Apsley’s Newsagents, Est. 1903* Wuiden shelves chime wi Irish lace and linen, crystal trinkets, bare-skud hardbacks hunkered doon like square soldiers, words aimed — yin day — at weans grespin leathery liquorice laces happed in Paisley-patterned paper, hearkenin yarns o grannies built peelie like The People’s Friend, ganshin, gabbin, crackin neath yellow, striped awning. Waater drips doon tweed caps. Scent o Woodbine, o war, o dulse, o ale -- bachelors cowp coins, scatter tobacco, buy news, pay for pipe dreams weighed in siller scales glentin ahint the coonter: midget gems sowl in quarters, ribbons and iambs measured by the meter — similes settled by the score. We sing and dance.
*Winning poem, October 2021 Frances Browne poetry competition
We reach the summit in the inky part of day -- ready to be written — and look beyond lines of skinny houses to giant Woodbine puffing as the Townsend Thoresen scissors the navy sea.
Scarlet-cheeked cousins play inside -- two score and more — and tumble and titter and tee-hee by the hearth, where a new baby is changed and wrapped in a white, bobbly blanket.
Granny casts a crafty smile in the corner — reflexive conjugation — and the clickety click of stout knitting needles conjures honeycomb lines in Aaron wool unwinding above a pile of cardigans scented with barley.
Granda’s heavy hands rest on his belly -- past imperious — and he half-snoozes with one eye on his lamb sheep huddled close to the orange fire, where buckled, leather belts hang idle.
Aunts rattle the golden bucket of coal -- eleven in prime — and the hiss of wet slack unleashes a draught as children eat a communion of squished up loaf and sip Ribena from silver goblets. In the parlour, uncles talk unseen — five lost for a crown —and shake a fist at nephews who creep through the hall, sucking the scent of Imperial Leather as they learn what is for men to be at peace.
Joyce’s eyes well in the window pane -- still one of sixteen children — and her cradling voice follows a gust of wind that catches me falling, lace-on-lace, into a bride’s arms in infant days of summer.
Later, I step outside into the darkness and hear the clickety click of time unwinding and know that they will all come home -- to Ballysnod.
** Ballysnod was placed 5th in the 8th Annual Bangor Poetry Competition, December 2020.