Friday May 24

CotterPatrick Patrick Cotter lives in Cork, Ireland. Recent poems of his have been published in the Financial Times, London Review of Books, Poetry, Poetry Review and elsewhere. He has published two full length collections, a verse novella and several chapbooks. He has received the Keats-Shelley Prize for poetry. His website can be found here.

Coast Ghost

I plod towards the sea, a flaccid fish
swinging from my fist. The tide is low
and so too the beach gradient, so I walk
for ages, the waves furlongs away. I reek

of fish and though I can swim like a fish
the sea skips away from me, unzipping itself
from the land with a crude urgency, while sullen
bubbles of lugworms burp all around and crab

shells litter the crinkled foreshore like blown-out
hulks of miniature tanks. Kelp-wreathed limpets
mine stony outcrops acned with barnacles.
Shy anemones conceal their florid heads

deep in their necks. The fish I carry is dead.
My fingers bracelet its gills. I bought it
while its mouth still moved in silent supplication;
one among a mass flipping and glistening in the alien air.

What alignment of the moon yanked the current
which toted them into the trawler’s nets?
I cradle the fish in my arms now, not spotted
like a trout or striped like a mackerel

whether mullet or bass or something else
I do not know and still the waves retreat
though I am near enough now to hear
their white heads sizzle to a flat disappearance.


The woman with the tray spills from her Rimmelled lips
tales of her childhood: her knuckling of the beams overhead
in the basement, her belief she held the whole house up

as footsteps and growls and the shucking by lentils
of their stove-bubbling skins all trickled down through floorboard
cracks, with dust onto the curls of her double crown.

She told of the sight of the boys of Macroom wearing
in March the masks of the wren boys of Ballyvourney;
masks of mallard feathers and glaring eyes and painted

vicious teeth for telling wrens they must be content
with cages or being led at the end of a leash or death.
But the Macroom boys in March rustled no wrens.

They baited badgers in their setts, scurrying shrews,
spring-greeting stoats divesting the name ermine;
hung the bodies at the end of her fence like courting toms.

She told of the hat-stacking shop—the hats of the still alive
neatly towering in piles of different fabrics and colours;
the hats which would scatter to the four corners of the county

and enter shops again when their owners had died.
The hats would populate charity stores and church bazaars
yard sales and scarecrows’ polls but would never rid themselves

of the gestures of their dead first owner whose spirit bent
the fibres, threw the threads into microscopic poses shaping
the whole. As for the tray - displaying a pair of prosthetic

eyeballs, the irises the same size as her modest aureoles, the colour
matching her nipples—brown. I wondered if the north wind blew
and frost still lingered would the tray contain eyes that were blue.

21st Century Frankenstein

The masks on my wall bear down like a dramatic chorus.
A wooden long-chinned Dogon, a dreadlocked Disney Pluto,
a moustachioed plastic Anonymous bought online,

all act to lure your gaze from the mask that is my face;
another’s face, sewn over my own bones, with muscle
and skin younger than my years. I Lancôme lines on

to make it seem more real, pomade the sheen so my new face
blends better with my neck’s looseness. I pocket my two
odd hands, one from a Swede, the other a Spaniard,

one can last longer delving in snow, the other
I can hold closer to the naked flames of a fire.
Occasionally I will eye my back in a full-length mirror

and bugle backwards a composition there scored in ink;
bewraying how melodic and booming with sweetness
Anton Webern can sound in reverse. I wonder

about the person who first wore this tattoo
more than the involuntary donors of my other parts.
I had never heard of Anton Webern before getting my new back.

My left earlobe is longer, more Buddha-like,
than my right and a star of David is etched there.
The crook of my left elbow is marked by a swastika.

My favourite possession: a pot part Grecian amphora,
part Ming vase, part Meissen platter, kintsugied together,
so that it seems a black-figured hoplite reaches for a pear

with a hand used to gripping dorata, as if he aims
to throw it at a blue, pagoda-roofed, Neuschwanstein;
the whole form’s a symmetrical perfection, makes me see

how my cracks too are filled with precious material,
if but of a parabolic matter, a fact you are empowered
to appraise, once you return your gaze from the masks.