Colette By Leontia Flynn

Since her name dropped like a stone in the women’s talk

I am haunted by the ghost of my mother’s sister.

She comes to me out of 1939

in a little white dress and pristine Mary-Janes

clutching the gloves she’ll drop on the Donegall Road.


She stoops from the kerb. The Donegall Road, the West,

is a disused room in my family’s House of History:

the distaff wing, the city’s sealed-off place.

She steps from the kerb to the not-quite-lorry-free roads

of 1940.  Next year my mother is born.


Next year to the day. My mother’s birthday cake

is iced in black and sweetened with black ashes;

the candle-flames are little points of dark

as dim as her dead sister’s eyes that day

on the Donegall Road.  The name they sang: her name.


Colette, Colette.  My grandmother’s atonement

for being so provocatively bereaved

is to lay her womb, like a flower, on heaven’s altar.

The Virgin smiles and leans to soothe her brow.

After my mother, she begets seven sons.


Colette, Colette: your name is a hiccup of grief,

and the hollow knock inside an empty closet.

A seed of loss, it sprouts beyond the day

we tuck your little shoes, now yellow with age,

like a breech birth in the soil of granny’s grave.

About Author Annette J Dunlea Irish Writer

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