Vona Groarke

Vona Groarke

A to Z

Say one thing and straight away the opposite
hoves into view. This is why, perhaps, I am
indefinite – something to do with being Libran
or being short and therefore always riddled with
comparative fact. Connections go over my head
or slip through my hands or I stow them away
at the back of my mind, where knowing what
to do with them next is a matter of perspective
and, yes, scale. We are so small. We put tins
in cupboards and we take them out again.
We forget to eat. We eat. We love.
We only wish we could.

But if there’s a me and also a we,
then there must be a you. There you are,
one shoelace open, on a bench in a park
with a breathtaking view, as you imagine me
into your hand. And there I am, cupped
as a hailstone or a hailstone’s worth of rain,
until this is a story, then an anecdote.
Then, not even that.



What I’d like, says the woman
in the worn hat and gloves,
is a sleeveless yellow mini dress
imitating heat.

But what she’s got is a grey wool overcoat
with silver buttons and a collar that pops.
It will have to do.


She gets up, re-heats last night’s coffee,
crosses her wrists in the shape of a cross
and listens to the tick of his absence,
tender in its way. It must have rained,
she reckons, there being a fairly solemn drip
from the kitchen overhang.
She wonders if he has a coat,
if he wears it out, these days.


She is miles away, putting on
a second-hand overcoat
she has never worn before.
Let’s assume we join her
at the very moment she realises
she must plunge a hand
in the pocket and come up
with a whole life.


Her dream is a hand that isn’t hers
undoing her, button by button,
into dark. It’s a good dream
except when she wakes she can’t
get from that undoing hand
to anywhere intimate.


It is not a simple thing to mend an overcoat:
there are so few colours in this world
that ask to be hitched to a hole
in a skin imagining itself.


The problem with a coat, she reckons,
is that it wants to be a home.
She already has a home
tidied, lit and labelled with tags
that are really consecutive entries
in the diary she never could keep.


She thinks, these days, I take my pleasure
line by line and fitfully. She undoes
the buttons on her fur-collared coat
so it sidles into her body
as if loosened or set free.
Then she pulls the sides
tighter around her again
because this is how you must grow older
on a day with two empty pockets lined in sky-blue silk.


When the wind in the pine
              is exhausted
When the wind in the scutch
            has no game
When the wind lies down
              in ditches
                                                                  It’s time to go home again

When the dip in the road
              freezes over
When the bend in the road
              has a name
When cars heading west
              turn their lights on
                                                                  It’s time to go home again

When the tub at the door
              spills over
When the barrel at the door
              fills with rain
When the pool by the door
              is seawater
                                                                  It’s time to go home again

When the roof tiles slip out of
              their purchase
When the windows have no glass
              or frame
When moonlight unclenches
              the gable
                                                                  It’s time to go home again

When stones fall out of
              their sockets
When grass has grown over
              the ruin
When no one remembers
              who lived there
                                                                  It’s time to go home again

When chimney-stacks yield
When bones have been
              picked clean
When walls close over
                                                                  It’s time to go home again

When the bed is not hemmed in
              by weather
When the sea’s songs are chipper
              all day
When the fire burns only
              white ashes
                                                                  It’s time to go home again

When a house can make sense
              of a floorplan
When soil can make sense
              of a stone
When a full stop makes sense
              of an ending
                                                                  It’s time to go home again

The Hut

A hutch of warmth under fish-scale tiles
and a gas cylinder popping in time
with my hand moving over the page.
My body is rhyming, (what else can it do?)
with the lake under ice I see through glass
and the pines on a hill that has no name
but what I give it here and now
to be used by no one but me.

I embroider on its late afternoon
small red flowers and small blue leaves
and then, for scale, in the middle of all
here is you, as if seen from the top of the hill,
slantwise coming down through snow
with a flask of coffee and news from home
and me with my door open for you
before you have time to knock.

VONA GROARKE has published eleven books with Gallery Press, including – in 2016 – Selected Poems (winner of the 2017 Pigott Prize for best collection of poetry by an Irish poet), and Four Sides Full, a book length personal essay about art frames (and more). A former selector for the PBS, she has taught poetry at the University of Manchester since 2007. In 2018-19, she held a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library. Her seventh collection of poems, Double Negative, appeared in 2019.