Released in 2005, ‘The Bowsprit’ revolves around the death of Janice Fitzpatrick Simmons’s husband, the renowned Ulster poet James Simmons. The poems acutely explore worlds of loss, suffering and survival. Firmly grounded in the everyday, the poems are vivid and uncommonly candid, fearlessly confronting the bitterness and pain of widowhood whilst reaching the consolation and towards acceptance.
This is a collection that is both remarkable and moving, showing a poet comfortable with her craft, speaking with assurance, tact and authority; a poet capable of tackling this most difficult and personal of subjects with admirable poise and self-discipline.
The sheets are drawn across wide windows.
The room glows golden-yellow. It is very quiet;
voices are small and low in the gallery, sorrow
spills from the blue glass across pine boards —
is a sea released in the cabin where I watched
my husband die, where I loved again, where
I am attended by loss, and loss, and loss.
To be in this space and thole. The floor lifts a little.
I am not whole — the sand on the floor, the sea,
crashing around me. And still a belief
in the small boat of life, in the lift and toss
of storm, in prayer and its power.
I cannot foretell or forestall the weather of love.
I am hooking the cleats that might let the sails fly.
I am attending to fastenings and finding charts.
I am praying to the god of love, that he might
find me in the cabin where I hold.
I have painted the walls
something between mustard and sunshine.
blue grass and wrought-iron lights
hang overhead. Your last paintings:
the one of Glasilaun at Renvyle,
the one of crows above a harvest field;
Kinnagoe’s bright water blazing behind
the dark scimitars of wings hung there.
There are pictures of Anna and Ben,
our wedding, and that last Christmas
before the bleed. This, our last place; my bed
next to yours — the first desperation. I reach
through cot bars to hold your hand.