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Heart Sore


Schroder affirms that some Persons hang the Heart of this Bird about the Neck of Children to cure the Falling sickness

(Walter Harris, The Antient and Present State of the County of Down, 1744)



How long to follow this shy

and most solitary of birds.

How solitary you must

become yourself; far beyond

the reach of friend and home.


Then, the wait for the prize

of the heart; the glass going

backwards and forwards,

examining every inch of this

most perfect structure.


The endless scratch of the pen

searching for the precise

word to conjure the colour

of the wings; shining vivid

green, azure spots.


The days of measuring

and drawing, erasing, measuring

again; then the paint to be

mixed just so, thinly applied.

Only then the cut.


In such despair I would prefer

the stomach, lined with tiny

bones and scales. The bones

would strengthen, the scales

cover and warm;


my silvered child would

be both bird and fish; never

fall without flying, never

drown; make his way surely

over any sharp rock.


Play in the foam of the sea,

that some say the Kingfisher

spins into her nest, where

her young, waiting for her return

open their yellow mouths.



© Linda McKenna

Picture 10135809, illustration by Rev F O Morris, A History of British Birds, 1851, image copyright Mary Evans



Linda McKenna is from Dublin and lives in County Down. She won the Seamus Heaney award for new writing in March 2018, the Red Line Book Festival (Poetry) award in October 2018, was highly commended in the Over the Edge Poetry Award in October 2018, and was shortlisted for the Mairtin Crawford Award for New Writing in June 2018. She has had poems published in Crannog, The Bangor Literary Journal, Poetry in Motion Community Arts Anthology, Skylight 47, The Blue Nib, Dodging the Rain, Four x Four, A New Ulster and Lagan Online.