Nina Geraghty

WhatI didn’t know, I know now

I never knew how much I treasured moments
Just single moments uncluttered by how I should be
Just a joyous moment with me in it, in this moment and no other
Just the me I am and no other
I know that now.  That there are such moments.

I didn’t know I loved not knowing
not knowing the wild mystery of the unanswerable
For what more could there be to know about a stranger’s kindness
except that it was a gift with no expectations?
I know this now. That one is given such unencumbered gifts.

And for all those fretful years before the mirror
I never knew that it was not how I appeared that made you love me
but simply that because you loved me, you found me beautiful
your constancy a more faithful mirror than my ever fickle self-regard
I know it now.  That there can be such love.

I can’t regret not knowing
It is by the empty heart that yearning learns its longing
only, the question haunts me.
What is it that I don’t know now of which in time to come
I will say:  what I didn’t know I know  now?


Nina Geraghty

I’m Not At Home

The winter rains have begun
in the drip-drip from the same old crack in the ceiling
Once pride kept disrepair at bay, deferred
now it’s the call to the Roof Man that’s endlessly postponed
for it’s only staunching the inevitable
These days even the rain defeats me
as it comes down brutal, hard, indifferent
washing away my home

The headlines slap me sideways
beating their message home regular as lamp posts
Rape. Murder. Dead Dumped Babies.
Over and over they deliver their blows
Banal abbreviations of yesterday’s lives
And the words follow me, chanting their grisly chorus
behind my back like tormenting schoolboy bullies
following me all the way home

And in the darkest hour of night
comes the sound of a breaking door
The splintering wood splicing me awake, I grope
and fumble in a drenched nightmare of slow
In the panic siren screams police arrive moving soundlessly,
blurred phantoms treading through the unplayed events
of what could have been rewinding in my brain
and wishing I hadn’t been at home

What is this? This fragile skin within
I long to call my home?
Evil has its foot in the door, edging in
the elements invade, the walls are crumbling stone.
Where is my refuge, where my escape
from this dark and hostile place?
I open the door to leave and unexpected, sunlight enters
standing at the threshold  – delivering this poem.

Nina Geraghty

Hearing Voices, Dowsing for Words

Angel: By the time you were 5 years old, you had lost your voice.  In the beginning you used to joyfully shout your wants, but then you were told to hush, to stop crying, to keep quiet. Your whispered wishes became softer and softer until you could only hear your voice in your head.  The words no longer found their way to your mouth; or if they did they collapsed, lying jumbled on your tongue like stillborn alphabet.

Jewel: though I can’t speak I can dance.

Angel:  Throughout your childhood, you tapped through your feelings.  Your voice blind, trying to find its way out.

Jewel: My belly flexes, beckoning. Innuendo slides in the slow sinuous weave of my fingers, enjoying my power.  Like flames flickering in the shimmer of my hips, the dance in me flares up, living bright in me like words burning,  each fluttering movement rising from the ashes of my voice.

Angel: I dream of you, the child you were then;  short dark hair cut straight at your chin, pale-faced, dark-eyed, mouth silenced over with white tape, a lipless shroud pressed flat. In the dream you are solemn, unnaturally quiet and when you look at yourself in the mirror, you discover your mouth has disappeared, leaving a smooth blank space of flesh beneath your eyes. You try to scream …

The woman dowses for buried voices. Words that were buried now find themselves poised on the tip of the tongue of her pen.

Jewel:  Rubies and emeralds gleam luminous on my breasts, gold glitters in my navel.  My eyes invite you but behind my veil, I am dormant.  Only my dance is there, whirling more and more furiously, drumming feet, stamping feet, drumming up rage, rage, rage …

Angel: … and the scream surges up from your belly until …

… it runs like molten red hot lava into her pen and erupts onto the page in a  splatter of words.  Drawing blood.

Angel:  and they always said to you you’re such an angel, so quiet and good. Only you longed to know:  when will it ever end, being an angel?

Jewel:  … because what my body tells them is only part of what I have to say.

And the woman pours forth words, bypassing her mouth, her body, redirecting them to her pen. She writes them into being and releases them, watching them dance and swirl and fly till they disappear.


Holding It All Together
Releasing and letting it go
Twisting it into a mountain
Setting it free to flow
Between the tension of holding together
and the relief of allowing release
comes the terror of Falling Apart
that keeps me awake in my sleep!

Nina Geraghty

Love, Maybelline lipstick

Maybelline has a way with men.

I’ve tried to pick it up by watching her in the restaurant where we both work, how she presents the bill to her customers with a little flourish. “Thank you!” she writes on the bill in her large flamboyant script and then a winking smiley face “Love, Maybelline” she adds. Sometimes she’ll shorten her name to “Maybe”. Men like her light flirty air – Maybe Babe they call her – rolling the thrill of its suggestiveness on their tongues. Then again, everything about her is suggestive. Well Mummy thought so when she and Daddy had dinner at the restaurant one night. Her eyes followed Maybelline around surreptitiously all evening; Daddy of course didn’t spare Maybelline so much as a glance; that would be risking too much.

I’m not like Maybelline.

“Your flatmate’s quite something, isn’t she?” Mummy says later her voice steeped in disapproval as I’m removing their plates and Daddy has gone to the bathroom. And I know immediately she means Maybelline’s aura of allure, how she carries her perfect round breasts before her like ripe fruit offerings, half bared to view, the artfully careless way her hair falls, covering one dark, heavily shadowed eye, the swinging curve of her hips as she scoops the plates up in a smooth graceful arabesque as she passes, the red half-smile, teasing, hiding. Of course she doesn’t actually say any of these things but it’s what she means all the same.

I shrug dismissively and carry the plates away. Do I plod? I feel heavy.

“She’s ok.” I reply when I return. “She’s got a lot of boyfriends.” I don’t add “unlike me”. But Mummy hears it anyway.

“Saaandra,” she says reproachfully “You’ll have plenty of time for all that after your studies. You’re doing so well!” She frowns. As if “all that” might be an infection I’m in danger of catching.

“Mmmm” I say.

”So these boyfriends of Maybelline’s. Do you ever see them? Do they come to the flat?” There’s a repressed but eager shine in Mummy’s eyes.

I wonder what she would say if she could see Maybelline’s bedroom. Next to the elegant restraint of my neat and orderly cream and white bed, the smart oak desk, the pale beige carpet, Maybelline’s room is shocking. I remember peeking into her room for the first time while she was out, just after she’d moved in. I caught a glimpse of a scarlet four poster bed draped with hangings, a lamp hung with bright orange fringes, numerous candles, the bed cover dizzy with dazzling embroidery and tiny Indian mirrors, before hastily shutting the door. My heart pounded with guilt and furtive pleasure. It was as if I had seen a forbidden shimmering mirage. As if I’d slipped through a crack into a larger reality, more dangerously vivid and alive than my own and then instantly retreated into something small and narrow. And safe.

Mummy is looking at me expectantly, curious.

“Oh!” I catch myself. “Sometimes. They’re really good looking guys, they come to fetch her in their fancy cars. To go dancing at clubs, I think.” I’m embellishing a bit, wanting to live up to the hidden eagerness in her eyes, provoke it into showing itself openly. The cars haven’t been that fancy really; once there was a Merc convertible and the men are more slick and self-assured than handsome. I don’t tell her that I hear them coming back together in the early hours of the morning, that I hear their stifled laughter followed by hot silences through the thin partition wall between our bedrooms. I don’t tell her about the sweat-saturated cries which drag me out of my cool virgin sleep, my neatly buttoned up tamped down envy.

And then Daddy comes back and we both know this isn’t for his ears.

How could I have guessed everything would change?

One late Saturday afternoon there is a knock at the door. Maybelline is in her room getting ready to go to work and I am fuzzy with studying on the sofa. Thinking this can only be one of her men, I stumble up to answer the door.

As I expect, a man stands there. But he’s nothing like Maybelline’s usual sleekly groomed and suavely dressy boys. He is a stolid looking man, sunburned from working outdoors and wearing an ordinary checked shirt and jeans. His hands are calloused red and rough, his expression earnest yet guarded. He looks at me uncertainly. I hear Maybelline clipping behind me in her high heels, coming to see who it is.

“Is … is … Marie here?” he’s hesitant, softly spoken, almost shy.

“Sorry. I think you’ve got the wrong flat. There’s no Marie here.” I begin to close the door when he catches sight of Maybelline. His eyes widen in shock and strangely, relief.

“Marie! Marie! Please … Marie …” His voice is now hoarse and urgent and he pushes past me towards Maybelline. Maybelline, who has turned white beneath her makeup, whose open cherry red lips now gape soundless as a wound against the sudden pallor of her skin, can only stare at this stranger with a look of horror in her eyes. He doesn’t dare touch her, only stands before her. Mute, beseeching.

“Maybelline? Do you know this guy? What’s going on, Maybelline?” I’m confused, afraid, feeling out of my depth.

“It’s alright Sandra.” Maybelline’s voice is raw, skinless. “This is Hendrik.” Her eyes glint bright with grief. “My husband”.

“Come back, Marie, please,” Hendrik says quietly.

A panic-stricken rebellious expression flares across Maybelline’s face and she makes a desperate sideways move, a last minute futile attempt to escape, to run away. “Marie!” he implores. “The children!” She stops suddenly, still turned away, as if he has stabbed her, cut her down. “They really miss you, they really miss their mother!”

And Maybelline breathes out, in tiny tearing gasps, her life torn into bits with every breath.

I contemplate myself in the mirror in her room. I’m wearing her gold sequinned top. She left all her furniture and clothes behind – said I could have them, that she’d never have a use for them where she was going. The top is tight fitting and cut much lower than Mummy would like but I’m going to wear it anyway. I pick up an eyeliner I’ve found on her dresser and begin to shade my eyelids in dark glittery smoke-coloured smudges. Maybelline it says on the side.

‘One tasteful beige and cream room to let,’ I say to myself softly, trying out the words.


Nina Geraghty

Blown Away

Who invited you in ?

Hooligan gatecrasher up
setting all my care
fully stacked sentences let
ting them flutter loose
like tumble-blown hair
As you brazenly finger all my papers up
ending my words with flippant dis
flicking dain flying  them  through





by your hurricane invasion! And stop that!
Blowing up my skirt and cold licking tongue my thighs
Hard to catch and smack your hit and run hands and mouth as they fly
whipping my hair into disarray.  I’m thoroughly unraveled
by your disheveling presence as you knot and bramble my mind!

I slam-shut-the-door-panting.

The sudden hush is softly breathing
Warm and enfolding, a motherly comforting
and sighing I shuffle up the litter of my papers
primly putting them into their proper order.

But it’s no good.
My eyes have fallen on a falsehood
The meaning’s now lost, my calm betrayed
Every word’s been twisted out of shape, rearranged.
Order forsaken, I’ve been kaleidescopically shaken
Into some other pattern new and strange.

Looks like you’ve quite undone me today.

Unhooked from my foundations
I’ve been shaken free and

blown away.

Nina Geraghty

…jumping into free fall… nothing to save me from drowning in the white page except my pen which needs to write fast to create a lifeline, an ink-line for me to cling onto. The words become stepping stones I can leap from – word to word – I jump, skip, and hop easily while the words flow smoothly from the end of my pen, forming close to each other.  But now there is a pause and oh, the next word seems too far away to leap to – I can’t quite make it out as it lies there floating flat and illegible – but I must, for already I feel the word I’m on begin to sink into the drowning whiteness of the page. So filled with fear and trepidation I leap – blindly, limbs flailing and land within painful grasp of the next word. Hauling myself up by raw fingertips, I view the horizon beyond and to my relief a whole platoon of words like islands emerge in silent formation stretching out to the edge of the page. I skip lightly across them – skimmingly, joyously. I teeter at the corner, turn over and another blank sea awaits me, waiting for me to jump, to fall, to land – on a word.