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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Wake Forest University Press was founded in 1976 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Exclusively publishing Irish poetry, we are a small academic press and the premier publisher of Irish poetry in North America. We still reside in Winston-Salem as a part of Wake Forest University, and continue to publish culturally-rich literature.
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