Monday Poem: Emer Lyons’s ‘Poison’

 

Poison

After Gwendolyn Brooks and Terrance Hayes

 

We

take to the drink, wanting real

life to dampen our tongues, cool

the shame we are forced to we-

ar with guilt built in, all left

to us from him. Dul ar scoil

to learn the church’s rules, we

learn to shut mouths, minds, legs, lurk

close to home, wait until late

in life to start living. We

protest against them. We strike

them down like they do us, straight

 

*

 

up get wasted. Hear our we-

ary mothers try to sing

songs that might free us from sin –

A-ma-zee-ing Grace. They we-

ep for us their kin grown thin

from not giving a shite, gin

our favourite perfume. We

think to join in, feel that jazz

of life again but them June

days are made for drinking, we

mute their sound, they turn to die-

ts of rosaries, T.V. Soon

 

*

 

we join the rest like us, we-

lcomed we are into the real

darkness of the pub, scrubbed cool

colours paint the walls, but we

don’t look at the walls, eyes left

downcast for fear that some school

friend’s dad be holding up we-

t edges of a stool, lurk-

ing for some young wan’s time. Late-

r when we’ve spent our lot, we

goes to the likes a him, strike

up some talk with tits out straight

 

*

 

under their noses, they we-

ak them eejits, we be sing-

le, we’re not patrolling sin-

‘s committed by men, we

too busy with our own thin-

clad secrets, like how the gin

at home is watered down – we-

eks of stealing dat took! Jazz

oozes from the jukebox, June

fades outside the window, we

stay until it starts to die

down, already Sunday, soon

 

*

 

Mass be starting, not that we

bother anymore, found real

religion that don’t play cool –

you’ll get what you’re given. We

grab the bottle’s neck, get left

in pools of our own sick, school-

ed to mind ourselves – coz we-

‘ve no time for all dat! Lurk-

ing Larry’s hide in the late

afternoon shadows to we-

t us between the legs – strike

all ya want girls! We walk straight

 

*

 

passed them, they keep trying. We

see some other girls get sing-

led out, get pregnant, the sin

dripping off them, we look we-

ll away when they be thin-

king to look at us. Begin

to think about things that we-

‘ve been told, listen to jazz

music in our rooms with June

next door shouting how we owe

her some peace – go way and die!

Her gob shuts as the bassoon

 

*

 

roars the devil’s music. We

develop our taste buds, real-

ise wine looks classy, the cool

kids be drinking it, so we

form fists around the stems, cleft

our insides, move like a school

of fish, joined at the hip we

be, until we go home, lurk

through our own front doors, dilate-

d pupils in heads, too we-

ak to take d’mother’s strike

against our faces, lie straight

 

*

 

down on the carpet. There we

sleep dreamless until the sing-

ing birds move our bleary sin-

ged bodies to mirrors. We-

igh ourselves (no shoes on) – thin

girls don’t hang onto virgin-

ity long. The fella’s we-

dge between us, shove their jazz-

ing hands down our skirts, the June

heat hot against our heads we-

lded to the wall, us die-

hards wanting it over soon-

 

*

 

er rather than later, we

don’t look into their eyes, real-

ly we’d rather catch the cool

stares of other girls, a we-

llspring of poker faces left

to drown outside of the school

system, taught us nothing we

could use against filthy lurk-

ers, or what to do with late

periods, or how come we-

‘d never be wealthy – strike

us down for we have strayed straight

 

*

 

off the path most chosen. We

won’t marry any man, sing

children to sleep or get sin-

gled out for promotion. We

will live backed against walls, thin-

king of dreams we had of begin-

ning again, all along we

knew we’d never see a jazz

band, another clear blue June

sky or hear our mother’s we-

ak, how sweet the sound. We die

soon.

 

©Emer Lyons

 

 

Emer Lyons is an Irish writer who has had poetry and fiction published in journals such as TurbineLondon GripThe New Zealand Poetry Society AnthologySouthwordThe Spinoff and Queen Mob’s Tea House. She has appeared on shortlists for the Fish Poetry Competition, the Bridport Poetry Prize, the takahé short story competition, The Collinson’s short story prize and her chapbook Throwing Shapes was long-listed for the Munster Literature Fool For Poetry competition in 2017. Last year she was the recipient of the inaugural University of Otago City of Literature scholarship and is a creative/critical PhD candidate in contemporary queer poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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