Jean O’Brien
Suppose that the hammer’s trajectory 
had been a fraction more to the left, 
the wind direction easterly instead
of west, or that he had turned his head 
instinctively on hearing something 
whoosh through the air, it would have been
a different story.
Suppose when I went into mother’s room, 
excited, to show my latest trawl of tadpoles, 
swimming their endless question marks
in the Mason jar, she had turned instead 
and dashed them to the floor where they floundered 
open mouthed and drowning in air, rather 
than distractedly pushing me out
towards the door with a murmur of ‘Nice. Nice’.
Suppose I had not turned at the last moment 
to see her raise her hand armed with a claw 
hammer and heft it through the already cracked 
glass pane of the window with a shout:
‘Now you’ll fix it, you bastard!’ 
I did, though –
and everything splintered and through 
the gaping maw of the frame I saw 
my baby brother sit quietly 
in the garden, a red blanket under him
glass shards glittering all around like Chinese 
luck money and just beyond in the long 
grass, the hammer with its head and cleft 
buried and rendered harmless.
Suppose my Father and Aunt had seen it 
from my vantage point; and not what they thought 
they saw, my troubled Mother fling a hammer 
at my brother’s head, had I not froze, been 
too shocked to talk, I could have told them. 
The Doctor came and they gentled her out
into the waiting car. She returned weeks later –
eyes shattered, her speech hammered fragments.
Page 73, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 120
Issue 120

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 120:

Edited by Vona Groarke

Vona Groarke's final issue as editor is packed with new poems from leading contemporary poets, including Simon Armitage, Sinéad Morrissey, Colette Bryce, Paul Muldoon, Sean O'Brien and Caitríona O'Reilly. Books reviewed include new work from Derek Mahon, Bernard O'Donoghue, Rita Ann Higgins, Martina Evans, Denise Riley and the 2016 Forward Prize winner Vahni Capildeo. The centrepiece of the issue is an interview with Paul Muldoon in which the Armagh maestro shares his thoughts on subjects as diverse as public surveillance, the economic down-turn, and the exclamation mark. The cover image is by photographer Justyna Kielbowicz, and the issue also contains award-winning artwork from Sven Sandberg, Aoife Dunne, Jane Rainey, and Michelle Hall. Instead of an editorial, Vona herself answers the questionnaire she put to the contributors of Poetry Ireland Review Issue 118: The Rising Generation.