Catherine Higgins-Moore

The Empty Playground

Catherine Higgins-Moore

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Every November I can’t help but think of Mary Lavelle

shivering in her summer uniform, greasy hair hanging

limp not covering those sticky out ears.


Sitting in the playground long after the last bell, after

my mother had taken me to get chips and a new pair

of woolen gloves to match my winter coat


after the teachers had sped back to adult life in their boxy

Ford Fiestas-backseats full of jotters covered in slanted

pencilled essays and miscalculated fractions to be reckoned

with over wine in front of the fire


Mary sat and waited for someone to take her home.

That night she would not tell how the whole class laughed

at lunchtime at her empty slices of hard white bread


as she pulled them from their foil wrapper accompanied

only by a packet of ready salted crisps as a makeshift

filling. How Susan Logan had done high ponytails

for all the other girls Girls with clean hair Mary!


They nibbled on Petite Filous from pink plastic lunchboxes

that held Ribena cartons and crustless salmon sandwiches

and cackled when Mary did not come to school the next day.

For her mother’s funeral teacher passed round a card.


Every November I wonder how long Mary sat on those concrete steps,

shivering like a wet leaf, crushing conkers underfoot to kill time.

No-one to button her up. No-one to keep Winter from chilling

her soft, pale skin.



Catherine Higgins-Moore


Catherine Higgins-Moore has an English Literature and Drama degree from Trinity College Dublin and a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. In 2014 she was short listed for Cambridge University’s Jane Martin Poetry Prize and her short story Drumcree was published in the Fortune anthology and shortlisted for the HG Wells Grand Prize. Catherine’s short fiction was short listed for the prestigious literary prize The Asham Award 2012 and long listed for the Bath Short Story Prize 2013. Her poetry has been published in Embers of Words: An Irish Anthology of Migrant Poetry, inAmerican journal Northern Liberties Review, alongside writers Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, John Betjeman and Bob Dylan in Heart Shoots, in Oxford University publication The Cherwell as well as in The Gathering and Prole. Her first full-length play Just Two People was produced at The Oxford Playhouse’s Burton Taylor Studio in November 2010, her second play The War at Home had a reading at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre in December 2014. She has been awarded bursaries by Kenneth Branagh and the Mawby Foundation at Kellogg College, Oxford.She  is the founding editor of The Irish Literary Review. She holds a Journalism diploma and has worked in newsrooms at BBC Belfast and BBC Oxford. She was News Editor and later, Arts Editor of The Oxford Student while completing her Masters and has written for Culture N.I., Ideas Mag, Woman’s Way and Social and Personal. She is currently working on her first novel.