Poem of the Week: “Calendar Custom” from The Sun-fish

small red flowers

Calendar Custom

What is the right name of that small red flower?
It’s everywhere, spilling down over the stones
In the sun, every year at just this time.

The colour dims for a minute as the line of dust
Follows the loud white van uphill, and just now
The girls in the bar offer me a glass of water.

What is the soft smell that is everywhere,
The water reeking like tar? and while the cloud
Swells and the rain begins, the man standing

In the yard outside inhales the damp half-hour.
The red is fading again to a pinkish beige;
The plants crouch like cats while it pours down.

The smell is harsher, the light warped panels do
No good, the piecemeal shutters can’t keep it out.
Then as his uniform dries to a full blue,

And half of the window brightens, the tall girl throws
The door wide, and the man and the air are allowed
To blunder inside by pillowfulls. She tears

Two pages off the calendar. All colours now
Bright as a mirror drown out the little flowers
Drooping in the soft breeze as their date comes around.

-Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, from The Sun-fish (2010)

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Poem of the Week: “Proposal” by Ciaran Carson


It happened over an apple. We were in a market,
sunshine and August showers flickering through the glazed roof

over a barrel of apples, green with a blush of red,
the dew still seeming to glisten on them. You picked one up.

Try it and see, Miss, said the vendor. You nodded, and bit
into the crisp flesh. You felt its juice explode in your mouth

as I did when you passed it to me for the second bite.
They’re called Discovery, said the vendor, a very good

eating apple. We bought a pound of them, some wine and cheese,
and repaired to the country where we picnicked by a stream.

You offered me a Discovery. This time I could taste
your mouth from it through the juice. We took bite for bite from it

until we finished it as one. We threw away the core.
Then we asked things of each other we’d never asked before.

Ciaran Carson, from For All We Know (2008)

Ciaran CarsonCarson - For All We Know

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The “perfect acoustic” of The Stairwell

Few moments are more exciting at the Press than when we are getting started on a new book. This fall, we’ll publish Michael Longley’s tenth collection, The Stairwell, and preparations are well underway. We’ve done a first read, gathered the cover image and copy, and sent files off to the designer.

The title of the book comes from the first poem in the collection, which captures an instant in time standing with a friend in a Halloween-decorated New York stairwell. That moment holds the future (“I have been thinking about the music for my funeral…”), the past (“Whistling Great War numbers – ‘Over There’, ‘It’s a Long, / Long Way’, ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’…), and the perfect present (“I touch your arm. Listen, Lucy, / There are songbirds circling high up in the stairwell.”).

All of Longley’s gifts are on beautiful display in this poem and the book that bears its name. StairwellFirstRead-1

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