Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘The Ballad of Sharon and Mark’ and other poems

By: Thomas Meagher

Photo by Stacey Gabrielle Koenitz Rozells on

The Ballad of Sharon and Mark

Sharon Murphy hoards pencils and writes invented words
Then hides them under desks attached to gum and oozing secretions
Like sap from the beech tree outside the school grounds

And Mark Flanagan with his sunken chest, he suffers, he does
Like only children do.

Because Chris is your older brother
I endure the dead arms
He hammers down on me daily

I swear next time I’ll swing back
But the humiliation and pain is only temporary
And anyway – who would buy us our booze?

One by one, my old friends disappear.

But not you.
It’s because of you.
And I blame you.

I blame your moon-shaped mattress
That smells like incense and red vines

I blame your mum’s barmbrack
That you tear bit by bit with your tiny fingers
While I shove whole slices into my marg-caked face.

I blame you for my waning zeal
For other humans, squiggled tape and that gunpowder
That left the grass skewered by dynamite
With only a charred and irreparable divot remaining

We do nothing to stop Chris
When he pastes blackberries into Mark’s hair
And attaches snails to Sharon’s cardigan

He buys us off with a £3 flagon
Smuggles it to the lake behind your house

Sharon sits wordless
And Chris forces cider into Mark ‘til he pukes

Girls scribble boy’s names in notepads
Highlighting crushes with green ink
Barry is tall and cute but skinny,
Chris is older and hotter

When it’s your turn you write Tom has nice hands
And angle the page so I can see
Then look back up and cover it coyly
Then tell me,

‘Hands’ is the consolation prize,
It shouldn’t even be a category

Then you scribble a quote surrounded by love hearts
And ask me if I’ve read Sylvia Plath
My head shakes before I realise that I decided not to lie.

When you bring out the hose
I take one last huff of your scent from my shirt
Knowing it will wash off with the water

The evening is pink now
And the wind smells like Skittles
The hose sprays backwards onto your nose
And the water beads settle as untouched orbs

Flashes of rainbows
Are drawn on empty spaces
Mark lies unconscious
As Sharon peels the snails from her cardie

I’m drunk and drip-drying on the last day of summer
Magic is real for you and I
Miracles are miracles
Made of random encounters
But maybe not for all of us.


Skipping class on Nassau St, October 1995

It’s early in the term
I can still smell September
And boys and sweat and vinegar
From the lines outside the chipper

Globs of rain gallop
And gather on the footpath
To flood the feet of old American tourists
Wearing baseball caps and backpacks
Studying soggy rain-soaked maps,
Dawdling alongside coaches,
Looking down at their itineraries
And back up at each bus

I pull a Johnny Blue from a 15-pack
You’re too young to be smoking
Comes an admonition
From a silvery American accent
Two Irish flags peer from her Carrolls bag
I got one for my daughter and one for my grandson

She tells me that she hand-stitched
That stars and stripes across her rucksack
About Nebraska, and how it felt
To visit family in West Clare – it was the first time they’d met
We’re Faheys she says, those are my people.
The kinship was immediate
I wonder did the Faheys
Feel connected too
Or did they pile tea upon more tea
Until it was polite to say goodbye



Limpid and trusting
Eyeballs too big for their sockets
Magnified with thick glasses
And flecked laughter

Full cheeks
Coloured by the warmth of cinnamon cocktails
Forthright and vulnerable

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