Free Ireland shipping on orders over €25 | Free Worldwide shipping on orders over €45
0

How We Arrive In Winter / Liz Quirke

How We Arrive In Winter

By: Liz Quirke

€12.00
‘…the brain stores memories like glass shards in a palm,’ so says the speaker in ‘The First Forgetting’ from Liz Quirke’s stunning and poignant, How We Arrive In Winter. Quirke’s second collection is as sharp, intense and piercing as these slivers of glass, as well as being as true, clear and translucent—letting all the light pass through. It is an unflinching exploration and excavation of love, loss, parenth...
ISBN 978-1-912561-28-96-4
Pub Date Friday, July 16, 2021
Cover Image Photograph “Diamond Hill” by Pearl Phelan
Page Count 76
Share on
‘…the brain stores memories like glass shards in a palm,’ so says the speaker in ‘The First Forgetting’ from Liz Quirke’s stunning and poignant, How We Arrive In Winter. Quirke’s second collection is as sharp, intense and piercing as these slivers of glass, as well as being as true, clear and translucent—letting all the light pass through. It is an unflinching exploration and excavation of love, loss, parenthood and survival that I couldn’t put down. A profound, mature and moving collection from a poet of great integrity and power, How We Arrive In Winter is a career-defining achievement. 

Victoria Kennefick
author of Eat or We Both Starve


Form ruptures. Mirroring the self in this volume, the poems are made and unmade; a seam of kintzugi gleams, then unravels, speaking to the detritus of love through grief. The collection slip-slides from time-shifting paeons to absence, to shocks of pain, of beauty. 
     From loss into love, into loss again, the poems are in communion with each other. Circular, concentric, they expand and contract, not towards resolution—but, like with all great poetry, to a deeper questioning. Here is the self, gutted like a fish, but with always something oblique, hidden, so that alongside unflinching truth lies mystery too. Breath-taking.

Ruth McKee
editor of Books Ireland


'At the heart of this collection is a beautiful, attentive monument to a beloved father, tradesman and teacher, an ambitious and patient song of remembrance.’ 

Mike McCormack
author of Solar Bones


‘A beautiful meditation on love and loss, the overwhelming brutality of grief and the mystery in the everyday-ordinary. Quirke demonstrates great control against raw emotion, and sharp attention to time at an alternate pace. How we Arrive In Winter is filled with beautiful and heartbreaking poems on the human condition, fragility and resilience.’

Elaine Feeney
author of Rise and As You Were

Liz Quirke

Liz Quirke is a poet and scholar from Kerry. She has a PhD from the University of Galway on the subject of Queer Kinship in Contemporary Poetry. She was an Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Holder. She lives in Tralee and works at UCC. She has published two collections with Salmon Poetry: her debut The Road, Slowly appeared in 2018 followed by How We Arrive In Winter in 2021.


How We Arrive In Winter

i
We luxuriate beneath the jacaranda while it rains.
You discard all your coverings, utter a challenge 
as we inhabit this, our first deluge. I keep myself 
together, understand you’re here with me only
because you can’t be there. The water pushes  
into your pores, threatens to flood you with reminders
of how confining our small courtyard 
all the way across the world really is. 

It rains. You scratch furrows into your skin, endure 
this Sydney summer rainstorm like I’ve handed you
an unwelcome gift. She has been dead a month. 
You mind the roadside graveyard where you left her, 
all its lonely territories, so any time life blooms in unexpected 
ways, you clutch it till your body racks and heaves. 
We’re too young in our love to have the words for this. 
No one can tell me when the right thing to say will come.


ii
In this grief memory we are making, for you I can be brave. 
I drop my shorts and shirt to meet yours, experience
the way the confines of this continent shatter you.
I meet you where you hold yourself aching,  
settle in your wake until I am not 23 and awkward. 
Eventually the rainfall slows, clothes migrate 
to the open-top washer, and we endure season
after season until ten whole years pass by.

It rains on ash boughs now instead of fragrant frangipani. 
We root ourselves in dark brown soil, where once
our earth loomed red. At night we see our breath,
and cold to your bones, you say, can you believe she’s dead 
so long. I say I dreamed him the other night but he couldn’t speak.
I’ve forgotten his voice outside of how he said my name. 
This is how we arrive in winter, how we can stand to stay
outside, breathing as all we love turns to mulch. 


iii
Sometimes I wish we suspended time in that shotgun 
house on Camden Street; that we had the safety 
of the middle room, where we nested into each other like fledglings.
When it’s bad, I ask you could we ever go back, 
could we try unanswer the phonecalls that carried us home. 
I see myself back at my desk, the hard yards between Newtown 
and Rhodes soften — worksleepworksleepworksleepwork
weekday beers with Rich and Sam in the Courty.

It’s then I remember times when my phone would blare and it’s him,
always him calling and I describe the platforms I wait on, 
how the air feels acrid and too warm in my mouth
and we talk out all news and non-news through Strathfield, 
Stanmore, lose him under the bridge to Newtown, tell him
I’ll call him again when I’m up on King Street, and when I do
the conversation turns to this and that, I promise him 
I’m safe, I’m nearly home, I’m nearly home, I’m nearly home.



The First Forgetting

In the hours of the first forgetting, the brain  
stores memories like glass shards in a palm.
I’m combing beaches kept in old photographs,
relying on muscle memory to shape my mouth
around riddles my father kept on the tip of his tongue. 

Today, helicopters circle and eleven days from Christmas 
I tell the children it’s Santa checking 
for lights, letters, to see if they have behaved   ̶ 
they’re too young to equate the rotor’s cut
with suicide by drowning, the gloom of Galway Bay 

the morning after, too new to predict a crew circling back 
in pattern, how high-vis seekers line where water meets sand, 
eyes skirting from rock pool to horizon and back. 
Our eldest saw someone jump from the weir, we lied 
in the same instant, told her the person was merely swimming, 

she found it silly he had his clothes on and 
he didn’t have any goggles either. This forgetting is not 
what I expected. Scenes from mornings when I crept from 
the foot of the bed and everything was warm and safe and my parents 
in their dawn-lit room were familiar to my senses as breathing.



Words For After 

When asked how he died, this is all I’ll say,
it was on the day before the travels, after all their bags were packed.
A sudden death, fifteenth of June, lunchtime on a Thursday.

I’ll tell them all how quick it was, one sharp pain and that’s the way,
(We heard the phone ringing, but he never called the office back)
When asked how he died, this is all I’ll say,

I’m writing out the ambulances, how we thundered night to day,
chasing blue lights over county lines, I’ll clear this from the facts,
leave him a sudden passing, fifteenth of June, lunchtime on a Thursday.

I’m cutting out the rushed goodbyes, whispers to stoop and pray,
I’ll split the scene and never spill the parts that I can’t hack.
When asked how he died, this is all I’ll say,

some days (when I can) I’ll simply nod and walk away,
I won’t relive the ending in retellings back to back,
his sudden death, fifteenth of June, at lunchtime on a Thursday.

I’m giving him an out more kind than the actual run of play,
no Lee view room, no God is Good, no terminal decay.
When asked when he died, this is what I’ll say, it was:
an easy death, fifteenth of June, at lunchtime on a Thursday.

Poems Copyright © Liz Quirke 2021

Other Titles from Liz Quirke

Contact us

Salmon Poetry / The Salmon Bookshop
& Literary Centre,
Main Street,
Ennistymon,
County Clare,
V95 XD35,
Ireland

Newsletter
Arts Council
Credit Cards