Clare McCotter

The Ghost Orchid

Clare McCotter

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The Ghost Orchid

in memory of Paddy Lowery


Eldest of four children and the youngest too

he always seemed to fit.

His face in her hands a ghost orchid

her arms and lap

growing him the perfect bark

nothing touched

quite like his aerial roots, bright tinkling breath

his language of the forest and the stars.


Wondering at every leaving if he would wake

wanting her to come to him

with a cup of water

the guilt was there

scrabbing her skull when she went to work

or saw the moon luminous and full.

Its creamy claws stropped

giving consent finally for them to peg feed her boy.


No more smooth vanilla spinning gold on lips

never parting with a word or forming O

facing the benediction of virgin snow

no more broken bread, piloted

through jiggery egg and onion air.

Changed completely – secret Sunday afternoons

lemony with sherbet dip

crackly with salty potato crisps.

Each one a crescent of sparkling light on his tongue.


And when she thought he could lose nothing more

they said too weak for walks

from now on strictly wheelchair and hoist.

The ground she stood shifting

under that first lift, up there

higher than ever before

joy a canticle of cloud pouring from his mouth

thin white legs leap-frogging air.

The shots she always said he called, right on target:


Small shoulder blades pierced and glistening.

The afterbirth of a wing.




Clare McCotter


Clare McCotter’s haiku, tanka and haibun have been published in many parts of the world. She won the IHS Dóchas Ireland Haiku Award 2010 and 2011. In 2013 she won The British Tanka Award. She also judged the British Haiku Award 2011 and 2012. She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on Belfast born Beatrice Grimshaw’s travel writing and fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Abridged, Boyne Berries, The Cannon’s Mouth, Crannóg, Cyphers, Decanto, Envoi, Iota, Irish Feminist Review, The Leaf Book Anthology 2008, The Linnet’s Wings, The Moth Magazine, A New Ulster, The Poetry Bus (forthcoming), Poetry24, Reflexion, Revival, The SHOp, The Stony Thursday Book (forthcoming) and The Stinging Fly. Black Horse Running, her first collection of haiku, tanka and haibun, was published in 2012. Home is Kilrea, County Derry.