Nothing of Me on the Moon
The moon where I live
sucks up all darkness,
it’s a pond upside down.
The moon that I know
casts a circle of brightness,
a Chinese lantern in the sky.
Like a pot of honey never falling,
she just sits there, waiting for my glance.
I no longer ask such questions as
what’s the air like, is there noise?
I am happy sitting near the window
resting my eyes on the distant ball of stone.
I narrow my view—does she ever wonder,
am I a blot of blood, a stubborn stain
or just a fleeting interest
with a shimmering spotlight,
a random puppet
positioned in a frame…?
In the blink of an eye, everything’s forgotten,
there is nothing of my presence imprinted on the Moon.
An ocean that no one sees,
drops of rain falling on its surface at night…
I mean the sea in the middle of the sea,
no visible horizons to scoop up the drops
no valleys to cradle the buckets of water
no rivers to channel it inland
no fields to soak it up,
just a piano for the rain.
I mean the sea becoming an ocean,
a body within a body of water
tossing against another
deep, salty, grey, misty, humid and cold
before the thunderstorm,
at mercy of sun and moon
whipped into motion sickness
over and over again!
Who is there to see it?
Who can tell that it’s pointless?
Feathers more colourful than November 23
After the second spell of frost
the Earth warms and
concrete is covered in rotting leaves.
Fog bounces off the ground like smoke
holding onto nothingness, above
that is a playground for birds.
Where street bulbs are fitted, seagulls sit,
whilst car windows steam up
with people overdressed
in coats and scarfs,
searching through bags for lipsticks and purses.
On Butts Road pigeons have gathered
on a patch of green as they always do,
their feathers more colourful than November 23rd.
I step with my heels over the same kerb,
past the overflowing bin and high rise buildings
with men in suits, their backs against tinted windows.
The United Reformed Church takes up a lot of space,
like an unwanted box that does not fold.
Finally, a used sleeping bag is discarded by a bin,
its waterproof black side shimmers, inside it is wet through.
A white pillow stained with fresh mud
is not sure if it has rested someone’s head.
Jewellery Quarter Graveyard
Choose the weather on the day you die!
Height of summer,
air thick and heavy
your soul will hardly lift
itself off the bed
in the hospital ward.
The corridor gives off synthetic smells,
your ascent is stalled…
On a grey day, 16℃ in October
women with tight roll necks, overdressed
making haste through the Jewellery Graveyard
into Jewellery Quarter offices,
yet the soul has nothing to miss.
Up it goes, then sideways, into the tunnel nearby.
The tree opposite your usual spot notices you and
one of his branches gives you a wave, there’s no breeze.
You look back one more time
then the light sucks you in.
On a winter day between Christmas and New Year
when the Linzer cookies have gone stale
and there are no longer any leftovers,
there’s one and a half meters of snow at your childhood window.
Somewhere east of Vienna
they think you are already dead but
you linger above the newly plastered ceiling,
hover above the chimney,
check the leafless grape vines.
A little look at the new family, their snotty baby…
Now. I am ready.
It’s five in the afternoon
and my office is a little lantern.
I step out onto the dark deck of the street,
my heels press into the rotting leaves
with no earthworms underneath
just concrete slabs
sealing off whatever secrets lie beneath.
Paving my way are two large ribbons
in plastic bags, they are creased,
one silver, one golden,
on top of each other
they shimmer through the ethylene
past the Co-op Funeral Care
past the Christmas tree that is purple and shining
stealing the street from the lingering souls.
On the doorstep
of that Co-op Funeral Care
that I pass every morning, every dusk
behind that very door, every relative has a wooden chair
—tonight I don’t care
It’s Christmas Eve.
I am hanging my thoughts on festive ribbons,
one for my door
another one above the kitchen window
and one that I wrap around my body
ready for take off…into the ether!
In the sky my ribbons will be multiplying,
changing shapes like starlings
trying hard to impress.
If it wasn’t for the heavy fog
that makes merry with smoke and cars,
past the lime trees’ trunks buried in concrete,
I would show you how to light up the sky.
Mother of all pigeons observed by the sky
between the naked branch
and a window of a clerk
at Walsall Housing Group.
She was oblivious to numbers
of tenants, or money,
or profits accumulated from the souls,
or the money that one needs to no longer be a tenant
and feed the pigeons in the park.
The sea was a bowl with one too many.
She spat me out on the naked stones,
my arms shawled with sludge and oil.
A little heart pounding on a pile of soil,
I gather courage to tread inland.
The sea behind me
and the world I know so well.
The grey sky above me isn’t inviting,
but anyway, I walk ahead.
Ever since I met you
I wished I could cut up a map,
put your piece next to mine
to gather our families like crumbs
and put them into a friendly warm hand.
We would put ants into shame
all lines and duty
then tossing and shaking
every time someone shakes our den.
We thought of living on the edge
full of fright and excitement
brushing lustfully against each other
dreaming of ‘growing our own’.
What we are left with is worrying and sleeping,
watching our relatives pop up on Skype
exhausted from mundane life
brushing each other with regret
and pondering eternity.
Scraping the walls,
painting them back on
ignoring beetles and worms,
doing the job regardless.
Carrying our limbs throughout the world,
resting them in cars
wading through hair of two little children
pressing against their skin.
I am happy when I have you all in one place
like an assortment of sweets
I always want to carry you with me.
Irena was born in 1974 into a family that owned small-holdings, mainly vineyards, strawberries and mushrooms in 1974, in a small town near Bratislava, Slovakia, then a city in Czechoslovakia.
As a child, Irena loved performing. In Eastern Europe, poetry performance was a serious, popular art form. There were competitions at schools and colleges and she entered every year until one year, she got into the finals and ended up as the 2nd best young poetry performer in the whole of Slovakia.
Irena first came to UK as a summer volunteer working for the Sue Ryder Foundation, later caring for people with multiple sclerosis, followed by a scholarship. She trained to work in EU institutions but turned it down and moved to Dover to work with refugees instead.
She later completed a PhD on the Roma of Europe and has continued to work in equality and diversity ever since, now working in Walsall (a town in the Midlands, UK) for local government.
Although English is her second language, in her job, Irena has become multilingual, communicating daily in Russian, Slovak, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian.
Irena was compelled to write in English, rather than her native Slovakian. It started in her early 20s; any time she was dealing with emotional turmoil, she’d attempt to write a book, then give it to whoever was the cause of that turmoil (usually a man) and would never read it again. There are a few books like that scattered around the world.
Her 2nd writing phase came after Irena had children. Being a mother opened up some creative channels: identity of both herself & her children, nature, life in a new country, how she’d changed since childhood, the Jewish people in her home town who had to leave for concentration camps— all those thoughts started flooding her mind and needed an outlet.
People say that with poetry, you need to take time and she never has enough, being the main breadwinner and a mum…if she were to honestly describe her writing it would read something like “an urge to meditate on what happened during the day, connections and images…failed novels, cut down to poems” .
This is Irena’s first publication. Irena blogs at notamigrant.wordpress.com