Raine Geoghegan, M.A. is a poet and prose writer of Romany, Welsh and Irish descent. Nominated for the Forward Prize, Best of the Net & The Pushcart Prize, her work has been published online and in print with Poetry Ireland Review; Travellers’ Times; Ofi Press; Under the Radar; Fly on the Wall and many more. Her pamphlet, ‘Apple Water: Povel Panni’, was launched in December 2018 with Hedgehog Poetry Press and was listed in the Poetry Book Society Spring 2019 Selection. Her new pamphlet, ‘they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog’ also published by Hedgehog in December 2019 is out now. Her work was featured in the film, ‘Stories from the Hop Yards,’ made by Catcher Media. She gives readings in UK and Ireland and teaches ‘Poetry and Prose Performance Skills’ as well as one-to-one mentoring sessions. Website: rainegeoghegan.co.uk – follow Raine at twitter.com/RaineGeoghegan5
The Close of the Day
At the close of the day, she stops doing what she’s always done. Opening the door, she tiptoes into the quiet house. At the close of the day, she sips nettle tea, writes a shopping list, calms the whining fridge. At the close of the day, she shuts her fears in a box, walks between the rooms, saying goodnight to the walls. At the close of the day, she learns to breathe again, slow and deliberate. She strokes the cats and listens to their tales, like she used to. At the close of the day, she stops. Turns the mirror to face the wall, slips out of her skin and dissolves into the cold bed of night.
She is tying bunches of wildflowers, placing them into a penerka, her arthritic hands working slowly. She stops, breathes in the fine fragrance, remembers the flowers made of paper, she used a small peg knife to curl the petals, taking it up and over, one by one, taking time until they looked like the real thing. Then the small bunches of heather that she cut and put together in tissue paper with a thin piece of bass tied around the ends.
She is walking with the vardos, holding the hands of her youngest children. Her husband is guiding the grai, she is singing an old song, ‘I love to walk along the drom, in the month of May, kushti divvus, kushti divvus, it’s a kushti day.’
She is in her vardo, birthing her fourth child, the one with the strawberry mark on her back. Great Aunt Carrie is bathing her forehead. After screaming and cursing, the welcome cries of her daughter, reminding her of the first flush of a mother’s love.
Sitting on her dada’s knee, singing a song about lollipops, her voice breaking as he bounces her up and down, his laughter mingling with hers.
Now she lies on a hospital bed, her face chalk white, her eyes watering, her Granddaughter sitting close by on a hard backed chair, her fingers moving, like sea anenomies, pushing, pulling, pushing, reaching out to her Granddaughter who is transfixed. ‘Picking the flowers, smelling the scent, tying them up, two bob a bunch, ‘kushti divvus, in the month of May.’
Romani words: Penerka – basket; Vardos – wagons; Grai – horse; Drom – road; Kushti divvus – a lovely day.
A prose poem in memory of Michael Edward O’Neil and the horse known as Mad Alf
He was called Mad Alf, on account of ‘im bein’ on the nervous side. He couldn’t stand still, ‘cause of the shell shock see, all the noise of the guns, did ‘is ‘ead in. Me da bought ‘im fer a shillin’, otherwise it would’ve bin the knacker’s yard, like so many others. ‘Ee was an army grai, a kushti grai.
Me da thought the world of ‘im and took ‘im everywhere. The chavies loved ‘im and ‘ee them. The only time ‘ee stood still was when they were strokin’ ‘im. ‘Ain’t you a luvley boy?’ They’d say. Me da sold ‘errin’s in the main square and Mad Alf would trot to and fro until it was time to go ‘ome. I was only a nipper but I remember it well. Me da comin’ back to the vardo, tellin’ us about ‘is day, stinkin’ of fish.
‘Ee used to let me give Mad Alf some ‘obben, carrots and grains and all the time ‘ee kept ‘oppin’ from one foot to the other, ‘ee was beautiful though. When we settled fer the raddi, we’d ‘ear a strange noise, a sort of screechin’ sound, ‘igh pitched. Da said ‘Ee’s ‘ad it ard, ‘ee done ‘is bit.’ ‘Ee must of bin frit to death, going didilow on the battlefield’ me da said, then ‘ee tutted and put ‘is ‘ead down so I couldn’t see the tears.
One day I ‘eard someone cryin, ’ I went outside and saw me dad on the ground, is ‘ead bent down, one vast on the grai’s neck, the ‘uver on ‘is back. Mad Alf lie mullered. The first time I ever saw a mullered grai. No words fer it.
Da made a wooden carvin’ of Mad Alf which took pride of place on the mantle piece. ‘Ee couldn’t spell but ’ee managed to write, ‘Ere is Mad Alf, our phral, a kushti grai. Duvel Parik me freno.
With sincere thanks to Charles O’Neil, who kindly allowed me to write about his Grandfather Michael Edward O’Neil who lived in Carlisle and bought the horse known as Mad Alf).
Romani words: Kushti – lovely; Grai – horse; Chavies – children; Vardo – wagon; Hobben – food; Raddi – night; Didilow – out of his mind; Vast – hand; Mullered – dead; Phral: brother/best mate; Duvel parik me freno: God bless my friend.