Mairéad Byrne



State Pathologist

I think she had rings. A black lacy bodice. Her bare arms round & small. Pale freckled skin suggestive of red hair. Though her hair is blonde, her expression intent. Her left hand, cool & precise, turns over the chocolate brown slabs of flesh, lifting its folds, her right hand taking notes. This is a woman's body, animated by expertise. The man, in his dying throes, is pinned by the surrounding crowd. He feels their hot pressure, their hunger for his life. They are winding it out of him on their spindles. He drowns in his own breath, his panting opening a tunnel through them. He sees the watery bog, golden reeds, whipped cotton, tattoo of tiny blue flowers, the massive overwhelming sky. Sluices his last draught of pain & is resurrected—2,500 years later—into her hands.




The Letter

The letter was urgent so I wrote it inside the envelope. It was awkward. If I could've stood inside the envelope in white coveralls reaching up to write with my giant brush on the great billboard of the page I would've. If I could've swung from a cradle to write it I would've. I would've whistled. But as it was I had to crookedly insert my pen into the strained envelope & blindly write. The letter was about ballet slippers: Dear Fest Ball. My daughter. Prob with ballet slippers. Not told. Felt bad. Target Payless no good. Minor surgery. Very happy. Sad again. Target Payless Wal-Mart. Loan of used slippers. Washed well. Not a match. One too small tight. Lot of money. I feel 3 sessions. Likes to jump. If safety. Doing best. But Friday. Dance in socks. Sincerely. In a sense it was a holding letter. A place-holder. Almost a substitute. My daughter, holding the finished letter (slightly twisted), was also holding the slippers, their blunt snouts dreaming inside their dim sac. The envelope was a type of shoe-bag. A skein into which the missing slippers were slung. She could almost wear them surely or be said to be wearing them, as she danced across the painted floor of the studio, barely visible paper slippers sheathing her abashed feet.


Metaphor Recoil

A hunter examines a block of text. It is nothing like a poem. Though there are similarities. And differences. It is nothing like an elephant. Or a raccoon. Though certainly there are similarities. And differences. The hunter looks squarely at the text & thinks: Now where can I get me a square cauldron to boil up some chow? In the wake of that question comes a silence, a whoosh of wind, a rustle of leaves, a sudden darkening of the sky. The hunter is also a poet—and is afraid.