A Matter of Style, Christine Ireland


These poems, one light

and the others not, explore

                                                                                       different types of conformity.



Out of Style

I’ve clicked my selections on websites of fashion

but have often been tricked by the fit,

so I’m lugging a dozen garments on hangers,

their hooks biting into my flesh –

I’ve collected them all throughout my favourite store

and now I’m fitting-room bound for the test.


The first outfit clings to display perfectly

every roll, every blimp, every bag

from there it’s downhill: I struggle to fill the hips and the rear

while the waist just won’t meet in the middle.


Even the t-shirts this season are all so wide-necked

(for some reason) that my décolletage is as vast as a ship

just not what is needed to slim or to flatter

or neaten the middle aged figure.


I abandon the cause, head back to the shop floor

in search of shoes, way less affected by fat

but here, while there’s all sorts of shapes,

heels come only two ways: skyscraper or flat.


After years of the former, my back is now buggered

– so stilettos are out, as are paper thin flatties

which provide no support. And I’m left wondering

about the so-called choices we’re spoilt for,

and all the discretionary cash in my middle-aged purse,

trying so hard to get spent.



At The Gallery

Grey day



falling to frizz my hair

then pellets are making me and my mascara run I nip

inside behind others asking for directions and all there is

is walls

tall white

over head

their bright lips are telling stories all at once

and loud and the noise grows

round and swollen

there are faces in the ochre dust

on ground that feels the evil


hearts were taken from this place

‘black velvet’

daughters being led away

a man is trussed and beaten in a cell its 1962

‘and they just pissed on him’

they               just               pissed               on               him

my stomach hunches with the taste of blood and sand-grit, salt

I’m reaching for my tissues, pretend I have a cold

try to sidle slow and knowingly like arty people, not

racing through loud rooms of stories along white walls all tall

rodent scrabble-running out of here

past that name-tagged man

to exit


sky now strangely blue




The following are ‘music-phrasis’ poems, written to and inspired by two pieces of music, respectively:


Piano Concerto No. 2 in B major by Brahms, and


‘Can’t Take That Away From Me’ by George and Ira Gershwin.



Dreaming Young

You thought you’d keep my edges tucked

teach me how to move,

a lifetime’s repetition perfecting scales in g and b

now everyone again, again

and we’ll all be glad about it in the end

but none looked up to see me

stepping staircase climbing grandly sweeping up and up

and out and flying over roofs and roads and rivers

merging with the seasons suns and continents


can you keep up?

better cling or be thrown off

just try! you cannot meet me where I am

this skin slips free and I may march on over

you I repeat I do not care how often

I repeat I chime I sing across civilisations

I pianissimo to breeze, to delicate partnered dance


yes, try to keep me skipping in your palm

do not let me trickle up the keyboard

or I’ll merge with other music irascible, untamped


I will get to where I am, I will

greet me, pause


for birds and

yellow flowers

then subside to glide to water, rest in ripples


before climbing once again

moving always moving past the roadside forests’

shade then light, striped shade of dizzy light

in restless swallowing of landscapes up to skies

see, I have finally flung you over

no more tucking

nothing holds.



Can’t Take That Away

Eighty years ago


my mother took me to Manhattan

a sweeping suite on Central Park

white on white with floor to ceiling windows

deco plush and gleaming chrome.

On milky curves of Gershwin’s grand piano

she taught me how to tap:


lily-slim she shimmers

sheathed in elongated satin snow

creamy feathers bobbing in her hair

that smooth-curled cap of platinum,

her eyes of quick warm chocolate

the only colour I can see.


Download a pdf of A Matter of Style