Kathleen McPhilemy


Like a brooch or a bloodstain suddenly there
fluttering on a towel pegged out on the line;
I rushed inside for my naturalist app.
When I got back it was gone so I picked some figs
ripe and yielding. I thought about guilt
and hidden redness and wasps in the garden.

A Red Admiral or Painted Lady?
somehow it seemed redder than those;
think the difference between scarlet and crimson
distinction of venous from arterial blood;
baleful and blameful, token of shame
how shocking the splotch of red is on white!

But red in the end is swallowed by black
surrender to dark that turns the sun
into the Sunday of church interiors
into the guilt of stained glass windows
furtive uncomfortable leaking of innocence ‒
unreachable light on untouchable waves.

Kathleen McPhilemy comes from Belfast and now lives in Oxford. She has published three collections of poems, including The Lion in the Forest (Katabasis) and her work appears regularly in anthologies and print and online magazines.