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the men i keep under my bed / Alvy Carragher

the men i keep under my bed

By: Alvy Carragher

“it’s not very feminist to consider myself a mouldy slut I’ve agency over my body and all that 21st-century shite” A young woman wakes feeling raw and tender after a one-night stand. She leaves a strange man sleeping in her bed and goes running. Marked by the anxiety of living in a city that does not feel like home, she must face the memories and men kept under her ...
ISBN 978-1-912561-27-8
Pub Date Thursday, July 22, 2021
Cover Image Jacob Stack
Page Count 116
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“it’s not very feminist to consider myself a mouldy slut
I’ve agency over my body and all that 21st-century shite”

A young woman wakes feeling raw and tender after a one-night stand. She leaves a strange man sleeping in her bed and goes running. Marked by the anxiety of living in a city that does not feel like home, she must face the memories and men kept under her bed. 

Praise for Alvy Carragher’s poetry

“The deliberate and considered syntax and artful pacing unfolds a self, not just a situation.” 
Eavan Boland 

“A skilful and sensitive poet who possesses a high degree of psychological insight and tact, and her portrayal of the emotional undercurrents between people is at the same time forceful and subtle.” 
Eva Bourke 

“Carragher makes art that transcends the particular to find and describe truth and beauty in apparently broken things.”  
Eleanor Hooker 

“Carragher is, in short, a real writer. Her words tend to stick with you, partly because she always has a real story to tell.” 
Kevin Higgins 

“A moving study of big poetic subjects such as family, difficult relationships and loss, and while such themes have been explored by many poets, Alvy brings to it a freshness that is totally hers. In a voice that is natural and without sentimentality, it carries a lovely musicality and holds its own on the page.” 
Geraldine Mills

Alvy Carragher

Alvy Carragher is an Irish poet and writer based in Toronto. She has published two books. Her first collection of poetry Falling in love with broken things was published in 2016 by Salmon Poetry and her children’s novel The Cantankerous Molly Darling was published in 2019.  She received first-class honours in her MA of Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway. As a performance poet, she featured at events like Electric Picnic, Edinburgh Fringe Fest, RTE’s Arena and the Cúirt International Literary Festival. She represented Poetry Ireland at a reading in the Lincoln Center, New York as part of the Poetry Ireland Introduction Series in 2016. You can find out more about her work at

The following excerpt from the men I keep under my bed was first published in Poetry Ireland Review Issue 122, edited by Eavan Boland, in which Alvy Carragher was the Featured Poet.  Eavan Boland had this to say about the work: 
"The vivid, voice-driven poem featured here called ‘the men I keep under my bed’ — excerpted from a longer work — gestures to both page and performance. It is an extended persona piece, a dramatic narrative, voiced by a young woman on a morning run in the Phoenix Park. The narrative builds with the action: The speaker sets out in pre-dawn, aware of the blur of headlights and the details of the morning. There are deer. A man practices Tai Chi between the trees — ‘a strange place to be at peace’, the runner notes. The landscape unfolds sometimes in lyric detail, at other times in staccato perceptions, the deliberate and considered syntax and artful pacing unfolds a self, not just a situation. Finally the young woman returns home, to her empty sense of a one-night stand the previous night. The drama of the run fades and stasis returns.
            Alvy Carragher’s poem revisits a debate in contemporary poetry — a dialogue that often enough hasn’t reached the status of that, but should. There are tensions and suspicions between page poetry and performance poetry: differences of allegiance and expectation. But all too often the suspicion of performance poetry in the world of traditional or academic poetry has missed the point. Performance poetry, slam poetry, is certainly committed to a voiced expression of the poem. But it can also uncover a rare energy too often lost on the page: a sure-footed transit by the oral poet towards public statement drawn out of private experience. In that process voice becomes not just an option, but a craft in itself. In the best circumstances, the poem that draws from voice and performance can migrate to the page, bringing those energies with it. Living in both dimensions with ease and confidence. As Alvy Carragher’s poem does here."

the day after
(part one)

“I buried my father underground.
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house
whose rooms are the hours, whose doors
stand open at evening, receiving
guest after guest.”

(Li-Young Lee)


out the door, down the stack of steps

September dark and street lights lead me along the North Circular Road
slow at first, easing myself into it, limbs stiff and dissatisfied from lack of sleep

my runners slap the pavement
6 am cars slug by in a blur of light
my breath is a cloud to run through

I argue

part of me would like to turn around
push my key into the lock, go back indoors
melt butter into toast, brew some coffee

in that version of events, I do something wholesome
one of those activities Edi suggested like yoga
she tutted when I told her about the running
bent over, leaning forward
tapping my kneecap with her finger

“what about your knees, aren’t they going to hurt” 

I shrugged, always the shrug
the half-answer to uncomfy questions
I rarely consider the fate of my knees
or any of the advice Edi gives me

two minutes into the run
Phoenix Park sits, white gates against the dark

I will myself to think like an apple
which is to grow and be and fall
I read it in some mindfulness book, that
and a chapter about pretending to be a seed
but I don’t feel seed-like, they’re all untapped potential
that’s the kind of metaphor Mrs Ryan loved

compare yourself to fruit 

a Leaving Cert English teacher’s idea of poetry
then university professors go salivating over fertile pomegranates
until we’re all products of poor metaphorical training

a stitch develops, nestled in my ribs, I slow
focus on filling up my lungs

half a mile into the park
the Garda Barracks to my back
I take the boring road
one flat line out to the trails
I snake along the border walls
save the hills for when I’m tired
for when the effort matters

eleven minutes in, too soon to go back

when I run, I think of Scott Jurek
foot bandaged, suffering across Death Valley
I tried his technique before, shortening steps
increasing turnover, it felt treadmill heavy

(I should stop reading about Scott, he subsists on rice balls)

the length of a stride 
feels like my body yawning across the ground
waking itself up

the grass that lines the road is wet and leaning
it smells like rain has been and rain is coming

I wear thin gloves
an old cotton race t-shirt, ratty leggings
the t-shirt has I’ve been to Hell & Back scrawled across it

if rain comes, cold will crawl into my lungs
make itself at home, spend weeks escaping through my nose
that’s if I don’t get gutted by a deer first, splatted by a car

I always scare myself with death
I’ll run a little further
I don’t want to deal with him
I’ll have to ask him to leave
or make him breakfast
let him leave without a fuss

I’m good at pretending
smile, chit chat, then after he leaves
never reply to any texts 
assuming he’s the sort to text

I need to find his Facebook page, he must have one
that way I can check where he’s likely to show up
and avoid all those places

ah, this is my favourite bit
the dark is softer now 
trees stretch toward the last chunk of moon

the moon will be gone
by the time I turn to go home
the sun will be coming up in front of me
its low-slung glow forcing me to watch the trail closely

I cross the back of the park
 consider going further
but I can’t miss the bus

it’s best to act normal

people do this all the time, it’s nothing to feel anything about
I need to stop being whimsical, me and my romantic notions

I’ll veer here, loop through the wood
come out in front of the Ambassador's Residence
I love that stretchy piece of grass
it goes on for miles, deer skirt its edges

once a desolate woman stopped me
about half a mile into the park

“they said there were deer, do you know where” 

I told her to keep going, they go wherever they like
she was wearing stupid shoes, I doubt she went any further
but you won’t just stumble on beauty, it doesn’t hang around waiting

maybe he’ll be gone by the time I get back
what was I thinking, I wasn’t thinking, not really

is that a valid excuse for acting the mouldy slut

I push the thought back

it’s not very feminist to consider myself a mouldy slut
I’ve agency over my body and all that 21st-century shite

there’s the road again
return across the trails or down the main road
that cuts through the centre of the park

I don’t want to ruin the trail by associating it with this morning

I must be careful when I’m fragile
a subtle stump of wood
might stick in my subconscious

then months later
when I’m the new me
I’ll take that trail
notice Stumpy and 
it will all come back
as if it never got put away

the road is spotted with the odd runner now
morning-time soul-searchers

cars slip into the city

I slow again, come close to stopping
the thud of dehydrated head hurt
I’ll glug a pint of water, painkillers

recover from this ritual of pain

in six months, I’ve not learnt that
Dublin isn’t kind 

one glass becomes five
each glass a reminder that
 I’m worn out by it all

it’s okay for Sarah, Fridays start late for her
blundering out of bed at 11 am
right about the time I slot into my desk
down my first coffee

it’s hard to resist her, I tried

“ah come on Beth
Diarmaid is driving me mad
would you not go for one
it’ll do you good to get back out there”

thirty minutes, almost home

a man practices tai chi between the trees
a strange place to be at peace, so near the road
but I suppose the trick is finding peace there anyway

people can’t seem to keep calmness to themselves
it seeps out of their pores, gets right up in my face
asks why I’m ticking over a thousand thoughts

up around the Polo Grounds
a runner strides on the other side of the grass

I pick the pace up, not slogging, not me
my stomach lumps at the new tempo

the tall thin loping figure goes by
I give him the runner’s nod
once his footfalls are out of earshot
I slow to a waddle

I can’t do this

the zoo’s green fence holds in the sound of animals
their morning chorus, strangely haunting

how weak I am
the slower pace brings him back to me

I hope he’s not asleep
that he got up, slipped out, left no note
so I can romanticise

what if

I hadn’t gone running
left him slumped across my sheets

it’s unsettling to watch a stranger sleeping
to feel their weight pressed along me in the bed
to see how vulnerable they can be in my presence
or how they reach towards me in their sleep
me or some memory of a girl 

it is she they clutch at before waking

once awake
they realise she is gone

once awake
there is stilted conversation 
or half-baked sex
to fill the not knowing
the mutual not wanting to know

this man was no sleep-reacher
not the sort to get hung up on hauntings
he was the nightmare of first attempts
rough and quick and rolled over

he left me wet and wanting

I didn’t ask him to leave
I let him sleep

by morning, his light snore 
took up all the room in my head

now, I jog alongside the barracks

a batch of gardaí set out to run

light is piecing the day together
people have that tired Friday slouch

I pass a uniformed girl with her mother
it seems sad that someone so young
is so perfectly pressed
her footsteps skip, bag jolting behind her

I should not be getting so down in the drudge
I could sleep all day Saturday

no sleep, it’s Granny’s birthday
I’ve to bus-haul home

Granny is eighty
one of those ages that seems impossible

imagine explaining to Granny that I’ve slept with a man
because I wanted to be held, but then he never held me

stop this, breathe, cop on

200 metres to the door
I need to quit moping
quit longing for boys that spoon
or have encyclopaedic knowledge
of random topics

I tried explaining to Sarah
about wanting someone fascinating

she asked

“but like fascinating how” 

a butterfly enthusiast
someone who builds intricate watches
trains themselves to write the Japanese alphabet

Sarah says

“that is the definition of being too fussy”

I suspect the reality of a Japanese-writing butterfly enthusiast
would involve the kind of person who alphabetises their socks
sucks the last bit of chicken from the bone with a slurpy sound

creak of gate, I jog up the steps
fiddle with my keys at the door
try to remember his name
perhaps I’ll need to use it

was he a Conor or maybe an accountant
I associate accountants with bland names

I push open the door
the hall is the dark of rest

I pause, before entering

COPYRIGHT © Alvy Carragher 2021
Review: the men I keep under my bed by Alvy Carragher, reviewed by Michelle Moloney King for Beir Bua Journal, October 5, 2021

Salmon Poetry does not disappoint for the lovers of lyrical poetics with an edge. How very cool to see form being played with and the linguistics hidden then polished as if a neat play with hope and darkness. I wonder if Alvy Carragher writes in a way so as to ask us to walk with her – as I went on a journey with these poems.

Ireland is the home of lyrical poetry and it is thrilling to see the visual aspects of form being toyed with, odd formatting, right alignment, and some nihilistic poems too.

Even the concept of the collection is utterly inviting:

“A young woman wakes feeling raw and tender after a one-night stand. She leaves a strange man sleeping in her bed and goes running. Marked by the anxiety of living in a city that does not feel like home, she must face the memories and men kept under her bed.”

Through her way with imagery and pace we move beyond concepts and scenes and the male gaze and are put side-by-side as women living through running words.

Other Titles from Alvy Carragher

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