To be a Stranger (After John Clare) by Anne Walsh Donnelly


You go home for Mam’s brown soda bread,
and her apple pie pastry crumbling in your mouth.

You go home to thaw your frozen heart beside the fire,
listen to Dad’s corny jokes.

The burning coal blasts heat, measles your cheeks.
Mam’s eyes flit over you, her mouth opens,

“You’ve lost weight, you’re very pale.
You mustn’t be looking after yourself.”

You squirm in the armchair, its leather creaks.
Dad, eyes on his newspaper, waits.

You can’t remember the child picking wild strawberries
in the silver-framed photo on the mantelpiece.

Yawn goodnight. Don’t let your bituminous thoughts
contaminate the kitchen.

Muffled words encased in watery tones float from your
parents’ bedroom. Twenty thousand leagues above you.

An oil slick mats the feathers of pelicans and penguins
dotted on the duvet covering your sweaty body.

Too dark to run to your parents. You leave before they wake
snare clenching the paw of your nightmares.

You must be the self-consumer of your own dreams,
take them wherever you go.

Anne Walsh Donnelly

Anne Walsh Donnelly

Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the West of Ireland. Her work has been published in magazines such as The Blue Nib, Crannog, and Boyne Berries. Her short stories and poems have been shortlisted in several competitions. She was highly commended in the OTE New Writer of the Year Award (2017).
Anne Walsh Donnelly

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