Jessamine O Connor



Jessamine O Connor lives in the west of Ireland, south Sligo, and comes from Dublin. Her chapbooks Hellsteeth and A Skyful of Kites, are available from:

Facilitator of the weekly Wrong Side of the Tracks Writers, she is also director of performance poetry/art/music ensemble The Hermit Collective.



You are made up
of my breath

You tingle and grow

scarily vulnerable

I watch out
for sharpness
dreading the sound
of abang

You have a life
of your own
seem too big
for this

I let you out
watch youdrift
across a    vast     sky
and can only hope
you stay
when you pass
out of sight

that you are glad
of the breath
I gave you
when you start
to wizen
and shrink


You spotted her,
zoomed in, held her image

Observed her plumage,
her vigour, her song

Crept closer steadily,
focused, unwavering

She still preened and played,
flitted with the others

Not noticing you

Holding out your hand
full of crumbs

But you kept it held out,
and made soft sounds

Slowly she approached,
wary, then curious

You smiled
as she let you pick her up

And carry her off
to the cage you'd brought

Another Four Letter Word

Because there is a bird
nesting under the sofa seats
you'd planned to use,
you're sawing up a kitchen chair,
nailing together garden furniture
from scrap wood

– So it won't be finished today –

You look twice at me,
as if I could be anything
but enraptured,
picturing you,
crouched in the long grass
finding a nest.


Paint an X on the door, for when we get home
Now, in the room lined with strangers
All swollen with hope, and staff stiff in their white
He holds me when I tell him, and the limbs in me keep rolling

But now there's no pleasure in that discomfort
It horrifies me, the shame of its movements
Here, with the floral curtains closed round us
Where they've busily given us a moment

So I snot on his shoulder, and my eyes drain pride
Down the blue of his waterproof jacket
We're watching feet walk, around the floor
Far away, on the other side of the flowers

A Skyful of Kites

–for Palestine–

Children tumble into a sun-dried day,
Scuffling up dust, chasing a ball,
Mothers quietly watch them play
In the stretching shadow of the wall.
Its concrete knife cuts through the sky,
Carving wide, beyond their sight,
And when the sun sets, on the other side,
They are left holding only the fall of night.

They know well the sound, as neighbours die,
Have felt the shaking of walls, and fright,
Corralled in this pen, kept from the sea,
Until, released by sleep, they fly –
Small tangled fingers clutch one giant kite.
It lifts their dreams and carries them free.

At the Seaside

Small boy throwing stones
into a wide blue sky,
he scoops quickly, watching
as the first ones fall.

Into a wide blue sky
he pitches arcing armfuls,
as the first ones fall
the sun is bright in his eyes.

He pitches arcing armfuls,
watching them watch him,
the sun is bright in his eyes
as the tank starts slowly turning.

Watching them watch him,
long gone beyond the fear grip,
as the tank starts slowly turning
he flings freely - just one more.

Long gone beyond the fear grip
he scoops quickly, watching.
He flings freely. Just one more
small boy, throwing stones.

Ten So Far This Morning

–Gaza, November 2012–

Last night I closed the paper
on the pictures,
then sprang for the remote
to make the children disappear,
to stop them being lowered, so fast,
into rectangles
cut from clay.

Ten so far this morning

Now it's numbers I'm trying not to hear,
wiping the table for breakfast,
seeing again
and again
the white bundles,
sped along in the strong arms
of numb-faced men.

Ten so far this morning

I let the porridge glue,
and start forcing tiny trousers
onto reluctant legs,
living, pink, thrashing legs,
snapping –
why cant you just behave?–
as they go scampering away.

Ten so far this morning

Boys crouched under shields
made of their own front doors,
hiding from the sky
behind doors just like mine
still flapping
with letterboxes,
the childhood in their eyes.

Ten so far this morning

I get back to the table and wipe,
lean into it, wiping, lean on it,
a terror of vomiting,
the walls moving,
cupboards circling,
swaddling me,
and I'm choking on clay.

Ten so far this morning

I need to breathe,
I need to want to breathe,
to want to be, here,
where for all my retching sorrow
I can only spare one small drop,
that falls, reflects,
and is quickly wiped away.

Christmas List for my Newborn Girl


Blusher, Shadow
Liner; Stick-on lashes
Anti-perspirant; Perfume
Body spray, Deodorant; Facelift
Tummy tuck, Magic knickers;
Padded bra, Corset
Silicone implants;
Waxed legs
Shaved armpits
Plucked eyebrows
A Brazilian; Detox, Diet
Diet, Diet; Teeth whitening
Anal bleaching, Liposuction;
Colonic irrigation, Pedicure
Manicure; Laser hair removal;
Cosmetic gynaecology

How long should
We leave it
Before telling her
She mustn't
Be perfect
After all?

My House

This was the last look at the land,
here where they stood in the wind
and waited, looking down the bog
impatient for a plume of steam
blooming along the narrow-gauge track,

for the doors to open and shut
them in, on the way to the junction
with the big city line,
they say they'll be back
and don't know yet it's a lie,

waiting, pacing, lifting cases,
hoarding in their eyes
the light off the lake,
the way the trees sway,
and all the softness of hills, birds and sky,

carrying their cargo inside;
the entirety of life, who they are,
into the trembling train and away,
far across seas, roads and cities,
into new lives, old age, and death.

For many, here was the last place they left,
waiting on this platform
for change to come, some giddy,
some grieving, leaving

Feeding Time


It's always too soon
I hurry to a chair
Fumble in my top
And hunch one shoulder

Twisting my back
I hold her there
And freeze like that
For half an hour


The quiet spins
Around the room
Dust particles sparkle
And waltz the air

One arm is the holder-upper
The other is the stroker
Big fingers fuzzing up
Her new hair


My giants thumb slowly tracing
The curves of her ear
Which I know
Better than my own hand

I only ever see
One side of her face
At a time
Like a downy moon

At Fifteen

I kept catching myself
peering through the bathroom net,
or downstairs jumping
behind the heavy curtains,
so she wouldn't see.

She was startling to me
in short shorts and bare legs,
like she'd just walked off the TV.
Her long swinging hair
lingered mesmerisingly,
and I felt guilty,

I knew I must be
by the way I hid
and watched her legs
and sometimes bare feet
padding down the path,
or dawdling on the empty street.

Her house was a reflection of mine.
We were back to back.
She'd lie out in their garden
and I'd spy from our bathroom,
barely aware
I couldn't stop staring.

Then one day I was in her house,
on the two-seater
drinking tea,
trying not to eat the biscuits,
feeling nervous,
dumpy and undeserving.

She was alarmingly friendly,
sunblown and smiling,
her lip-balm shining,
something new beginning.
Duplicitously it went on,
but by then it felt all wrong

Knowing all the peering I'd done,
and after hearing
how boys on the estate
had raped her the year before,
I couldn't watch her anymore,
and then, as usual, we were gone.

Familiar Territory

It could be a gradual drift.
Like ivy climbing the house,
Wax-sheen green sucking
Holes into the plaster,
Rooting itself in the blocks
Of my skull until
I don't even notice
The walls have come down.

Or maybe the pump will pack in,
And in fairness
It's been given a hammering.
Mistreated but loyal,
Like a dogs tongue, panting,
Panting the rhythm,
Pushing and pulling my life
Through squeezy straws.
I doubt I'd hear it
Switching off.

Or it might be replication,
Insatiably demanding
Colonialist cells,
Turning everything
Around them
To the bad.
The quiet treacherous ones
Carrying dynamite
That tiptoe through bones.

I have an O.S map
of the family territory
But don't know
which way I'm facing.


His onion breath
Lurks around the bed

A damp mist
Like wet crisps

I hold my breath
Turn and turn my face away

Bite his arm
Scrunch his hips

Dig in my nails
Inhale the pillow

Forget the effluvium
Start the sound

Until his mouth
Tries to find me

A smell so strong
It would knock me down

If I wasn't already
On my back

I don't say – you should have
brushed your teeth – he knows


In matching bags they packed,
Doubles of stuff;

Easy reading,
Generic condoms,

In hers there also nested
A secret bag of disguises;

Bottled tan,
And sprays to hide her variety of odours.

His case seemed more haphazard
When she went to put it away
In the hotel cupboard;

Recognised clothes,
Rolls of socks,
And from a fold of denim
Fell a flurry of silver
Foil-pouched packets of pills;

Plastic tubes of

Hard and heavy,
Unrolled from a jacket
And plopped on the bed,
Sat an old-fashioned brown glass bottle,
A weekends worth
Of carefully decanted methadone.

The first day of the rest of their life.

Just a Job

Flying over water, he's glad of the peace,
forgetting why he's here.

The sea curves off and sways
to the slow spin of planet,

everything pristine,
everything whole.

He breathes –

Alone in the cockpit
he could float forever,

no one would know,
no one would notice if he didn't come back.

In bliss like this he drifts
forward and forward.

Until –

The sea erupts in a hoard of land,
and before he knows it

he's passed over the lip of sand
and is suddenly powerless,

hurtling over houses, gardens,
schools, targets, pressing down.

Drop –

He's let the cargo out, and is pulling up,
arcing into a glaring sky

without even knowing
how that happened.

He heads back as planned, auto-person.
The sea shines cold and distant.

The thumping sound of his delivery
plumes behind him

but he doesn't look back.
Never look back.


Banging the drum,
the bloodbath remembered
now in slow motion sepia

Boys and men smart
in starched uniforms,
stoically going up and over,
charging on as ordered.

Their annihilation shown on screen:
fluttering petals,
poppies gorged red
fed on young men's blood.

It's time again to cull the poor,
so make them some costumes,
make up some story,
and send them off killing each other;
just call it war.

Light Sings

i.m. Karen Sheils

Light sings through her batik.
There where the wax was laid down,
where she held steady
the careful copper spout,
drizzled the stream,
the steaming drops,
drew an invisible vision,
an impression only beginning,
only known to her.

When the wax returned
to opaque, only then
could cloud white canvas be
submerged in colour,
with each slow stage
of melting, shaping
and dyeing,
more and more alive.

Celtic knots and crosses,
masks, and flocks and
flocks of birds,
rising with the sun,
suffused with light
through the picture
left behind
when the wax was taken away.

Perk of the Job

A perk of the job is frozen eggs
So now you won't need to open your legs,
Not on Facebook or Apple time.
Careers should be an unbroken line,
No need to shatter our glass ceiling,
Have production effected by maternal feelings.

Those eggs will wait until you're ready,
Past your best, or even retired if you take it steady,
But why not simply get them implanted?
That's every corporate wish granted;
We keep our workforce at their stations,
Outsource reproduction to cheaper nations.

The next logical step for our success;
Rent women's bodies for a whole lot less
Than it would cost us in crèches or maternity pay,
Act like we care about having you stay,
As if we care whether you have children or not,
When we're waiting to replace you all with robots.

But until then we'll invest in baby farms,
Keep the incubators locked up, away from harm
Like germs and accidents and their families,
So our office workers will be at ease,
Knowing their embryos are developing normally
In a far away place, in a stranger's belly.

Our battery women will go through every test,
Screened and brought to the farm like the rest.
No chance of them suffering malnutrition
Like happens at home to their other children,
Because for nine months only they are not themselves,
They're ours, and it's our business to keep them well.

It's our business and business is booming,
Exploiting the fear of your menopause looming,
Of losing that foothold on our ladder,
Or the chance to have children, even sadder.
So just for the ladies, this offer, compulsory:
Freeze your eggs now, keep your job at the company!

Sleepless Lough Gara

In the dark
The Lough is singing

A glockenspiel choir
Of arctic geese

Squeezing through
The bedroom window

Easing bubbles
Of orb notes gather

And drift in clusters
Across black space

Ballooning nearer
The music bursts

A snowstorm of feathers
Melts on my face

Muse-Pie Press  •  R.G. Rader, Editor/Publisher •

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