At Grandma’s by Amy Barry

in Poetry

A stilted house above the sea,

shoeless, I enter,

with betel kisses on both cheeks,

constant sounds of cooking from her kitchen. 


We gaze out to the horizon,

slapped by the low tide’s stench,

and the pungent scent of her tobacco.

‘Soon we have to move to the land. 

The government wants to develop this place.’

She spits hard on the rustic wood of the jetty below her.


I, a skinny tomboy,

together with my cousins,  plunge into the jade waters, poach cockles from the fishermen’s cages,

ignoring grandma’s screams in the background. 

We grill our catch 

on the creaking verandah, 

dipping them in peanut sauce, 

sea breeze drying our hair. 


Next day, time to leave.

After a flurry of kisses,

she stands framed in the open door,

tiny in her floral Nyonya blouse. 

Her hair is sunbaked sand,

her curls, white-tipped waves,

as she blows cheroot smoke

with a regal air,

which drifts back to land.


* The above poem is Highly Commended in the 2019 Francis Ledwidge Poetry Award.

Amy Barry writes poems and short stories. She is published globally in anthologies, journals, press and e-zines. Her poems have been translated into Italian, Turkish, German, Romanian, Malay and Persian. She has featured on radio and television in Australia, Canada, Italy and Ireland. She was featured on RTE 1 end year, on Reverberations Poetry series 2019. She loves to travel. Trips to India, Nepal, China, Japan, Bali, Paris, Berlin, Budapest Milan and Falkenberg have all infused her work. She often reads at festivals and literary events both in Ireland and abroad. She is a highly commended SiarScéal Hanna Greally International Literary award winner for the second time in 2019.