Two poems by Jane Kirwan


At the end of March, there’ll be no leaves,
the walnut trees will drip black ribbons –
blossom killed by frost last May.
The lane will be mud,squelching with slush
and rotten pears, we’ll need our boots.
I’ll turn on the water,count the mole-hills;
you’ll take apples to the horses in the field,
some roses might have survived.
You’ll go to the bottom lane, switch on the electricity,
my lavender and herbs will be dead.
We’ll light the stove and air the bedding
then stop to watch the red squirrel leap
through the silver birch.
Roxy’s plastic bucket will be by your blueberries.
You’ll say the raspberry bushes have signs of life
and the lilacs are thriving,
will start to prune the apple trees.
I’ll clean the fridge,
put coffee in the pot, find my lost sweater.
We’ll stand under the old cherry tree,
look out at the forest,
mist under the junipers. It will still be cold,
the woodpecker will have started prodding the lime,
you’ll say you’re giving up on garlic,
it will be so quiet.


They had stopped for the night in Athens, were going home
or heading north for what was home at the moment.
They drove into Macedonia – regular yellow fields –
Customs was quicker than last time.
Four hours in a traffic queue among the wooded slopes
before Montenegro; a low wall separating them
from the drop to the valley. She thought she could live there.
He said it was smoother than the mountain road,
pot holes, fake border, men with Kalashnikovs.
They paid all the tolls with credit cards,
they were hungry. The hotel was on the motorway near Skopije.
It had balustrades and porticoes, an empty car-park,
a dining room more like a ballroom, an acre
of empty tables, two dead sparrows near the cash desk.
A waiter appeared. He straightened a hundred chairs,
deeply unhappy in his nylon jacket, then said
nothing was available. Schnitzel.
In the distance near the sign to the Jacuzzi,
four middle-aged men drank beer with chasers.
Before crossing into Hungary they searched
for a place to sleep, Serbian villages were shuttered, silent.
The young men ahead, waiting for a room, had guns
in their jacket pockets. It was nearly midnight, no cars,
no one on the streets in the towns.
They talked of a detour to see the wild horses,
skipped Budapest. They had rented a Fabia, would go
through the night. She marvelled at the neatness of Austria.
As they crossed the Czech border at Znojmo, fields
gave way to casinos strung for miles,
night-clubs flashed orange, purple, puce.
They stopped for petrol and coffee. It was 4 am.
Two girls waited near the tyre-pressure gauge, another
in stilettos lounged by the pumps.
The road was empty, the car and lorry-parks full.
She examined the number plates, European –
mainly Czech and Austrian. At regular intervals,
on both sides of the road, ten-metre-high inflated women
with legs spread wide swayed slightly in the warm night air.
The smell of diesel and burgers. All neon-enhanced
and available. They were heading for Jihlava
but never found it, juggernauts avoiding motorway taxes stormed
through the dead villages. She said Jihlava sounded like Jehova
and that just like a passport and cash,
she now had a backpack of rage and if only
the boot was full of thunderbolts,
she’d drive back to that border, zap the lot.

About the author

Jane Kirwan was born into an Irish family in England, started travelling as a baby, escaped to work in Nigeria, got stuck in London…

Read the full bio

Issue 21 · October 2014

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