Dancing in a Place of Power

Waiting for Change

The role of Mr Animus in producing a poem

The Strength of Cups



I  crawl in fields of clay among the legs of men
lifting nests of purties* clean as eggs.
The boys get half a crown and I get sixpence.
I don’t understand the difference. It isn’t fair.
And the men set snares for rabbits and boys know where.

I ride in front of farmers’ sons on tractors.
My arms are smooth but theirs are rough with hair.
I feel their squidgy things through overalls:
I’d always known they’re different  down there.
But men set snares for rabbits and boys know where.

We climb the high-stacked hay bales to the rafters.
The barn is dark but streaked with gold up here.
We make a nest and hide, trapping our laughter.
No fur is silkier than this new hair.
In here with me, you are not one of them:
Our fingers feel each other on a softly swelling stem.

But still, out there, when men set snares for rabbits
you know where.

* Ulster dialect for potatoes.

Dancing in a Place of Power

I step onto a silent stage
an airy space above the stretching sea
strong boards, new wedged
take all the weight
take all the weight of me
beneath the mountains
and above the stretching sea

beyond, steam veils the morning-watered furrows
of compost quickening
in the crumbly earth

a yeasty brewing stirrs
in the sticky dough of me
pulls in the leavening air
to lift the limbs of me
the squat square shape of me
the old straight tracks of me

skin pricks with sweat like fur
I feel the turf of me
tough pads of hands make fists
the roughened rocks in me
hurl a stamping  rage
for power snatched from me
the power of growth in me
the space to be in me
the place that gives in me

I lift my eyes and see
steam veiling morning-watered furrows
and oh! that never-ending stretch of sea
the ceaseless sweep of waves
draws great draughts of breath to me
quenching an ancient thirst
till sobs and groans are song of me
streams of tears pour from me
the sweet salt snot of me
the strong long song of me

anchored in the old straight tracks of me
arms wingspun in dance
breaking the postures of apology.

Waiting for Change

She has no shape or colour
she merges with everything
absorbs the unremarkable
sinks into clay
part of the ordinary
unobserved day.

She waits
like the grainy hollow in the stone
for rain
and holds it
till the work of creation
ferments in her body.

The role of Mr Animus in producing a poem

When it first comes out
a blurt scrawled on the page
all gangly like a new wet calf
all wobbly
I’m not intrigued at all
I turn the page
can’t be doing with it
would orphan the weakling
feel no connection
certainly no commitment
to training and feeding
- it needs so much of me
to survive.

What we need then
is a good farmer to arrive
a tough rough gentle
husband man.
He’ll use his big spade hands
to turn my disinterested
heavy head
towards the trembling waif,
make me see it, sniff it.
He’ll give me a bit of encouragement
say my name
fuss me a bit.

Finally, I may lick it
taste it
and with a tingling rush in the udder
own it.

The Strength of Cups


I am the deep-cupped bloom,
called dranculus, dragon arum
or, commonly, stinkhorn.

I rise waist-high in Crete’s May heat
open a crimson throat as long as your arm
to hold you in my wine-dark centre

my sparkling sailor of the wine-dark seas
my man behind the mast
my mast, my thick stamen

I draw you into where there is no space
only the strength of desire to be filled:
(a strength I find no name for
in my Thesaurus)
that seals us both hermetically to pleasure -
Hermes and Aphrodite
become one flame.


The limpet hold tightens when knocked
the baby’s jaw locks fiercely on the nipple
the lingham is anchored
where the depth cannot be fathomed
and currents draw from the core.

You can’t just pull it like a carrot from the ground.
We cannot be untied by banging on the door.

Somehow we surface like whales, call out
but the banging goes on.
Prised apart to show its secret
a fist hits out
‘Fuck off!’ I shout.

‘Do you want this ‘phone call or not?’

We should make velvet tasseled cords
strung with silver hearts
to hang across our doors....risk ribaldry.

Sitting at breakfast, words wore suits:
‘I don’t appreciate being told to f--- off!’

A hurt that will not speak its name
dons uniform
the hammer falls on the bargain
I lose
retreat to my room like a woman
to weep.

We both apologise
we laugh and hug.

All day grief seems to bruise an inner skin.


All day grief seems to bruise an inner skin
though we eat lunch at the harbour
expensively, off starched white linen:
the milky flesh of to-day’s catch
with soft poached vegetables and cold white wine.

We return to the mountain
to look for the purse we’d lost.

Yesterday’s irises are shrivelled and black
like inky pellets boys threw in school.
The sullen little goatherd at the cross roads
scowls past us as if the road were empty.

Climbing the tall, locked gates to the ruins of Lato,
my skin is spiked with the thrill of forbidden entry.
I retrace the meander of walls and steps
to the silent, sacral court, empty of purses.

The afternoon fizzes and crackles...
cleansing, leavening fire burns out the hurt
leaving - nothing - a vacuum of years
clean stones, a distant view of the sea.


The strength I find no name for
in my Thesaurus
I see was celebrated here
in the sacral knot
the spiralled pot
the snakes that slither and glide
the octopus that clasps and sucks

where the throat of the crocus,
the mouth of the cave,
are invitations to enter
the labyrinth’s path
be drawn in
sweet body of the dark
to source the scent...

of a woman stood taut-waisted
breath drawn up, chest filled with fire,
bare breasts flared:
holder of power
golden serpents
arched from her arms
arched upwards
poised: the power of poise
not pounce
it is the power of holding
not the strike
not the strength of the sword
held high, but of cups
hand moulded
of baked earth
strong with the heat of the sun
and great bellied jugs
strong bellied
strong bodied
the body thus strong
supports the voice
the voice rises
gives song to the stars
and all is held
in a strong web
a strong fine web
finely designed
hand made