Startling A Dog

A dog will bolt backwards onto a road. A driver will swerve. His car will veer towards a family sitting outdoors at a café. A mother will be injured, spending the next year learning how to walk again.

Out driving, he spots her, and honks. Will I wave, he thinks. Why haven’t you answered my texts. You should’ve called. The tyres skim soft over the worn cobble-stones.

The woman sees him and looks away. Rage rises, her face burns dark, his short blares becoming swats to her head.

Her family gawp blank at the car, the beeps…


Tell the story. You remember the first kiss. People always ask about the first kiss, the first dance, when did you know, when did you know he was the one, when did you realise. Tell the story about how he was the one.

The story has a beginning, a middle, of course an end. But hover over the beginning. This is your first kiss, your first dance. This is how it felt to have your hand in his. This is when he dropped to his knee, imagine, so handsome, his bended knee, to ask, holding a small box, to ask…


Malachy

The pair of us are out the back garden, me and my sister, fooling with the dog. All the rest are inside: Mam, most of the uncles, aunts, grandparents, some older cousins. Everyone’s speaking small and quiet, curtains neither closed nor open, curly-edged sandwiches, kettle hot, the immersion on day and night with water hissing mad within the copper cylinder in the hot press. My sister hears the phone. She sprints into the house like a cat with its tail on fire, though I’ve never seen one, yet.

I never answer the phone. I can’t figure what people are…


Remember. Your hand pressed to rock. You held it there, fingers splayed, the cave wall absorbing its warmth. You were high off the ground, arm stretched to the ceiling.

Were others hoisting you up, a pyramid of bodies? Or had you pulled branches from the jungle below, scaffolding your way? Did you hold the bowl of liquid pigment in your free hand as you flattened your palm rigid against the rock?

You were a short distance in from the entrance, hand held to the cave’s ceiling. …


Forever Four Stone Walls

This skeletal house is dear to me, it holds me firm in its grip. These four stone walls, this roof, this cellar, ever-dying, ever-birthing, and I, a shadow caught between its brittle ribs.

I am the story within. I am a figment, an error.

The pendulum drifts forward as far as its reach. It stops, four stone walls, goes back, four stone walls. …


Infirmary

Mass was compulsory. We would rise at dawn, wakened by a marching nun who squeaked on crepe soles through the school’s dormitory. She slow-clapped on her first round and loudly recited The Morning Prayer on her second, her thin voice cracking with stricture.
‘O Jesus, through the most pure heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works and sufferings of this day, for the intentions of your Sacred Heart.’
‘O Jesus, I offer you all my suffering, for the intention of your Sacred Amusement,’ I would mutter from behind my curtained cubicle. ‘O Jesus, I offer you my condolences,’…


The Edict Of Mal

blue eyes rimmed with stubble

a razor a rising a rose

Her nerves draw blood, piercing her lip like outraged seam-rippers as she tries to talk herself through the act. She bites down on the words.

‘Pick a card, any card, and place it… then place… and place the card… place it carefully…’

Charging through brain stem and spinal cord down to the web of her skin, nerve roots fret, gnawing past pain, trying to alert her. …


To Thee Do We Send Up Our Sighs

My grandmother is beautiful dead.

In life, she was fierce, demanding the world to orbit around her, squeezing hot tears out if she sensed dispassion, her grey-blue eyes trained on you. She was good at it, and I loved her, forgiving all her twists and turns as I grew older.

Raised by her grandmother, she had grown up believing she had killed her mother, who had died giving birth to her. She believed her father had abandoned her, his murderous infant daughter, taking with him only her elder brother.

Here she lays…


Golden Stone Territory

She meanders through damp grass thick with insects and a myriad of scents, pausing frequently to gather pockets of information. Some new, some old, some ancient, they are cross-referenced with her memories of the same journey this time yesterday. Her zig-zag path appears chaotic, like the jolting movement of a housefly: forward, stop, reverse, stop, swing left, take a wide arc back to just beyond the start, stop, follow the original direction, stop, swing right, a tight circle, twice, stop, go again, forward. She only knows what she is looking for when she finds it. Pausing, she…


The Vigil of Evergreen

There was a time, there must have been, when I was nearly the same as everyone else. Sleep, breathe, eat, breathe, sleep. There was a time I used to be head up, walking around all devil-may-care, kicking up the bloodless leaves, not an ounce of cop inside me, never once thinking of where it was leading, all this falling, this pull, never once feeling the drag to the ground, and down below, never once hearing the spool winding backwards.

Sleep will come back to me, in the end. I know a falling will come.

First, there’s…

Niamh Mac Cabe

Writer, artist, air breather, dog sympathiser

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