Ray Givans

Three Poems

Ray Givans

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Each working day hands clutched

the handle while the bucket swung

slapping the legs as you came

and went through the scullery door,

tempered by the Sperrins’ sharp breath.

I thought your hands arthritic

until told how they were broken.

How while chivvying pigs into a pen

they trapped between wall and metal rail.

Without medical help you’d reset, work on.

Light faded slowly in a small window

when you lay, eyes shut in a hospital bed.

Short of breath you continued to worry

the fleece blanket, then threw it off.

I clasped your failed grip before release.



At a saunter on Loughan’s Road my car shadows

the hearse. There is a break in the hedge,

whins’ yellows shimmer on Matt Hall’s patch, 

his tumbledown cottage and wrought iron scrap

cleared some fifty year, yet he’s a splinter in my mind

that live-alone man, who sought out company

by my uncle’s farmhouse range, the cut of him

in no-button, sour-stained jacket.

Cords, falling short of muddied hobnails,

so threadbare the wide wale ribs had gone.


In a room choked with bitter pipe smoke

sometimes he’d shake an argument by the shoulders –

lawyer amongst familiar hedgerows – so that aunt

would interpose. “ Now Matt, if you had a good woman

beside you in bed at night you wudn’t say that.”

Makin’ Hay

While waiting for the hearse I gawk down

a loanin’, feel an itch to open a gate at its end,

pour into burnished fields that drowse

under a bruising summer sun, where oul’ mongrels

search out lying sheugh water and shade.

Our family are scattered out in the plantin’

from gap-toothed hedge to dry stone walls

shrouded with ivy. The weemen,

cubs and cutties wield rakes; the men,

armed with well-seasoned pitchforks gather

grasses intil the shape of upturned pudden bouls.

A Ferguson, pullin’ a trailer, rattles around thon stack

on which Uncle Cedric squats four fut aff the ground.

“Gie us a haun up!” gulders ten-year-old cousin Tom,

as he stretches out a stout arm.

This Uncle ( who’s answered the call home

from a clerkin’ job in Leicester) takes hauld

of the younglin’s haun, while he for leverage

stretches out a right fut ontil the tyre.

They haud tight, in balance, until

the uncle’s neck juts forrad. Slowly,

like a gnarled Juniper tree Cedric cowps,

left shouldher and ribcage thump the ground.

Hurted, the uncle whinges, while Tom lies

spread-eagled lukin’ up to the blue sky

shakin’wi laughter, as Cedric hirples away

Ray Givans

Ray Givans has been published in five poetry pamphlets. His first full poetry collection, Tolstoy in Love, was published in 2009 by Dedalus Press, and was shortlisted for the Strong award for best first collection by an Irish poet for that year. His most recent collection, The Innermost Room was published by Salzburg Poetry Press, at the University of Salzburg.