Three Primes


A collection of poems in three parts.

Three Primes is inspired by memory, conflict and nature.


For Annie

Your head of abundant velvety
sterling was stippled black, shade of your prime.
Mere wisps your brows fractionally bordered mineral eyes.
Skin as malleable as the margarine on your piece;
heel of the loaf, hard against gums,
worse against dentures.

Creases on gauze,
your skin’s dainty trellis
sustained the rubicund blooms of cheeks.
Your knuckles, granny knots on long white cord,
wedding band immovable.
Who keeps it now?

Mottled hands, once plump,
had burned against rope whilst
you had swung below street-light, your tyre seat.
Both red ribbons in your waist-length hair saturated,
chin tilted you imbibed the contents of the sky;
your hair slickened liquorice sticks.

Flairs at your fingertips,
old tunes long learnt in your girlhood
and recalled from terms in school quarters;
deftly you coned the eyes from grubby soup tatties,
squat stinging blade that frequently shamed me.
Whiffs of chicken, barley and pepper.

Your fingers once laboured
in the workshop, bristled the besoms
before you wed, then gauged your width in each gestation.
Pressed palms together to summon strength when
eight months gone with your fourth child
you became a widow.

Then the home-help who
was not allowed to clean windows.
The like! The health and safety hogwash!
You probed ciphers spotted on pages, each line scoured
in a blink; the unattainable chattels, like your watch’s
exposable face. I kept that.

In your room, the single bed,
seemed ample for us; you a sparrow
and I only small. Every blot behind the curtain was him,
carrying out his lofty window inspections as he roamed the streets
of North Belfast. I had buttoned my eyes
in a sham of sleep.

In your canton of the City confidences
were housed inside built-in robes; your banking system,
you made me trustee off purses of pennies and two pound coins.
A quarter of pear drops among your treasures,
your secrets, when mail came recounted
like Chinese whispers.

On the rail your clothes were draped.
A pall of white musk swathed the blouses.
Iridescent skirts and cardigans were assorted by hue.
The ruby dress was your favourite, kept for special occasions.
The last colour childhood measles claimed,
now your everyday frock.

Of your eighty years I knew you twenty.
I am one quarter you.