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Picture 12693796, photograph by Philip Dunn, 1994, image copyright Mary Evans / Philip Dunn

Still Dreaming of Livorno
by Maurice Devitt


When I was seven I acquired my first chicken,

a Black Italian Leghorn, stolen under cover of darkness

from the coop at the end of a neighbour’s garden

and secreted in a wicker basket under the bed.

As I slipped its first egg into the fridge, I remarked

to my mother how I had been woken by a noisy skiffle

from the hen-house next door, followed by the plaintive cry

of a fox, taking care to quickly dismiss an errant feather

from my school jumper. Some days later, when I felt the coast

was clear, I decided to introduce the chicken to my family,

explaining how I had found her wandering in the woods

behind the house and how she had followed me home.

She settled in quickly, sitting beside me on the couch

while I watched cartoons and Aardman re-runs,

scratching industriously around the schoolyard,

even nestling on a windowsill, listening intently,

as the teacher discussed questions of causality,

origin and sequence. And every day a single white egg

until, three weeks in, I found her watching an episode

of Countryfile on the pros and cons of battery farming

and her rhythm stumbled. Her eyes grew cold, she skipped

her daily dust-bath and passed the time staring at the sky.

One morning I woke to find her bed empty,

save for one last egg, a sad face etched on the shell.



© Maurice Devitt

Picture 12693796, photograph by Philip Dunn, 1994, image copyright Mary Evans / Philip Dunn



A previous winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland, Bangor and Poems for Patience competitions, Maurice Devitt was a featured poet at the Poets in Transylvania Festival in 2015 and a guest speaker at the John Berryman Centenary Conference in both Dublin and Minneapolis. His poems have been published widely and he has been nominated for Pushcart, Forward and Best of the Net prizes. His Pushcart-nominated poem, ‘The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work’, was the title poem of an anthology published by Hibernian Writers in 2015. He is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site and in 2018 published his debut collection, Growing Up in Colour, with Doire Press, who will also publish his new collection, Some of These Stories are True, in 2023.


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