When is the rainbow, momma? by Liz Quirke

We are at the point where conversations

take place in reflection,

your face and shoulders framed in the rear-view mirror.

You at nearly three seek disorder where there is none.


I expect anything but this, usual statements

of thirst or the urgency of an untied shoelace

so with my mind on the distance to the house,

I placate with “rainbows come after the rain,

that’s the rule.”


I glance into the glass, see synapse and sinew

connect what you know to what I tell you.


My answer is found wanting.


Who knew at nearly three that words

would heap at the back of your mouth,

so you can slip them forward, dexterous

and articulate, as you need them.


Maybe these querying faculties steamed

into your vegetables

or soaped into your scalp

in your bath, or took a letter

from every time we questioned wildly

what green can be the colour of.


“No momma, rainbows should come first,

          they’re more important”


And I cannot let it pass, though I should.

Can’t leave you only light where there is dark,

so I tell you we need rain first to reward us with colour,

the softness of wet grass on dog paws,

the balm of the still puddle to the pebble.


I grip the wheel, feel the rain fall on us

in a way a three year old should never know.

As your mothers we stretch our brittle spines

to the limit of our material to keep you dry.


But I see in your eyes the moment you take off

at a run, tearing the fabric of fact to demand

only beauty, only truth.


Liz Quirke lives in Spiddal, Co Galway with her wife and daughters and is a PhD candidate at NUI Galway. Her debut poetry collection “The Biology of Mothering” is forthcoming with Salmon (April 2018). He work has appeared in several publications, including New Irish Writing, The Irish Examiner, Southword and Crannóg. She has won several competitions, most recently the 2017 Listowel Writers’ Week Originals Short Poem Competition.

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