Edward O’Dwyer: Callous Alice & Poem For A Tree


Callous Alice

When a bad shot sent the ball into her front garden

Callous Alice came running out

with a big knife out of an ‘80s slasher film,

a knife that was both a blade

and a wicked, stainless steel smile.


We’d watch her gleefully cut the ball open,

slice our games to tragic ends.

It was a quality meant for young love,

that eagerness, that zealousness of hers,

her dressing gown often cape-like behind her.


There were rumours going about, too,

that Callous Alice had been leaving out poison

for all the curious cats in the neighbourhood.

Too many were inexplicably vanishing.

Everyone believed she was guilty.


Back then none of us would have been surprised

to see Callous Alice on the news, to learn

she was guilty of a series of grisly murders.

We’d seen her ecstasy opening up a football

and knew enough to name this evil.


Poem for a Tree

“There were one too many poems about trees,

            leaves and the changing of seasons…”

– Róisín Kelly, note from a review of The Rain on Cruise’s Street


There’s a reviewer in the near future

advising against this.

I can sense her there, sitting at her desk,

her head shaking at the title

while the light of confused weather

comes through the window.


Against her better judgement, though,

the words on keep leaving my pen

and falling autumnally

onto the page, itself

once a tree, now playing

the ironic role of preservation.


The particular tree has suffered.

Since the years of my childhood

and today, still, it suffers.


It always tilted enough

to be easily climbed and this moment,

as a result of our games,

it is close as can be to horizontal.


We tied many rope swings out of it

and, naturally, we spent those years

getting heavier, pulling it downwards


with our bulks, yet – near impossibly –

it keeps on going, keeps on being a tree,

it’s stoicism equally

a comic and tragic sight,

with never the slightest temptation in it

to give an undeserved inch to gravity.


Here in the present, I understand

that there are small yet significant guilts

that etch their names beneath the skin,

and that the braille of them

tells the body to tell memory

that their healing needs the right salve,

and so I must ignore

said reviewer’s disapproval,

remind myself this was never about trees

and leaves and the changing of seasons.



Edward O’Dwyer, from Limerick, has poetry published in magazines and anthologies throughout the world, such as The Forward Book of PoetryPoetry Ireland ReviewThe Manchester ReviewA Hudson View Poetry DigestThe Houston Literary Review, and many others. His debut collection, The Rain on Cruise’s Street (2014), is published by Salmon Poetry, from which the follow-up is due early 2017. He is an editor for Revival Press, a community publishing house in Limerick. He was selected in 2010 by Poetry Ireland for their Introduction Series. He has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award, the Desmond O’Grady Prize and the North West Words Prize, among others. His work has been nominated for Forward, Pushcart, and Best of the Web prizes and is translated into Slovene and Romanian.

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