I buy a slide projector in a charity shop/ another woman is after it/ I avoid
eye contact/ lift it up in its cardboard suitcase/ carry it to the counter
where an old woman in a reflective vest is waiting to plug it in/ I can hear
the other-woman-who-wants-it tutting among the crockery/ we plug it
in and it whirrs/ kicks up dust/ The dust is free! laughs the woman-in-the-
reflective-vest/ I have plenty at home I reply with a wink/ the light bulb
hasn’t switched on/ we press buttons on the top/ eventually find one at
the back that works/ I look in the eye of the projector/ it shines back at
me/ a miracle.
I google Georgian windows/ try to find out why the front windows mirror
the back ones/ creating a tunnel of light/ allowing you to look through
the house and out to the back garden/ I keep coming back to Palladio/
our house is simply called Georgian House on official records/ I learn
that it was built in 1790/ altered in some way in 1870/ Irish Palladian
architecture is unique/ architects came here directly from the continent/
avoided established modes in Britain/ it is marked by an adherence to
symmetry/ sometimes balancing on the edges of a Fibonacci curl.
I arrive back at the house with a box full of my father’s slides and
photographs/ the projector whirs/ I fill one of the wheels with slides/ I’m
not sure how to work the mechanism/ I push them into the compartment
by hand/ a sideways picture of me on a swing spreads across the attic
wall/ I turn the lens to focus the beam/ perhaps I should do this in the
dark/I don’t want to wait until night/ there are no curtains up here/ some
slides get stuck/ my father on a bridge/ my aunty in a bikini smoking/ an
American sign reflected in some water/ I try to gently tease them out/ end
up scratching them with my nails.
The builders are in the basement again/ they make a hole in the wall
to let light in/ we discuss the future window/ the contractor has his
blond child with him/ he throws his red wellies from the great height
of his father/ I tell the contractor-with-child that the window needs to
be symmetrical/ there should be three vertical panes/ we decide on an
opening mechanism/ I arrive to a window with one large pane/ a third
cut off/ a small horizontal window that opens at the top/ a 70’s bungalow
window in a Georgian house.
I rummage through the photographs among the slides/ I have grown tired
of inserting them in the machine/ my father was a prolific photographer/
there are photographs of us as babies/ eating yoghurts/ playing with
unknown dogs/ there are paper folders of much older portraits/ my
grandparent’s wedding/ holidays in Kerry in a van/ Flash the whippet/
one of my Grandmother in a green dress/ I recognise it as one I inherited
when her house was cleared/ on the back of it is written/ This was taken
at Woodburns House Hotel in March. I made this frock with stole myself it is Jade
Green Japanese satin.
I search the British Museum for a collection of jadeite to compare with
Martha Stewart’s collection which I have seen on instagram/ there seems
to be everything in the British Museum / except for jadeite/ I have always
loved green/ perhaps for my eyes or perhaps for Ireland/ the Irish for
green is glas/ on the cabinets in the British Museum are signs/ Do Not
Lean on the Glass/ I mingle with the tourists from all around the world/
they seem to congregate in the areas for their own regions/ I try to find
Ireland/ all I find are a couple of flimsy torques/ mixed among other
objects from Celtic Britain.
Woodburns House Hotel burned down in 1971/ I find a photograph
of firemen with hoses wetting a blazing Georgian façade through the
windows/ this happened two years before my father’s family was burned
out of their home and business in North Belfast/ the jade dress must have
been among the belongings that survived/ the man jailed for the bombing
of the hotel was later charged with fraud involving a string of resorts
along the Calabrian coast/ he also blew up a bacon factory.
Every time I go into the basement there is more MDF/ last month they
replaced the wooden stairs with sharp edged MDF ones/ it doesn’t matter
what I say/ it keeps happening/ the contractor-with-child tells me that
MDF is an industry standard material/ I explain that this is not an industry
standard house/ it is well over 200 years old/ there are no straight walls/
it is no place for MDF/ I catch them making cabinets out of chipboard/
I say nothing.
I take a walk down the promenade/ look through the windows and through
to the back gardens of the houses/ there are outhouses and courtyards
that I will never enter/ the floorboards lead parallel paths towards this
unknown world/ when I get home I will look at the slides again/ force
them in front of the bulb/ hold them still as the images glide over the bald
patches on the wall where the paintings used to be.
Reproduced with permission from the collection Glass by Emily Cooper (Makina Books, 2021)
Emily Cooper has been published in The Stinging Fly, Banshee, Poetry Ireland Review, The Irish Times and Hotel among others. She has been awarded residencies by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Greywood Arts, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris Region- al Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, and the Irish Writers Centre. In 2019 she took part in Poetry Ireland’s Introductions series and was a recipient of the Next Generation Award from the Arts Council of Ireland. In 2020 she received funding from the Arts Council of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Donegal County Council. Her poetry debut, Glass, was published by Makina Books in 2021.
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