Catherine Phil MacCarthy

Catherine Phil MacCarthy is a native of Crecora, Co Limerick and has lived in Sandymount, Dublin since 1987. She has published four collections of poetry, and a novel, and is a free-lance tutor in Poetry and Creative Writing. Her poems explore from several angles the idea of ‘threshold’ or ‘the liminal’, the state of being in transition from one moment to the next.

Publications

The Invisible Threshold

The Invisible Threshold
(2012)

Suntrap

Suntrap (2007)

The Blue Globe

the blue globe (1998)

How High The Moon

How High The Moon
(1991)

One Room An Everywhere

One Room An Everywhere (2003)

This Hour of the Tide

This Hour of the Tide
(1994)

For more details on these publications, click the cover thumbnails.

“S-I-N-G-E-R”

Along Rue Lacépède, a window on shoes
and leather belts. Inside the door,
hangs the rich odour.

A man, at a counter, lays aside his work,
displays shoes he makes himself
for dancing, classical jazz.

‘Pelure’ is the word that he suggests,
offering to fit a waist. I think of live calves.
Vellum. The Book of Kells. My father

choosing a bellyband for a horse
at Carews, William Street,
a new ‘winkers’ for the mare.

There, tools are clipped on a wall.
Here again, the gilt-embossed S
on a black sewing machine,

its wrought-iron treadle spells
S-I-N-G-E-R. Monsieur praises
the invention, shows the needle’s eye.

There’s my mother at the table
hand winding the wheel,
her mouth full of pins,

rat-tat-tat of the silvery metal foot,
between mid-finger, and index.
The needle drills a long seam

to sew a new dress, a summer shift,
a dancing skirt in green poplin,
the bobbin spinning. Fabric

cascades onto the floor,
a waterfall spilling from a bolt
across the table. All business,

new words drop from her lips,
‘muslin’, ‘chiffon’, ‘bias’,
‘tension.’


(from Daughters of the House forthcoming from Dedalus Press, Dublin, in 2019. The Irish Poetry Reading Archive based in University College Dublin has released a recording on its YouTube channel of Catherine Phil MacCarthy reading “S-I-N-G-E-R” (link)).