Cousin Alice

Your mountain is robed in sombre rifle green
And one of its greener fields is suddenly
Black with rooks. The stream too seems
To be gone out of town, the lamp sulky
In the dead zone around the river’s mouth.

Rainwater captures a much more drive-by
World; we pretend to acknowledge
That we fall short of its perfection,
Noting the delicate colouring of the lark,
Her half-shadowed ear and turned neck.

It is curious how it is done at once,
Your eyes are darkened wholly to dry
Up the green from the field. The dozing
Cupids on the clock lean a little back-
Wards, making a shrine of your bed

Which flames in the thinnest of threads, is blue fire
That cannot be painted. Nothing more earthly
Than you, pose as the Southwest wind
Steering the flower car, reading the church,
While Paradise moves inside us its narrow

Wicket gate and watchful porter.
Your last control of vision was sunprints
Of leaves, from two embrowned chestnut trees,
All opened ground for one who has
Just finished her first primrose.


was born in 1950 to Catholic parents in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her poem 'The Flitting', published under a male pseudonym, won the 1979 National Poetry Competition. In 1980 she won the Eric Gregory Award and her first collection, The Flower Master (1982), won the Poetry Society’s Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize, the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and an award from the Ireland Arts Council. Her honours also include the Bass Ireland Award for Literature, the Denis Devlin Award, and the American Ireland Fund’s Literary Award. She won the Forward Prize for Best Poem for 'She Is in the Past, She Has This Grace'. She is the author most recently of the poetry collections My Love Has Fared Inland (2010) and The High Caul Cap (2013).