. Magilligan’s hazy gunfire,

muffled by the medley of my friends and the distance to shore.

Gran gathered the mottled eggs,

layered them neatly in the Tupperware basin,

scratched with spiralled graffiti from the Krups mixer.

The fluffy down swayed in the breeze

as if to gently say goodbye.

Indoors, the air carried the slap of her slippers,

as she rushed from room to room.

She wiped her hands on the bib of dainty florals,

the chewed nails, always in the oven or a foamy basin,

wound up in dough or fish guts,

pulling salmons intestines out as if unravelling wool.

The skin, paper thin, veins like plasticine worms

yet as soft and warm as those June evenings

when it was just us,

egg collecting.

11 weeks, 5 days

Hope was chipped away

as I tried to push out of my eyes, my head,

the brunette's elation with her bump,

opposite me on that ward

with levered beds.

Her relief fluent, as it

floated over in a whisper,

to me and the cramps

that tightened and ebbed

with just six feet to separate us.

Her husband pawed at her

and in that moment I missed you more.

With dread I shuffled to the sliding door,

thankful for the midnight blue of my satin pyjamas.

The darkness spread, spilt ink

on a virgin page.

I shouted for the nurse, the squeak of

her white plimsolls scuffed the floor.

Her quick flicker of shock betrayed

her immunity from years of this and more.

She walked me back gently, her crumbling detachment

on her arm and in her mind,

enclosed me in a rectangle with a floral curtain

that seemed to scream - another one -

Ducks in Watercolour

For Elise

You stared as I washed my sable brush

in cloudy water, swished the bristles

the bottle green bleeding,

a mini Hiroshima mushrooming in the glass.

Over you came, feline like, rested

your little blonde head against my free arm,

gazing all the time at my subject.

Dapper ducks slowly took form

in a farmyard, watery shadows brought them to life.

Lilac hues bounced off egg yolk beaks,

feathered bellies, tonal shapes

left clotted, creamy, inquisitive necks.

They plodded on my board, webbed feet

waddling gently, shuffling nearer.

Cautious, eager for a handful of meal,

beady eyes always watching.

You joined in too on paper,

those chubby fingers took

your brush on a colour carousel,

waited until the ducks were complete

casually asked if it was yours to keep

....framed of course.

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