Jane Clarke – Two Poems


I have grown accustomed to questions:
where do you come from, how long
are you here, why did you leave?

My answers say little but seem to satisfy;
how to describe sunrise across the savannah,
my father and brothers following a herd

of camels and goats or seated at noon
beneath thorn trees for shade? Who would believe
why my mother took me away,

that some morning after prayers, the women
would come for me, hold me firm for Maryan
who wields the stone-sharpened blade?

How to imagine the darkness of days in the hut,
the mat of long grasses, the ointment of myrrh
offered with love to stem the blood?

First published in Today’s Children, Tomorrow’s World, Trocaire & Poetry Ireland, 2013


Before the war

these hills were peopled with trees,
everywhere, grey olive groves
stood old and gnarled as history,

sending silver-leafed branches
wandering wide and low
through the lives of those

who measured their wealth
in oil, crossed a friend’s
threshold with oil, blessed

their children with oil,
who set the orchards singing
with the crack of sticks

on winter branches, plop of fruit
falling to blankets, laughter of girls
holding baskets, balanced and full.

First published in the North, No. 50: 2013

Jane Clarke is widely published in both Ireland and the UK and is completing her first collection. She has won many awards, the most recent being the 2014 Listowel Writer’s Week Poetry Collection Prize. She holds an MPhil in Writing from the University of South Wales. www.janeclarkepoetry.ie