For Tina Pisco
Daa…aad, whaaaat… does… thaaaat… saaaaay, drawls Rosa,
trying out drawling today, after tweenie micro-stars
on Nickolodeon. She’s pointing at graffiti
on the slats around the back of Superquinn
It reads CUNT in dripping lipstick red.
I don’t want to pronounce or define
CUNT for my six year old, so
COUNT‘s the proximate I play her with.
It says COUNT sweetie, COUNT.
She stares at CUNT, painstakingly mouthing
the letters so signs and sounds combine to sense
phonetically, as instructed in Senior Infants.
Drawls. She’s smart, well taught; doesn’t
quite believe my lie that CUNT is COUNT.
Kuh-Uh-Enn-Tuh COUNT. Halts, alarmed, zipping
out of TV character: Dad, that doesn’t sound right.
Around the alphabet we have shared an absolute trust;
I’m stomped – momentarily – then risk:
You know about silent letters, don’t you, Rosa?
Letters that are there in the word when you spell it or write it
but you don’t pronounce when speaking?
Uh-huh; she nods, gravely, eyes narrowing,
trying her damnedest to unravel
my unfamiliar spinning;
Well here is a case of an Invisible Letter,
a very unusual and almost magical thing
which some call ghost, or even phantom letters.
What are you talking about, Dad?
A strange kind of letter you never see or say
in spelling out, but pronounce it anyhow, I tell her.
Like O in CUNT (which I pronounce Count).
Ok, Rosa says. This she can credit. It makes sense.
There are silent letters; why not invisibles?
Reconciled by such whitewash to our environment,
we dawdle on in thoughtful, mutual silences
past those cardboard jesters on horses on steroids
galloping out of the the Bookmaker’s looking glass.
Moments later, my daughter – innocent, spontaneous,
and targeted (living in our world, as Bataille
says of the animals, like water in water) – freezes
outside Pizza Hut, reeled in by the humungous
poster of a Wagon-Wheel Pepperoni: Extra Thick and Cheesy
Dad I’m hungry, really really hungry, Dad.
Really I am Dad. Can we get one of those?
Animal appetites inundate our wisdoms when they surge.
Though we may alter a course now and then in the flood
as now we have altered our language.
Only tinily and privately, I realise; and yet, from here on in,
round the back of Charlesland Superquinn,
CUNT is COUNT invisibly, for both of us.
Lies are the womb and the seed of us.
Their fertility is marvelous.
Dave Lordan is the first writer to win Ireland’s three national prizes for young poets. He is a former holder of the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award, the Kavanagh Award, and the Strong Award. He is a renowned performer of his own work, which the IrishTimes called ‘as brilliant on the page as is in performance’, and has read his work by invitation at festivals and venues across Europe and North America. His poems are regularly broadcast on Irish national radio and he is a contributing editor for Irish literary magazine The Stinging Fly. He is a founding member and editor of experimental and cross-genre arts journal Colony.ie. WurmPress published his acclaimed First Book of Frags in 2013 and he teaches experimental fiction at the Irish Writers Centre and contemporary poetry in the Mater Dei Institute of Dublin City University.