Selected Poems

See new poem 'Counting Horses' in The Mary Evans Picture Library here

See 'Vigilance'  in the Irish Times here

See 'Discord' here

See 'The Unattended' poem in Cyphers Magazine 89 here

See poems in Southword Magazine here

See poems in Forage Magazine  here
See poems in The poet congeries here

See poems in The Hopkins Review here and here

See poems in New Hibernia Review here
Below is a small selection of other poems:

Call of the Corncrake

BY SIOBHÁN CAMPBELL

There is a tip of forever

in the wait for the cut

when you fly low on rufous wings

and call out your court.

Crane-necked, we hear you

rattle through grass

hoping to mate before meadows

are sheared.

A line that might stop.

No crex comes back

before the machine

grinds in the gap.

What sight is right?

We hope to spy

while you scour the meadow,

high beak, high eye.

Why islanders don't kiss hello

BY SIOBHÁN CAMPBELL

And it’s not just the bad-timing nose-grazing
jaw against pursed expectation, nor
is it because of Judas
(though he slips out the side door of this discussion)
but more that it seems too familiar
as we have not been to pre-school with your mother.
Perhaps we are not fully of the Europe
where the lean-to nature of a kiss can denote
who will be shafted in a vote.
Or is it just a fear of being wrong, two in
Paris, three in Zagreb and so on?
Right-left instead of left-right could affect the funding
for those new roads in Cavan.
It’s not to do with hygiene;
we shake hands happily instead
but we’ve learned because we must,
being from the island of largesse,
to give that peck of venture in a shared future
where the view over one shoulder is as good
from this side as the other. 

 

 

Uncle Paddy and the Man from Atlantis

BY SIOBHÁN CAMPBELL

After devotions, Paddy took his stick and wandered down the strand.
Seagulls were not caterwauling for once. He could hear the breeze speak
in its foreign tongues of all the places it had been but one place was new.
Atlantis the easterly said using the lip of his cap to articulate. Atlantis. It’s
west of here don’t you know and rises in the coil of unset minds.


Now it was crawling dusk and the rocks had that shifty-shape as they prepared
to move in the night. Paddy nubbed the sand with his stick so it
should stay just where it was and he could see where he’d been if he
looked back. Then he saw the man, lolled against a rock gone rose in the
sun’s deplete, his shoes beside him creased with salt as if they’d been a long
time drying by the sea.


Paddy had never met a traveller who would not tell a tale, even if it took
until the end of the pouring night and the barrel was in the dregs so no
head came on the pint. He sat beside the man. The day crept off the beach
onto the water and tripped its way toward that far horizon. I know you
are from Atlantis he said to the man, I was told as much. Maybe it’s that if
you speak you break the spell.


He reached a packet of polo mints out of his pocket and offered it to the
man. They sat and ate through the rest of the mints, Paddy having to suck
one of them hard to get it off the tooth that had fallen in and the man
eating his with a daintiness that Paddy hadn’t seen since the wedding
breakfast of Myrna on the hill. At last Paddy said, will you tell me your
tale?


And the man spoke in a rasp and no accent that was ever heard aloud: you
can hear it yourself if you look to where your envy lodges like a jewelled
ulcer in your gut, to where the memory of lust in its first rush is livid with
longing, to where you have hated your own sister because she was your
mothers’ favourite and got to name the pet lamb.


Paddy must have closed his eyes with the shock of knowing for when he
opened them the man was gone and he would never be able to hear the
end of the traveller’s tale though he looked for him through summer and
winter and especially when the seagulls quietened down and the breeze
tipped and whittled at his bones –

 

 

 

Concentration

BY SIOBHÁN CAMPBELL

What are things made of?
The scrape of the potty from under the bed
would wake the dead. My grandaunt’s squat
of balance as she aims, hitching a flannel nightdress
high enough to miss its faded pinkness.


Back into bed lighter, pot pushed under,
a yellow fresh smell like a shape in the room.
Steam must be rising from both sides beneath us.
If we were taken, assumed, we would be ready,
be-calmed, made holy by the body.


Her King Charles spaniels with Venetian
glass eyes look on from either end of the mantle.
Forever apart in painted disdain, making space
actual between them. The pride of one
is trumped by the wink of the other.


When things attract our deep attention
they give back out the stare that we put in.
We know this is commitment of relation.
And though it seems innocent to say,
it is a form of love.

 

 

 

Colonial Drift

BY SIOBHÁN CAMPBELL


Re-naming the institutions.
Counting the freckles between sleeve and sling.
Watching the mountains change colour in time
to the drums. 

Matching ghosts to their namesakes,
licking their like out of bricks.
Dismantling the wall
and re-making it as a cube.

Acting surprised
when plates take off across the room.
How many troubled souls to make a poltergeist?

Re-drawing the districts.
Counting the votes due from each house.
Adding in name variations
in three official languages.

Calculating the rate of shift,
taxes due on the living and the dead.

 
 
 
'Quickthorn' appears in Cross-Talk and is one of a series of poems exploring what may lie beneath folk beliefs or superstitions. It was first published in Poetry magazine and was recorded on the Oxfam Poets CD showcase of contemporary British and Irish Poets.

Quickthorn

BY SIOBHÁN CAMPBELL

Don't bring haw into the house at night 
or in any month with a red fruit in season 
or when starlings bank against the light, 
don't bring haw in. Don't give me reason 
to think you have hidden haw about you. 
Tucked in secret, may its thorn thwart you. 
Plucked in blossom, powdered by your thumb, 
I will smell it for the hum of haw is long, 
its hold is low and lilting. If you bring 
haw in, I will know you want me gone 
to the fairies and their jilting. I will know 
you want me buried in the deep green field   
where god knows what is rotting.

 

'By Design' first appeared in Cyphers magazine and is also from Cross-Talk which has a section of work that looks at the stories we tell ourselves.

 
By Design
BY SIOBHÁN CAMPBELL
 
Here, in our own time, a living memory
exists of a man who made nature out of mind.
A bent man, curved in a crook, who skewed
the ash trees, tied them down, flexed them
until the arc of his wishing came to be
and they reached toward their full becoming.
These were the unimaginable hayforks, all
of a piece, no maker’s mark, a tine so precise
it made lifting two bales entirely possible.
Yes, they were for sale but at a price,
a different amount for every purchaser, a sum
to be reckoned after a month, their time
to coddle the sweep of the instrument in
newly worn hands, when they felt it sway
in the dip of one finger, and could watch
the wood seize their thumb print, its first knots
smoothed out of nodules. Put aside, laid down
and walked away from in a barn, or propped
in a rack, a branch might begin in a dint of work.
And were it forgotten, left like a body in the dark
it might slip out a root. But this is conjecture.
What is certain is that these hayforks
would never warp, once bent.

 

"When all this is over' was part of the 'In Dreams Begin Responsibilities' performance to commemorate 18 years since the Good Friday Agreement in 2016, the opening event of the Belfast International Arts Festival.
When all this is over
BY SIOBHÁN CAMPBELL

When all this is over

 

I plan to go north
by unapproved roads
where sniper signs rust on the trees.
 
I will cross the border
over and back
several times to see how it feels.
 
I will dance the pig’s dyke
and taste mountain mayflower
on the breeze.
 
Near under-fished lakes
I will hear a blood-pause
in the reach of the night
 
when every word used for batter
and crisis will cruise with the ease
of what runs right through us,
 
when the shift and fill
of my own dear cells
is all they will tell as they breathe.
 
And out through the lanes,
I will lie in my form
in overgrown fields
 
not a chopper in sight.
And they say it is safe
and the weather agrees.