Jessica Traynor

Poet | Creative Writing Teacher | Dramaturg

Matches for Rosa

‘I want to give it to Rosa Luxemburg, who loved birds and flames.’

- John Berger

This matchbox is a gift for Rosa –
I’m sending her a text first, so she will expect it
where she lives now, in a room
on the other side of water.

Even the dead can light a fire with the right tinder,
like these matryoshka matchboxes –
each one hiding a smaller lacquered case,
and a painted Russian songbird.

Perhaps each bird with its sloe-deep eyes,
its harlequin flashes of scarlet or gold
will be reborn as a phoenix in that other place;
perhaps, where the dead live, sparks catch quicker,

and, maybe in return for my gift,
this woman so in love with fire and flight
will send her blazing birds to my pyre.

From ‘The Quick’

First published in Rochford Street Review, 2017

An Education in Silence

for the women of the Stanhope Street Magdalene Laundry

This morning, light spilled into the courtyard
as if God had opened a window.
The light is quiet and can’t be herded
from dormitory beds to morning mass –
it shines where it wants,
blushing the stained glass windows,
washing the priest’s words.

My mother doesn’t write.
It’s been three years. My hands
crack from the heat of the sheets
as we feed them through the mangle.
The high windows admit one square
of light, on the word repent
and I am silent like the sunlight.

From ‘Liffey Swim’

On Blind Quay

in the early morning
you can watch the women line up.

Most are alone.
They don’t talk much,

and if you wait long enough,
you’ll see the ghost of a galley

slide against the quay wall,
where ropes are flung

by a silent crew.
They say the sailors are blind,

so they can’t see their cargo,
and the women gather

like penitents,
their eyes grazing the ground.

The day I saw it
the ship had sailed

before the buses started running,
before a single seagull

loosed its lost-child cry
to the morning.

From ‘A Modest Proposal’, 2017