The Poetry of Judy Ireland

irelandRead More: A brief interview with Judy Ireland

Bowls of Rocks, Bowls of Stones

My cupboards are full
of dead women’s bowls.
I stand in their kitchens,
bend before their ovens,
smell the food that fed them
feel the deeply kneaded bread rise
inside precise curves.

The bowls that are chipped
I fill with stones,
rocks upon rocks
hard decorations
grains of sand gathering
in the soft arc of the bowls’ bottoms,
good still, unbroken.

I talk to the dead women
while I dust their bowls.
Tell me the secrets of the dug grave,
the hole in which my future sits,
alongside those of long lost friends
off in their unfound places
pouring their coffee, starting their cars,
burying their own dead,
filling leftover bowls with rocks
as we tend to the dead as well
as the living, for who,
when asked for bread,
will give nothing but a stone?

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Holding Hands for Fifteen Hundred Years

two skeletons found recently
excavated in Romania
from the courtyard of a medieval convent
facing each other
holding hands

we all walk on the bones of before
using each other up
like soap or soup or tinder
our bodies become lumber
cut and stacked
beams and rafters
a house of soil
our clothes passed on
a jacket someone wears
to lie on the ground
beneath a car
while changing oil

fifteen hundred years
skeletons clasp hands
and we can’t find the words
for what we’ve just discovered
how I let go of you
how you took away your hand
and still you come to my house
early in the morning
I serve you tea in a cup
I stole from your kitchen
when I left […]


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Sea Heart, Water Vine

You and I, always –
our own landscape.
How we flew above our own nestled bodies
and sang like airplanes.

I used to feel giant threshing machines […]


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Access this and all our bi-weekly publications (and submit for free).

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Born and raised in the Midwest, Judy Ireland’s poetry benefits from the verdancy and barefaced authenticity of that working class culture which keeps her work grounded and focused in the ordinary world where extraordinary ideas reside with great subtlety and power. Her first book, Cement Shoes, won the 2013 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press. Her poems have been published in Hotel Amerika, Calyx, Saranac Review, Cold Mountain, and Folio.

Read More: A brief interview with Judy Ireland