Paul McMahon

Our Earthenware Jug

Paul McMahon

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I thought of the morning we leaned over the harbour walls

and looked down at our two squiggly faces on the rippling water

when I looked through the kitchen window at the yellow gorse

after I had spread the broken fragments of the earthenware jug

we bought somewhere in Connemara over the side board

so that I could bind it back together again with melted gold.

Then, as I filled the crucible with nuggets and plugged it in,

I saw you again, holding a yellow flower of gorse to my nose,

telling me to breathe-in the scent of coconut,

and, after doing so, I took the flower and rubbed it

between my thumb and forefinger –  a velvet ear –

like your ear when on the verge of sleep, the dimmer switch

I’d use to send you off into the dark lands, safe

in your knowing that I was holding the lantern.

Then I picked up the first broken fragment – a gorse flower –

poured a thin strip of melted gold along its jagged edge,

joined it to the shard that held the flower’s stem

and pressed them both together – the gilded seam

shone like a golden road between flower and stem,

like the road we drove along when we left the harbour

with two high banks of bright yellow gorse on either side, 

the dark road behind us sinking down into yellow fire.

I had dreamt of you the night before – that was why

I took the box down from the top of the cupboard

and spread out the fragments of the earthenware jug –

the jug we bought somewhere in Connemara –

that you flung against the wall before finally leaving

to drive on, out of the broken road, our road.


When I finished gilding the jug back together again

I held its remade body up to the sunlight – it was somehow

bound with a radiant understanding of how all things break.

So, if you are out there listening, if you can somehow tune in

through the radio silence of the intervening years, then know this:

instead of the cracked dark roads between broken shards,

our earthenware jug is now traversed by roads of gold,

and it looks – just as the brochure promised

                       all the more beautiful for having been broken.

Paul McMahon

Paul McMahon’s debut poetry chapbook, Bourdon, was published by Southword Editions in November, 2016.

Poetry awards include The Ballymaloe International, The Nottingham Open, The Westport, The Golden Pen, 2nd prize in The Basil Bunting, 2nd prize in The Salt International, and literature bursary awards from The Arts Council of Ireland and Northern Ireland. He was awarded The Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize by Carol Ann Duffy in 2015.

Twice nominated for the forward prize, his poetry has appeared in journals such as The Threepenny Review, The Stinging Fly, The Honest Ulsterman, Abridged, Agenda, The Atlanta Review, and others.