Two poems from Aoife Mannix’s latest collection, Cocktails from the Ceiling, published by The Tall Lighthouse.
Each tree a tiny pin named with a song.
The paths of birds in flight traced in red,
more minor routes, such as the holiday plans
of crickets, a fainter yellow. Spots of interest,
for instance where caterpillars spun their cocoons,
are marked with tiny blue stars.
There’s a code down one side
explaining the scale is set
to midnight and changes with
the weather or occasionally the moon.
There is no north, south, east or west.
Just my father sitting cross legged
by the side of a highway pouring over
his poor sense of direction as my mother
takes a photograph (unusual for her
as she’s never believed in cameras).
She writes on the back
‘on the road to God knows where’,
as if she knows the point of buried treasure
is that we’ll never find this place again –
time has a very poor sense of direction.
The woman in the bright pink scarf says the square
is empty now but back in the fifties this market
was buzzing with barrow boy bargains. Live eels
wriggling with soon to be jellied bravado. Stallions
shivering outside the horse butchers though she
never knew anyone but the French to eat such meat.
A string of pearl shops where people echoed
your name, your family, the county you came
from back in the old country. Cork, Kerry,
Kilkenny, Killarney, Kildare, Kilburn.
Their music transferred to an alien city,
proud to play more Irish than the Irish themselves.
They were poorer than those up on the high road
but they were never short of a helping hand.
The Paddies and the Blacks united in their reversal
of No Dog signs as they mixed Donegal and Trinidad
into coffee-children calling out for a chance to show
they are no mere statistics in a drawer, jokers
in a pack that keeps being reshuffled, but instead
street corner pioneers conquering vertigo
with a single bound. The richness of lyrical
answers sewn into the wings of their trainers.
Hip-hop skydiving acrobats who tumble and spin
across their own urban palaces that have
yet to be built. Angel rebels whose cloud souls
are not for sale, who rewrite the signs so they point
up into the sky. Dance their own invisible maps
through a rain forest of broken stones.