The Aftermath

The whisky wandered 

through me and I floated away. 

Joe came and kissed me 

lightly on the lips, I felt the ghost 

of his moustache, held on to his hand, 

all the while my stomach twirling, 

then I was back, in Santa Pola

the night we went into the sea.

The water lazed like melted 

dark chocolate, and the moon,

the moon was a soft-glow bulb 

over our shoulders. Miles

of dark, stretched away behind us. 

We tipped up and lay on the sea 

holding hands, looking up at the stars. 

I was scared of drifting

but Joe squeezed my hand, 

telling me to let go. Let go.

And now this room

with its band of family snaps

wraps me in a wave

and he fades into the light.

Dancing to a Different Tune

The mental ticking-off of miles and time 

stretch me forward, onto the road.

I'm a waving line, counting down 

to the end of my life;

my family isn't long-lived. 

These days, I am a woman preparing 

time. I urge it to slow down, bring me

flowers to smell. No more bombing 

up motorways – life must fall 

back for the cameras.

The road speeds into the past at seventy, 

mostly. I'm counting the exits 

on the M6. The up-beat of impending 

arrival rises through my chest 

to sit on my shoulders. 

Every glance at the dials shows me

I'm speeding, but that all changes 

the further north I drive. It's as if 

everyone wants to leave their lives,

just get on the motorway and go. 

Traffic is clogged with trucks 

through the Midlands. They weave 

their way across the lanes, turning 

the world grey, and a heaviness settles

into my mind. Change is here already.

My feet love the pressure of brakes, 

and I ease onto the slip-road. 

Suddenly the music is too loud.

I drive through the car-park, into a holiday 

resort – Service Station Galactica.

Accents from all over the country, the world, 

people moving through their lives, 

passing a moment in my view – a dance

like some modern theatre acted out in public,

each character replaced over and over again.


Irene Cunningham, born in Glasgow, now reclines at the side of Loch Lomond. She has had poems published in London Review of Books, Writing Women, New Writing Scotland, New Welsh Review, Poetry Scotland, Stand Magazine and many more journals. Now working on her first novel, she blogs at

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