Shane Mac an Bhaird

A Swimmer Far Off


Not a drop of colour amid the grey,

the fog drifting across the beach.


There is a swimmer far off.

She stands, spotted, between crests of waves

that swallow her.


And we lie in a shoulder of rock,

buffered from the wind,

watching it, watching her,

watching the suds of surge,

the coast blistered.


The scene strikes me as Japanese

and in the fog I see a host of Noh dancers,

faces painted white, their slim limbs

contorting like ancient thorn trees.


They are moving slowly

leaving no imprint on the sand

and snarling with pointed teeth.


Picking her way back through them,

exhausted and wet,

is the swimmer.


When she gets back to the shelter

I ask her,

“What’s it like out there?”


“Cold,” she says, “and after a while,

you lose feeling in the heels of your feet.”




Written on a Macbook


I have painted my face with the scarred fingers

of miniature Chinese children,

drained the grit in the lungs of men.


I have kicked a bright orange ball upwards

where it hung in the blue sky like the sun,

a sun that had been stolen for it.


I have cleaned my teeth with their limbs,

laughed and loved, caressed the nights

before the glow of hollowed hills.


I have trimmed my nails and let fall

the smile of monsters grown rich

swallowing herds of the unfortunate.


I have let the want of my heart bind me

to the fact: the things about me

are things of casual suffering.




Shane Mac an Bhaird is from Ballybay, Co. Monaghan. He has had work published in wordlegs presents: 30 Under 30The Irish TimesThe Bastille, The Bohemyth, The South Circular, Ropes and wordlegs. He came second in Doire Press’ 2013 Poetry chapbook competition. As well as writing, he works in theatre, has completed an MRes in playwriting from the University of Birmingham and is currently working on a play commission as part of Rough Magic’s 2014-2015 Seeds programme.