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The Road, Slowly
April 2018

How We Arrive In Winter

Liz Quirke

ISBN: 978-1-912561-28-96-4

Page Count: 76

Publication Date: Friday, July 16, 2021

Cover Artwork: Photograph ďDiamond HillĒ by Pearl Phelan

About this Book

ĎÖthe brain stores memories like glass shards in a palm,í so says the speaker in ĎThe First Forgettingí from Liz Quirkeís stunning and poignant, How We Arrive In Winter. Quirkeís second collection is as sharp, intense and piercing as these slivers of glass, as well as being as true, clear and translucentóletting all the light pass through. It is an unflinching exploration and excavation of love, loss, parenthood and survival that I couldnít 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 resolutionóbut, 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.í 

Mike McCormack
author of Solar Bones

ĎA 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.í

Elaine Feeney
author of Rise and As You Were

Author Biography

Liz Quirke is a writer and scholar from Co. Kerry. Salmon Poetry published her debut collection The Road, Slowly in 2018. She teaches on the MA in Writing at NUI Galway and is completing a practise-based PhD on Queer Kinship in Contemporary Poetry. 

Read a sample from this book

How We Arrive In Winter

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 youíre here with me only
because you canít 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 Iíve 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. 
Weíre too young in our love to have the words for this. 
No one can tell me when the right thing to say will come.

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 sheís dead 
so long. I say I dreamed him the other night but he couldnít speak.
Iíve 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. 

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 itís 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 ó worksleepworksleepworksleepwork
weekday beers with Rich and Sam in the Courty.

Itís then I remember times when my phone would blare and itís 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
Iíll call him again when Iím up on King Street, and when I do
the conversation turns to this and that, I promise him 
Iím safe, Iím nearly home, Iím nearly home, Iím nearly home.

The First Forgetting

In the hours of the first forgetting, the brain  
stores memories like glass shards in a palm.
Iím 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 itís Santa checking 
for lights, letters, to see if they have behaved   ̶ 
theyíre too young to equate the rotorís 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 didnít 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 Iíll 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.

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

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

Iím cutting out the rushed goodbyes, whispers to stoop and pray,
Iíll split the scene and never spill the parts that I canít hack.
When asked how he died, this is all Iíll say,

some days (when I can) Iíll simply nod and walk away,
I wonít relive the ending in retellings back to back,
his sudden death, fifteenth of June, at lunchtime on a Thursday.

Iím 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 Iíll say, it was:
an easy death, fifteenth of June, at lunchtime on a Thursday.

Poems Copyright © Liz Quirke 2021

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