CATHERINE GRAHAM‘s most recent collection Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects (Wolsak & Wynn, 2013, now in its second printing), was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Poetry Award and the CAA Poetry Award. Winner of the IFOA’s Poetry NOW competition, she teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies where she won an Excellence in Teaching Award. Her work is anthologized in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol IV & V and The White Page/An Bhileog Bhan: Twentieth Century Irish Women Poets and has appeared or is forthcoming in The Malahat Review, Poetry Daily, Poetry Ireland Review, The Ulster Tatler, The Fiddlehead, LRC, Room Magazine, Verse Daily, CV2 and elsewhere. Her next collection, Cancer in the Celery Forest, will appear fall, 2017. She will be performing on five separate dates as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe between 15th and 23rd August 2016. Visit: www.catherinegraham.com


Cancer in the Celery Forest

Who knew the celery could tree so high?
Each stalk, flesh-stiff, each canopy,
a grown umbrella.

A girl in red holds an owl,
perched on her hand
like a concrete thought.

There is wisdom within
the Celery Forest—
all the dropped stars have faces.


What Birds They Were

They arrive, a pointed cloud
with wings and brain—soar
and hover, landing on trees.

They cloak the leaves.
Black fruit, seed eyes.
They become what they are

human-watching, staring
at the frozen girl sprawled
on the lawn. They make

the temperature drop.
She feels ice, her blue
heart. Her mind floats—

pastel cloud, glint of buckle,
high and dry in the bird-free air she coils
lightning in the helix of herself.



Now come songbirds with the hooked
beaks, eager for discarded body parts
trashed in plastic, coddled in blood.

With a feather-white apron down
their necks, masked with slashes
of night, they scoop, fly and fix
their finds on hawthorn branches.

Impaled our tumours hang—
liver, pancreas, uterus,
ear, breast—thorns
are for tearing-off.

Tree in bloom. Sweet
savage butcher bird,
devour our cancers. Thrive.


Boughs or Berries

We did not know the day she celebrated
most would have nothing
to do with boughs or berries.

Theme house of cedar
and cinnamon, ornaments
built from the busy network

of her hands. Pure
insistence from a sentence
wanting otherwise.

Dream from a nightmare cast—

In a clinical room, pain
is a state of mind, pin
cushion collection of punctures.

The crystal beads of fruit
she twisted tightly to the tree
spread on clothes and fingers…

Found months later—gems
of cut light.



Little green fires that do
not burn, yet blink and float
outside the cottage window stringing
the invisible into Christmas trees. When you
returned as a firefly I heard what happened—

your winking battery broken
because you merely grew in size. Jealous
of Dad’s sighting, not knowing light
would appear decades later as pure
waves the moment I broke free.



Let it return. Accept
changes in your sleep, the built

in expiry date. Unbroken
dreams from the dead. When

you are certain the sofa’s
talking to the chair, hover—

Lily-of-the-valley, a gladioli-away
from the catkin-drip sun

where air is birdsong and blue
one rows across. This

hurts and it’s meant to,
the quiet of a final score.

Rain-braille on the window.
I’ll need a lifetime to read.


All works published by the Glasgow Review of Books are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and the journal reserves the right to be named as place of first publication in any citation. Copyright remains with the poet. http://www.glasgowreviewofbooks.com


  1. […] A review of Graham’s 2017 collection ‘The Celery Forest’ can be found HERE and a poetry sampler from the same collection can be found HERE. […]

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The Glasgow Review of Books (ISSN 2053-0560) is an online journal which publishes critical reviews, essays and interviews as well as writing on translation. We accept work in any of the languages of Scotland – English, Gàidhlig and Scots.

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