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Steve Denehan

the poet

Steve Denehan lives in Ireland with his wife Eimear and daughter Robin. A widely published, award-winning poet, he's the author of two chapbooks and two collections (one of which is forthcoming from Salmon Press). He's been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Best New Poet.

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the poems


00:00 / 02:01

It took me forty thousand punches to realise
forty thousand too many
sure, I landed a few, enough to take me to this ring
but he is quick as light and made of iron and his punches
his punches come again, and again, and again

the fists of my father, my mother, my schoolmates, of God himself
the glancing blows, the blows of the children I saw for half an hour
last Christmas eve

I am winded from two body shots unseen
I disguise it
but he knows, I look in his eyes, he knows
he comes for me and though the ring is an infinite thing
I can find no place to hide

then, an opening, a tunnel for my right hand and
I watch my fist blur toward him and
feel the contact rock the columns of his temple and
he is dazed and he is mine and his eyes look through me
and I call upon that old right hand one last time
the hand that signed my title deeds, my wedding certificate
my divorce papers
the hand that held my babies, that held your face before that first kiss
my sledgehammer, my bomb
but, it is so heavy now
and the fuse won’t light, and then, I know

two seconds pass
two seconds that will stretch over all my days
two seconds when it was all there, another world
two seconds when I betray myself, as I always do

and so, I wait, with nothing left
to get what I deserve and when he comes
I do not run, and I am baptised in a flood of fists

I fall through the roar of the crowd and am caught
by the blanket of childhood
the lights above are so bright, and so pure, and just beyond my reach

I lie on my back and watch dozens of moths
in frenzied compulsion
flying head first into the lights again
and again, and again

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Jesus or Rasputin

00:00 / 00:46

I wonder how many times these raindrops have fallen
they land on the attic window
loud and heavy
reminding us that eventually
they will win

I wonder what these raindrops have fallen on
spitfires and lollipops
brides and widows
endings, beginnings,

I wonder if these raindrops have fallen
on Hitler or Harold Lloyd,
Cleopatra or Elvis,
or Rasputin

the sky is a grey lake
pouring itself upon us
muddying the garden
puddling the drive
trapping us, again
it is June

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Plastic Bag

00:00 / 01:03

We stood on the canal bank
under a bruise of a sky
she was full of questions
questions that
as usual
I couldn’t answer
we stared at the fish
“What type of fish is that?”
“How can you tell which fish are boys and which are girls?”
“Why is a swarm of fish called a school?”
“How many fish are there?”

I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know

she pointed at a plastic bag in the water near the far bank
“Is that a jellyfish?”
I did know
I told her that she was a silly monkey
that it was just a plastic bag
that jellyfish would never be in a canal
only in the sea
in saltwater
she was quiet
for a moment

“Would jellyfishes like canals?”
“Why is there salt in the sea?”
“Will there ever be salt in the canal?”
“Who put that plastic bag there?”

I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know

Publishing credits

Fists: The Irish Times

  Winner of the Hennessy New Irish Writing 2019

Jesus or Rasputin: Miles of Sky Above Us, Miles of Earth Below

  (Cajun Mutt Press)

Plastic Bag: exclusive first publication by iamb

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