Eleanor Hooker

the poet

Eleanor has published two books with Dedalus Press: A Tug of Blue and The Shadow Owner’s Companion. Her third collection, Mending the Light, is forthcoming. She holds an MPhil (Distinction) in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. Currently collaborating on two new poetry chapbooks, Eleanor has recently been published by Poetry magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, Agenda. Eleanor is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, and a helm and press officer for Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat. She lives in Tipperary, Ireland.

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the poems

Nailing Wings to the Dead

00:00 / 01:37

Since we nail
wings to the dead,
she calls ravens
from the sky
to inspect our work. 'For flight,'
they say, 'first remove their boots.'

She leans in,
inspects a fresh hex
behind my eyes,
takes my feet
and lays them on the fire,
to burn it out, roots first.

We're the last,
babička and me.
We've survived on
chance and bread
baked from the last store of grain.
And as we're out of both,

we will die soon.
They are gathering
in the well.
We disrobe.
She hums whilst I nail her wings,
she tells me a tale, her last gift —

'This dark stain,
passed kiss to kiss-stained
fevered mouth,
blights love, is pulsed
by death-watch beetle's
tick, timing our decay.

They know this.
They wait by water,
gulping despair.
The ravens keep watch,
they say the contagion's here,
they promise to take us first.'

Her tale done,
we go winged and naked
to the well.
We hear them
climbing the walls, caterwauling,
but ravens are swift, and swoop.

Guardian Angel

after Guy Denning

00:00 / 01:21

Mine is perpetually undressed, though 
not ingloriously so. He's illustrated too,

yet I can tell his new tattoo, 
Paradis Est Ici, does not improve his spirits.

When he splays his charcoaled wings,
the wrench of skin, feather and bone

makes a sound like splintering wood,
I hear him mutter, 'fuck that hurts'.

He shaved his head when I shaved 
mine aged twenty-two, and though

my hair's grown back, still he calls
me 'baldylocks'. I've been called worse.

With a devoted sense of wickedness
he feeds rosemary to lambs, 'pre-seasoning',

he winks, 'no salvation for the lamb'.
He's at his most morose in a boat;

it reminds him of biblical times and
fishing trips that brought him little cheer.

He gets cantankerous at my dithering,
Tells me I need a 'swift kick up the arse'.

'You must rid yourself of your demons'
he chides. 'What', I snap, 'and lose you?'

Well Worn Wings

after Jeanie Tomanek

00:00 / 01:52

That cabinet in my mind,
where I put things I'd rather not 
consider, is almost full. Row upon row
of stones stacked behind its vast 
yew doors, collapse in on themselves
daily – like bones in a graveyard.

The cabinet sits above high water
in a backroom named, Unutterable
I didn't name the room, and don't know 
who did, but I'm conversant with its synonyms. 
The creature that guards the room 
is not an eel or a terrible fish,

it just is … and occasionally, is not.
Where I trace the damp blue walls, 
a soft mould chalks the paint 
with my impressions. This room 
is a dark and broken sea, 
where disturbed waters drown time.

I catch sight of my well worn wings – 
their hooked vanes patched blue 
and green – old wounds. With effort, 
they wrench me from the waters pull, 
settle me on a rusty puckane, protruding 
from the wall. Nearby, all my birds,

obsidian and raven, caw – what, what
what-what, at the question of my unsettling.
I unfeather, back to the rachis,
I pluck quills from my shoulder-bones until, 
dismantled, I am back at source – 
flightless, woman, and unutterably sad.

Publishing credits

Nailing Wings to the Dead: POETRY (October 2015)

Guardian Angel: Southword (Issue 30)

Well Worn Wings: first broadcast on Evelyn Grant's Poetry File

© original authors 2020

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