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By Pratibha Castle -

As a girl I learnt to wish myself

invisible on the front seat

atop a double decker bus

believed I was a black hole choking

on gossipy fug Players smoke lonely

women’s sighs the clippie perceiving

no-one where I sat lumbering back

along the aisle past the ‘no spitting on buses’ sign

In a spin of schools quick to switch

as a card sharp's chicanery or

my mother’s mood taunts zephyr soft

could never break me for I wasn't there

I applied myself to investigating emptiness

convinced I was the pause in music

between thoughts air

in the hollow bones of birds

a missive spun from clouds

by a swift more luminous than pity

understood by those alone with senses

more than five

Having banished myself dismantled

tooth hair child’s spaniel yelp

grown flimsier than my granny’s ghost

I established how to melt through walls

Day by day my photo on the mantle faded

bleached features growing fainter

like an often-laundered stain

dissolving to a blur

Years on in Regent’s Park there was a man

with eyes that saw I tried to wish myself

anew re-embody muscle flesh

plumping over sternum hips

All I managed was a hand flaccid

as a starling fallen from the clouds

and that man casting not a clout passed on by

left me string-less kite adrift

Be Careful What You Wish first appeared in Ink Sweat and Tears, Day Two of ‘Choice’ for NPD October 8 2021


Pratibha Castle’s award-winning debut pamphlet A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Poetry Press) was published February 2022. Her work appears in Agenda, HU, Blue Nib, OHC, London Grip, Fragmented Voices amongst others. Highly commended, long-listed and given special mention in competitions including The Bridport Poetry Prize, Welsh Poetry Competition, Gloucestershire Poetry Society Competition, Brian Dempsey Memorial Competition, Sentinel Literary Journal Competition, Storytown Poetry Competition, Pratibha is anthologised, and a regular reader for West Wilts Radio Poetry Place.

A selection of poems and discussion on her life and inspiration can be heard at Home Stage Meet the Poet.

By Thomas McCarthy -

With songs we come into this world and my own

Best memories are my mother’s attempts to sing:

My shrivelled hair falls on the black cape

Of a barber’s shop, wiry silver and grey of time

That has passed over the top of my dry head

To fall now, as leaves devoid of sap escape

From the embrace of an otherwise sound Eglantine

Or Willow; except that after leaves have fled

From the modest tree that first gave them life

They at least contain the hope of another Spring.

We are humans with one Spring and one

Increasingly stretched-out Autumn. Here, this young

Armenian barber is the one true Spring

I can offer at this hour in late January –

Father of two, one child with a gift of poetry,

The other learning Irish songs, and willing to sing.


Thomas McCarthy is an Irish poet, novelist, and critic, born in Cappoquin, County Waterford, Ireland. He attended University College Cork where he was part of a resurgence of literary activity under Sean Lucy and John Montague. He worked at Cork City Libraries for many years. He was a Fellow of the International Writing Program, University of Iowa in 1978-79, and International Professor of English at Macalester College, Minnesota, in 1994-95. He has edited The Cork Review and Poetry Ireland Review, and has published seven collections of poetry with Anvil Press Poetry, London, including The Sorrow Garden, The Lost Province, Mr Dineen's Careful Parade, The Last Geraldine Officer, and Merchant Prince.

His last two collections, Pandemonium (2016) and Prophecy (2019), were published by Carcanet Press, UK. The main themes of his poetry are Southern Irish politics, love, and memory. He is also the author of two novels; Without Power and Asya and Christine. He won the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, The Alice Hunt Bartlett, The O'Shaughnessy Award, and the Annual Literary Award of The Ireland Funds. His monograph "Rising from the Ashes" tells the story of the burning of the Carnegie Free Library in Cork City by crown forces in 1920 and the subsequent efforts to rebuild the collection with the help of donors from all over the world. His prose-book, Poetry, Memory and the Party, was published by Gallery Press in early 2022.

By Michael Durack -

They’d always have Paris or Varykino,

Lara and Zhivago or Ilsa and Rick

up on the big screen, we down below

in the darkened parterre, the warm glow

of compromised love washing over us from exotic

(remembered) Paris or Varykino.

Mind-hopping from Moscow to Morocco,

an ecstasy of escapism from the humdrum domestic

to the big screen from our seats down below.

For Bergman, Bogart, Christie, Sharif & co

had little in common with a Kathleen and Mick;

they’d always have Paris or Varykino

while we had Ballybunion, Salthill or Sligo.

But hold on a minute, here’s the trick:

between the big screen and down below

is merely a matter of scale. Picture show

and reality trade on the same emotions; the magic

of love means we’ll all have Paris or Varykino

whether up on the big screen or here down below.


Michael Durack lives in Ballina, Co. Tipperary. His poems have appeared in publications such as The Blue Nib, Skylight 47, The Cafe Review, Live Encounters, The Poetry Bus, The Stony Thursday Book, The Honest Ulsterman and Poetry Ireland Review. With his brother Austin he has recorded two albums of poetry and guitar music, The Secret Chord (2013) and Going Gone (2015). He is the author of a memoir in prose and poems, Saved to Memory: Lost to View (Limerick Writers Centre 2016), and two poetry collections, Where It Began (2017) and Flip Sides (2020) published by Revival Press.

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