Sweet Afton

Burnt incense at my throat,
the flicker of a brightening candle,

I watched the priest
raise a scrupulous hand,

to swing the silver thurible.
A row of heads bowed.

And going home in the car
my father dipped headlights

and slowed to enter our gate
past a black Morris Minor

backed to the grassy river–
Reilly’s hand ventured under tweed

all the way up nylon stockings,
coming to grips with

the fluid insides of thighs,
her head thrown back,

she inhaled a Sweet Afton–
unaware of a passing car,

the wide eyes of a girl
in darkness closing a gate

held by the red light
of a cigarette.

‘Sweet Afton’ was published in This Hour of the Tide.

Video recording

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive, part of the UCD Special Collections, has released a number of readings by Catherine Phil MacCarthy of her poems. These readings are now available on the Archive’s YouTube channel; click on the link below to access Phil reading: