Clare McCotter

The Memory Garden & The Birthing Amulet Dream

Clare McCotter

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The Memory Garden

In the heart of her garden

there is a sea horse

cherished from girlhood

she has fed it

the best blooms

scarlet pelargoniums

kaleidoscopic sweet peas

crystal blue lobelias

but now her little star has grown

dark as the day.


Its flowers are dying

choked with a calligraphy 

of silvery slime

they struggle to survive

some last an hour

some a moment or two.

Brilliant summer bedding

she thought

vigilance and care

could preserve

later prayer and incantation

their names repeated

time after time over and over again.


In the heart of her garden

two almond trees still speckle earth

their papery petals

a susurrus of wind song

making her weep

as she stoops

to pluck endless weeds

from soil and gravel, tiles and carpet.


Round the heart of her garden

there is a great grey wall

its cracks and fissures

filled long ago with bellflowers

oracle sedums, red valerian

and the harts tongue fern

that just seemed to appear.

She knows they will go

they are going

fading one by one

one by one disappearing

even the flower first opened

in a rose gold Palestinian dawn.


By the wall of her garden

she listens to a lifetime’s work

breathe its last

buds and leaves leaving

for the last time

without hope of  return.

Soon she will see no more flowers

but she will hear

remember, she will hear

the chirrupy chatter of pinks

the velvet of gentians

the prattle of clematis

high above her head.

She can hear

and will hear in an otiose moon

the cry of the rose.


The Birthing Amulet Dream

Let me tell you about that last night

on the edge of the desert. 

Blackened braziers burning

outside tent flaps

as a camel approached

under sky pierced

with a multitude of stars.

Talk was of trade

cargoes from far off lands - 

incense and amethysts

astrolabes and hawks

Arabian shell

and the birthing amulet I bought.

A parchment

some might think strange

script and hieroglyph

depicting in gold and lapis

a first gleaming hirsute kiss.

Its geometry of groves

and careful creases

folded around

a small organza pouch

pulsing like a prayer

beneath my palm the foetal heartbeat

of a brown hare.



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.