Two Poems After Akhmatova

Rachael Boast
Hand, Match, Ashtray
We are sitting here to memorise the poem
before the pages I have wrapped myself in
are taken off, like a pleated dress, and burned 
over an ashtray. The matches are there on the table. 
This pain is not just our own; we have 
a thousand hands; we are a forest of birches 
outside the devastated city, tired of ordeals, 
and of the tortured metal of icons we remain silent.
I mean to offer you the sound of bells ringing out 
from a far away abandoned church, the smell
of scorched rafters and rubble, to say that fire
is also light. All this I saw in the mirror,
and in the dream of the mirror, your figure 
hurrying across fields to a room with no walls, 
where the body is poem. We held each other 
in that room, and, for a moment, there was no pain.
To Akhmatova
Cold sharp syntax of snow lying on the ground
beneath a sky so deeply blue you mistake it
for her eyes. Snow in Odessa where the snow-white 
waves rush in off the Black Sea, where water 
feeds on the weather. Snow in the parks of Leningrad 
where the snow-white statues weep. But it is better 
that they weep. In her eyes, the hard mastery of thaw. 
Page 13, 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.