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Picture 10275449, 1960s photograph by H Armstrong Roberts, image copyright Mary Evans / Classic Stock

Bourdon
by Paul McMahon

 

I remember my ex-girlfriend

running through a field of sunflowers

 

as I look at a dead bumblebee

lying on its back on the window sill,

its downy head of battered fluff

as stubborn and bull-headed

 

as a drunk oaf. Bloated,

like a bluebottle in a stripy jumper,

I roll it off the ledge

onto the palm of my hand,

 

its wings more like frail stained

glass windows closed over

a pregnant blob. Woollen arms

with question marks for hands,

 

the hidden tongue, the gilded eye

that sees all in honeycomb,

and again I see Bourdon,

but she is waiting for me

 

to get out of bed. The sun

is shining, the sky is blue topaz.

She is at the hotel window,

fretting and stamping her feet.

 

We arrived late the night before,

after a long day driving south.

Get up, she says, as she finally

bolts out the door. I slip out

 

from the warm sheets,

walk over to the window

and look out to see her running

through the field of sunflowers,

 

her hands spread out like wings

skimming off the flower heads

that were the same colour

as the bull-headed drunk oaf,

 

the woollen blob of fool’s gold

flashing on the lake-bed of memory –

the bumblebee in the palm of my hand

that crashed into the window pane

 

like Bourdon crashed into a tree.

I touch its downy flank and remember

the sandy dunes of her skin,

the sweet drone of her voice,

 

silent as the bee’s wings

sleeping in the sunflowers of dreams.

 

 

© Paul McMahon

Picture 10275449, 1960s photograph by H Armstrong Roberts, image copyright Mary Evans / Classic Stock

 

 

From Belfast, Paul McMahon lives in Cork. His debut poetry chapbook, Bourdon, is published by Southword Editions. His work has appeared in Poetry Review, Rialto, The London Magazine, The North, Threepenny Review, Best New British and Irish Poets 2018, Irish Times, Stinging Fly, Poetry Ireland Review, and elsewhere. He was awarded The Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize by Carol Ann Duffy, and The Nottingham Poetry Prize by Neil Astley. Other awards include first prize in The Moth International Poetry Prize, The Westival International Poetry Prize, second prize in the Basil Bunting and the Salt International Poetry Prizes, Runner-up in The Troubadour and The Atlanta Review Poetry Prizes, and four Arts Council bursary awards for poetry.

 

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