ELAINE GASTON / THE LIE OF THE LAND
Elaine Gaston writes as truthfully and tenderly as Heaney about sorrow, love and the difficulties and joys of developing out from a narrow Ulster experience to embrace the whole world as home.
— Medbh McGuckian
Cover art: Elizabeth Magill
ELAINE GASTON is from the north coast of Ireland. She received an ACE Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland 2014-15. She was awarded the No Alibi’s Prize at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University, Belfast, where she completed an M.A. in 2010. She won a Commendation in the National Poetry Competition, 2013, a Special Commendation in the Patrick Kavanagh Award in both 2013 and 2014 and was short-listed for the Bridport Prize in 2014. She has also won prizes in the Templar Poetry Pamphlet Competition and the Academi Cardiff International Poetry Competition. Her work was selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions, 2006.
Cycling Home from the Rotterdam Bar
It was a faff to get back from the Rotterdam
– I had my bike so was heading on home –
while the others stood waiting for a taxi
you hopped on behind and took a backie
on my bag rack, legs splayed out while I steered.
Three sheets to the wind we sailed through the back streets,
with a couple of pints in us we were in slo-mo
like under the strobe light at the disco.
So at a check point in May Street, no worries
– even as you swayed behind me on the carrier –
full of Dutch Courage we were invincible,
they waved us on through like a bike was invisible,
then called to our backs just as we disappeared,
‘Hey that’s dangerous. You’ve no lights on your rear.’
When over your shoulder you fired back the quip,
‘Aye sure, s’ok, for look, my arse lights up.’
The Lie of the Land
Your laugh, a curlew’s call,
in the back room where we sit
to the small hours.
Stories our mothers told us,
stories, our own,
ramble off, stop
at every last whin bush,
diverge, converge again.
Roddens through the moss,
townlands in our minds,
phrases turn like a sod,
words churn like the butter
we used to know,
as we roll and heuch,
slap rowdy hands on thighs.
Wild she-wolves in native oak groves
we try to find again
the lie of the land,
the different names for different fields,
fallow, meadow, ploughed.
New paths over old tracks,
opening up blocked roads.