Poems by Afric McGlinchey

Afric bio pic (2)The 2010 winner of the Hennessy Award for Emerging Poetry, Afric McGlinchey grew up in Ireland and Zimbabwe. A graduate of Rhodes University and the University of Cape Town, she has also lived in Paris, London and Spain. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals in Ireland, England, Scotland, the United States, Mexico, India and Canada. She was placed and highly commended in several competitions in 2012, including the Magma and Bridport, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize in the States. She won the Northern Liberties Poetry Prize (USA) in 2013. Her début collection, The lucky star of hidden things was published in 2012 by Salmon. Afric lives in West Cork, Ireland.  africmcglinchey@gmail.com


Nelson and the whale

Ancient and frail,
your face universally beloved,
you sit in a chair, waiting to die.

In a dream, I see a tree,
Something falling from the sky,
spiralling towards us.

A momentous crash,
and there’s a whale
caught in the branches.

We are a large gathering,
with cameras,
recording the catastrophe.

For weeks,
this dream keeps returning.
Until the end.

And in the aftermath,
your story floods
our screens and airwaves.

My  memory:
your two hands clasped over mine,
as I offered you a flower;

your one-in-a-million smile,
our gazes meeting,
and then the shaking, for an hour.

At night, I see
the towering shadow of a struck tree,
imprint of a whale.

© Afric McGlinchey

The defender’s roadmap

(a found poem, spliced and mixed from a politician’s speech)

I appeal for compliance,
brothers and sisters on the African continent.
Before the ladies left, early in the morning, they would always forget
how selflessly and with great dedication, we enjoyed our prior affairs.
This time, railroaded and frog-marched to another fully brief date,
I, as a mere courtesy to the flagrant parties,
agreed to hide the first-time aliens,
precipitate a power point demonstration,
as he can only make aspirations illegitimate and violent.
While all of you were sitting still, I chaperoned and shepherded
the chief to the most choice summit,
where, with other gentlemen, I conducted clear and close
infringements on his  sovereignty.
The brief malaise deepened the tireless curator’s dead talk.
In dreams, I breach with triumph, make rear attacks.
Show me the rubber, and I will fight.
In any event, I must be allowed to insist on a short break,
call for a brief attempt alone,
since we cannot be aware of conditions
and patently must be in doubt, making acts obligatory.
Surely I, as defender, can exercise workers for the day?
It is disturbing to note calm and vigilant illegality
in the face of provocation.
I insist on intense processes to the letter.
Tireless, I ask you to stand by the stall,
gentlemen, although
I doubt this is material.
Can you finish in sections?
Use the easiest means possible. Primary, minimum acts.
No more suffering, shut down, frozen.
I have clearly proclaimed on the matter – history has taught us
that temporary measures
provide, among other things, disabled senators.
I will not accept that evil has sought to sign-off happiness.
Where is the purported letter, the key to the front and rear?
They cannot close the house without an application.

© Afric McGlinchey



Desire can change the colour of our skin.
The fire in gazes
raises blood, blooms pupils to black moons.

But in every lifestyle magazine
there’s a single hue that marks
the current fashion for perfection,

fickle as a promise
without a shadow side –
why else the blanching of dark skin to pale,

or white, obsessed with darkening,
swooning under blazing sun,
sizzling in an ultraviolent capsule?

We circle flames, when what’s burning
isn’t fire, but halfway skin
charred by heat and chemicals.

And it’s not just for the prosperous.
These days, any roadside vendor
will sell a cream that offers pearlier translucence,

though what’s gorgeous is the way light glances from a collar bone,
seeps up from hidden breasts. And that smile!
So white against the richness

of dark skin, cheekbones etched, the jawline
curved just so.
Bleaching skin is gege;

though they call it ‘toning’ and ignore
intense, uneven blotching, the fact
that melanin is blocked with mercury.

So what if lightening’s toxic,
and a side effect’s leukemia,
they say black isn’t beautiful after all…

We’re all marked with a similar intense craving,
this tryst with ‘beauty’.
Too dark! Too light!

But are we sheep?
When they dictate the recipe,
repeat it to your saliva – and spit!

© Afric McGlinchey

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