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Two poems about women

The character of the dug explained
Philosophy I say and call it he, my throat hurts
From all the j's and h's: a woman and a melon
Are both alike, nobody knows what is in them
Until they are broke up. It is as impossible
To dive into the heart of a woman as to run
Your head, body and all into her fundament.

You have taught the curious sight to press
Into the privatest recess of her littleness,
Her sweet-bread, piss-bladder, arse-gut,
Flank-bone, the parts which in women serve
For generation, the descendant trunk
Of Vera Cava with its branchings,
The trumpets of the womb or blind passage
Of the seeds, resembling the wings of bats
Or flittermice, the greatest and middlemost kernel.

A thing so sealike, so investigable, that no chart
Can direct us — men use to look for wine where
There is a bush, and a good inn hath very seldom
A bad sign-post. But some women are nothing less
Than what they most appear, as if they were
Created for no other end than to dedicate
The first-fruits of their morning to their looking-glass
And the remainder thereof to the playhouse.

As it is no imperfection in the hare to be fearful
Or the tiger to be cruel, they have a whole arsenal
Of aspects and idle looks, gaudiness and ceremonies.
They will wanton with their gloves and handkerchiefs,
Thrust out their breech or bite their lips
Like a nimble frigate before a fresh gale.
Who knows whether a merry humour
Be a testimony of looseness or freedom
Between a strange woman and a woman that fears the Lord?

A clean-limbed wench that has neither spavin, splinter,
Nor wind-gall, may have little hard breasts
And a round chin that denotes envy, her small mouth a sign
Of weakness and lying, her long neck a timorous disposition
And a person inclined to loquacity. She could not possibly
Carry herself in a worse way than she does,
Discovering all her cunning knacks and facts.
How wittily she doth bestow her cheats, so to manage
Her wit, as if she were at a prize.

These are absolute symptoms, whose seeming purity
Is made strict by the power of drugs: women who use fard
Are trifling and full of tattle, they would obtrude
On the underwits, whereas the wise sort of people
Know this almost for a maxim, Poeta Nascitur, Non Fit.
No, they should go to their black velvet caps
And chains and ruffs, as it was in my time.

Her everyday comportment
There were days a few weeks ago when she was impossible
To reach: today she is findable, although she is transparent,
She looks too Juliet.

What roads are open to her, crouching deeply,
Gradually repositioning, suddenly motioning with white
Knuckles to sky or earth? She appears to be not
Watching, her back flexed to the street
Which was my religion.

No amount of suspicion was too much,
Knotted into the shift from one half-year
To the other, as if God was in a sense
Changing nest, tilted over in that humid shadow,
Snowy hands soft as grapes.

She learns to lean leadenly, careen as if drunk,
Her ear guiding her rotating head whose cramped
Neck swivels and makes it swim
As if she is using her head as a limb.

She learns to fall well from her despised waist,
Refusing to be stationary, her late-deafened
Widowed voice tuning her disconnected speech.
She takes a Saint Christopher medal from her necklace
Into her mouth, kissing the tip of her thumb.

A mourning cross between my eyebrows
Returns to those gestures, and freezes that last
Close-up of her lips, as night lies flat on her
And rain grows on the sea ...

Medbh McGuckianMedbh McGuckian teaches at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen's University Belfast. Her collections include The Flower Master, Venus and the Rain and Drawing Ballerinas. She has been recipient of the British National Poetry Competition, the Cheltenham Award and the American Ireland Fund Literary Award.

Topic tags: new poems, irish poet, Medbh McGuckian, The character of the dug explained, Her everyday comportment



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