Niamh Corcoran


From the fog of her mouth, from the sea's loose  
Blue-green horizon, her siren songs
Of Eire beckon and collapse like spent light
On the island of bogs and walls and heather.
Boatmen try not to listen, but hear the tendril lines
As they pass, Away, come away,
Then simply, Yes. Yes begins their dream
Of soil without blight, plots without headstones.

Even the myth is a distant island now.
Old names are spoken less, another tongue.
Once I saw Niamh spray-painted on a bridge
In a border town aside the word loves,
Threatening to become part of the tourist code
That marks sign-posts, sea-towns, obsolete maps.

    for J. K.

Because we delighted in the brilliant
color shifts of liquids in our chem lab,
eager in our over-sized goggles, our drab
and stained denim smocks, the teacher dismissed

us with the nickname cookbook chemists.
We took the veiled joke with a grin, but when
he called my lab partner skirt, suggesting
XX genes and science hardly mix

in his classroom, lines were drawn in the linoleum
floor. War oiled into motion within the shadow
of the periodic table. And row after row,
elements swarmed the coliseum.

Calls to Venus, calls to Mars, Cuprum, Ferrum,
transition metals armored up, taking sides
as our Bunsen burners were boldly fired.
Again, Cuprum, Ferrum, then, Aurum,

Aurum, we incanted primaries, while the boys 
won praise for testing more methodically.
But what honeyed loss to glimpse a recipe
for art, the spoil and shift, the beautiful choice.

Niamh Corcoran earned a B.A. in English from Yale University and an M.F.A. from American University, where she was poetry editor of Folio.  Her manuscript was a semifinalist for the 2006 Discovery/The Nation Prize.  Most recently she was the recipient of an Individual Artist Award in Poetry in 2007 from the Maryland State Arts Council.  She works at a school for the learning disabled.



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