We’re proud to publish new work by the Romany poet Raine Geoghegan. Raine has also recorded these for The Clearing: follow the links below each poem.
The Guveney – a haibun
Harry leans against the brick wall in the alleyway, smoking a roll-up. His black stadi pulled down, almost covering his right eye. He wears a navy and white pinstripe suit. Anyone would think he was off to the city, but no, he’s taking five to prepare himself for the meeting with his parole officer. He’s planning on getting there early and making a good impression.
Just as he’s finishing his smoke a brown cow walks into the garden, eyes like coal, calm as you like. Harry looks up, wonders if he’s dreaming.
With nostrils flared
breath rising into cold air,
the brown cow bellows.
‘Well, I’ll be blowed, it’s a bloomin’ guveney.’ He says.
A guerro runs down the road, stops at Harry’s gate, shouts to another guerro who’s marching briskly behind.
‘It’s alright Jim, he’s here.’
Harry drops his cigarette butt, stamps on it with his right foot. He walks up to the cow.
‘Aint you a kushti guveney? Where did you come from then?’
The guerro tells him that the cow wandered off from the field near the reservoir.
‘We’ll be getting him back now mate, sorry for any inconvenience.’
Harry shrugs his shoulders, strokes the creature’s head.
The cow stands erect
appears rooted to the spot,
oblivious to men.
Harry watches the men lead the animal away. He thinks this will be a good topic of conversation to share with his probation officer, keep the mood light.
Romani words: Guveney – cow; Stadi – trilby hat; Guerro – man; Kushti – good.
Listen to the poem HERE.
Romanichals in the 1950s
chavies scrubbed clean
me rackley’s bal washed with panni
the grai grizhomed holled
opre and gel on
dikk the next atchin tan
a fellow chal pookers
Romani words Verse 1: Romanichals – English Romanies; Covels – belongings; Chavies – children; rackley’s – girls; Grai – horses; Grizhomed – groomed; Holled – fed.
Verse 2: Opre – arise/forward; Dikk – look for; Atchin tan – stopping place; Chal – Travelling man; Pookers – calls out; Kushti bok – good luck
Apple Picking Days in the Vale of Evesham
You’re in the orchard,
sitting on the grass
with the woody scent of apples and earth,
a basket full of Worcester Pearmans at your feet.
You take the smallest one,
wipe it on your purple apron,
lean your head back to catch the sun.
‘ere you are my gel, a kushti slice of apple.’
Four years old again and daddy is cutting the fruit,
slicing it with his special little churi,
the one his father gave him.
He grins as the juice dribbles down your chin.
One hand on your belly
you feel the baby kick,
you take another bite,
watch your husband in the tree,
his strong hands pulling the fruit
from the branches
taking one from the right
another from the left
dropping them into the straw basket
which hangs low around his neck
‘not long to go now.’
he climbs down the ladder
drops his load onto the soft earth
stretches his arms wide
‘yer done now, Alf?’
‘yes, my love.’
Fifty years later
as you wave goodbye to your granddaughter,
the baby kicking,
Alf in the tree,
and the strong smell of the Worcester’s.
Romani words: Kushti – very nice; Churi – a small knife.
Listen to the poem HERE
Raine Geoghegan, MA is of Romany heritage. Her work has been widely published and her debut pamphlet, Apple Water – Povel Panni was launched in December 2018. Her poems and songs were featured in the documentary film, Stories from the Hop Yards. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net; the Pushcart Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Her work was chosen as a Spring 2019 selection by the Poetry Book Society. Her new collection of monologues, haibuns and songs will be published later this year by Hedgehog Poetry Press.
Photographs from the poet’s own collection, used by kind permission of John Webb and family.