Ardboe; Refuge; Bag Lady

Three poems illustrated by performance art.

Jackson Pollock said, 'the paint had a life of its own', and I came to understand that during these performance art pieces working with spattered paint in bright colours. 

After the shock of being in an explosion, I realised how much disorder was created. Blood was splattered among shards of glass and debris. The world of ordered shapes transformed to chaotic mess. Colours, shapes, sounds, smells and tastes heightened and overloading the senses. I wanted to bring awareness to this 'overload' experience of the world. Something in my senses and perception had shifted forever. 


Here we are driving along our favourite road,
Lough Neagh nudging in and out, flat as a plane.
I have finally returned after all these years, we are still in love,
have a second chance and take it.
Windows down on this balmy day, wind fluttering through our cotton clothes.
You stop at our old haunt to drink a glass.
The barwoman unbolts the door, cameras, mirrors, sensors scorch in the sun.
Inside, dark, airless, grills on windows, locks on doors.
What is she hiding as she buffs glasses, already polished? Why is it quiet?
‘Please, please don’t bomb us. This is all we have, this is our livelihood, our lives.’
Eyes follow me to the bathroom and back, burn holes in my handbag.
This is not what we remember, take our leave. Outside the sun heals.
Before we reach the car, the woman runs to us clutching her summer dress,
‘Who are you? I’ve never seen you before.’
I hold the woman’s hand, tell her our names and where we live.
They’ve been bombed so many times her soul’s broken, her heart shut.
I cannot help but hold her, allow her to sob.

Her tears are warm and salt, like the sea and come from a woman all washed out.


Donna Dunlop sewed rice paper
onto fine white linen,
painted it with cherry blossoms,
parasols and bamboo plants.
On the Ormeau Road in Belfast
beside the graffitied post office,
she replaced synthetic curtains
with her prints, in the two-up two-down.
She kept the lights on
and these curtains drawn.
Shoppers and pub goers
gathered to gaze at them.
When they were caught in crossfire
on Saturdays, she opened the front door
and called the women with shopping bags

to rest inside till the shooting stopped.

Bag Lady

The third time
the phone rings
in the hallway
of our flat
I lift the receiver.
A man’s
voice says;
We know
where you are
and we’re coming…
I drop
the hand piece,
run from the still
talking phone.
Inside, grab
two carrier bags,
fill one with clothes,
the other with books,
pull on
my great trench coat,
wrap myself
in a wool scarf,
walk through
the University area.
Nights I sleep
in different places.
Tonight it’s
Cathy’s couch,

and a dream of a new home.