Clare McCotter

Wishing Back & Fast

Clare McCotter

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Wishing Back

I would not wish you back

to a place punctuated

with toileting

clothing and feeding

your lips laced up

at a small pink spoon’s

plastic approach.

I would not wish you back

to the clattering

down of conversations

held above your head

or the sudden jolt

of a hoist

swishing from chair to bed.

I would not wish you back

to the barely damp

swabs keeping

your mouth half moist

or thick

truculent air

snatched in fits and starts.

I should not wish you back

to a huddled moment

heads may have touched

leaning into

a dark blue dusky hour

me and you

trying to catch a word or two.


in memory of Cassie McCotter (née Mullan)

Stooped in an oil lamp’s glow

a doctor with shirt sleeves

rolled up to the elbow

manoeuvred forceps

cold as anchor ice

the night you breach birthed

Augustine youngest child.

The bucky roses 

that steel kiss left

on each temple

pulsed as the lion paced the purple heavens.

August big and blue

drifted high the Sunday you stood

chin resting on forearms

crossed on the chapel wall.

Going no nearer

to the grave receiving

seven summers

wrapped up in a little shroud.

There was no funeral mass

no officiating priest

just a sprinkling of undertaker prayers.


Today your howl would be hushed

with Citalopram or Mirtazepine 

Fluoxetine  or Cipralex

Cognitive therapy or ECT.

Those days they’d have broken your fast

with funnels and feeding tubes

coiled like adders

on white enamel.

Some still say

he should have acted more decisively

taking the mountain road

in dusty black suit

and bespoke broad brim hat.

Quietly helping you out

of the Model T Ford

at the redbrick asylum’s door.

Instead you stayed at home

lying with your face to the wall

in the dying room

clearing the ground

sweeping clean

the only space your boy had ever been safe.

Philip eldest son and water carrier

keeping ebony vigils by your side

offered food

on plate and saucer and spoon

silently about the time

the wild geese left

for he felt his pleadings

caused only distress.

Evenings brought your husband

to sit and speak

of the day’s dealings

asking if you had eaten

without threat of institution

or treatment

jolting you to your senses.

Maybe he could see and maybe there are

some wounds that cannot be healed

some sorrows better to be

let be.

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.