To the Elements

It is not the piebald impressionism of the afternoon window
bleeding greys into the hills and gay greens into the thickset heavens
but real rain that dissolves the halo of your hair to show your skull
for what is there. It doesn’t wash off sins no matter how you kneel to it.

We grovel to our yellow home, which is not a submarine but a fragile hollow
in the thick surrounding sea. How its carbon backbone doesn’t fracture
under the pressure is unconscionable. It holds us in its collapsible wings
through the mid-winter sundown which is even less forgiving than it sounds.

The rain pours petrol onto our cling film roof, then throws us—
boy and girl and bivouac to boot—into the fire of sunset to hear us erupt.
You sleep directly, grasping for tree branches in your evolutionary dreams.
I lie wakeful, waiting for the enormous harm, which we may or may not overcome.

Caoilinn Hughes’ first poetry collection, Gathering Evidence, was published by Victoria University Press and Carcanet Press (UK) in February 2014. The collection was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry, is currently shortlisted for the Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize 2015 and recently won the Irish Times Strong/Shine Award for Best First Collection. Poems from the collection won the 2012 Patrick Kavanagh Award, the 2013 Cúirt New Writing Prize and Poetry Ireland Competition. Born in Galway, Hughes studied at Queen’s University of Belfast and moved to New Zealand in 2007, where she worked for Google, ran a small business and then wrote a Ph.D. at Victoria University of Wellington. For September 2014–15, she holds the position of Distinguished Visiting Writer at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. In between teaching (and sometimes during it), she is working on her second poetry collection and a new novel.

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Gathering Evidence at Victoria University Press