The last wolf killed in Ireland
'… for every bitch wolfe, six pounds; for every dogg wolfe, five pounds; for every cubb which prayeth for himself, forty shillings; for every suckling cubb, ten shillings; and no woolfe after the last of September until the 10th of January be accounted a young woolfe, and the commissioners of the revenue shall cause the same equallie assessed within their precincts ...' – Oliver Cromwell, 7th April 1652
mac tíre, strange aggressor. my name a subtle
heckle on an english tongue. to say my name
invites the mountain: mountain of malice, hill
of hides, the snow-quilted sliabh between fort
and forest, stronghold and stream. the night is
full of saints and toads. fuil, feoil, my young
son a fallen aril, stepped to stain. big men, in
the paranoid plainclothes proper to thieves.
our pelts become pennants along their border
wall. their arrows break off in my boys. mac
tíre, aconite's aisteach tincture, a pale green
bane most verdant after grief. big men erect
a republic of bone. osraige, ossory, ossuary
state. through the horny gloaming, their gimp
tread and bilious crooning. a ruined harvest,
a feudal moon. my eye is gold, and it taints
whatever it touches; gilds whatever it spoils.
this was my mountain. i had such husbands,
lean and lairy, courting my carnal skulk by
culvert, verge and hollow. our sex a vernal
errand, piseóc-sweet. to hex, to bless, their
breath was meat and burning sage. these, my
suitors: lank flags flown from paring blades.
big men, who estimate their skins by weight.
mac tíre, indulging my jugular thoughts alone.
revenge is a dish best served sprinting. what
would i give to swallow them whole? the very
towns are teething, mouthing a murderous
vowel meaning home. this was never their
home: towers and turnstiles, roads and gates,
their premonitions of decay. i lope frustrated
light to dread, enter a hateful song aslant.
the shunned house and the haunted tor. fáel.
fail. the plane. the moor.
Fran Lock is the author of numerous chapbooks and nine poetry collections, most recently Hyena! Jackal! Dog! (Pamenar Press, 2021). The next book in the Hyena! cycle, Final Hyena! is due from Poetry Bus Press next year. Her book of hybrid lyric riff, White/ Other, is forthcoming from The 87 Press, also in 2022. Fran is an Associate Editor at Culture Matters where she selected and edited the recently launched The Cry of the Poor: Radical Writing About Poverty; she edits the Soul Food column for Communist Review, and is a member of the new editorial advisory board for the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, currently putting together a special issue on working-class poetics. Together with Hari Rajaledchumy Fran worked on Leaving, an English translation from the Tamil of poems by Sri Lankan poet Anar (Poetry Translation Centre, 2021). She teaches at Poetry School, and hides out in Kent with her beloved pit bull and eternal muse, Manny.
We who had nothing will school them in serenity
- Seferis, Mythistorema
here, at the chattering turn of the year,
you tarry in my flashbacks. men who
speak of the land, the dark knot fouled
into fastening, tight at the throat. fallow
or sodden, stride it to possession.
when the mouth succumbs to psalms.
congregation: wraiths of crude carousal,
wresting their riveted stare from an angel,
gold against the strewn and quaking sky.
the angel holds heat like a smooth flat
stone. the only thing that does round
here. young men who talk of the war,
its sprawling zeitgeist, as if they knew
more of the earth than its currency of tubers;
as if they had known fear's soft aftershow.
speak, and i am newly sickened. here is
a history with all our lurking favours.
here are the birds, the sparrows
of abandon, a cursory gospel
of gulls. here are our people, yours
and mine, a pink-piss rumour
in the works of the sea, blood against
grit, between task and quest, our ship
turned back. or sunk. and us not
crew, but cargo. sweetness, our
ancestors lived through their limbs,
through the slippery wakeful nonsense
of whatever work there was. we knew.
who cannot claim the land. in the mute
slant, in the stale tang of boardinghouse
light. the turf cut into bible sized portions,
immaculate agonies of burning dirt.
in a bothy light. in a flinty cowshed light.
in a scaldy light. in a caravan light
just so. men who juggle the glamour
of crisis like swords, then apply
for art's council funding. i am tired,
refine the nervous sugar of your name,
where everybody speaks your name to
jeering. my student says: art can
only be redeemed by the expenditure
of reason. i cannot imagine anything
more nauseating. i dream of you,
of all our boys, bursting between words,
overflowing their regiments, pouring
through the great white still of the world,
through the gullet of the world, swilled
in the gob of the world between grim
obeisances. brittle you, my forbidden
irrelevant wish. that they'd all shut
up, that you'd live, my dear, you'd live.