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Hay Fever by Christina Hennemann

It came upon me like a thunderstorm, sudden and quick:

I couldn’t walk the streets safely, but I was used to it.

This time, I was swollen and kept swelling all through spring,

my strawberry-eyes mashed and moist, itching with ire.

The nose was the worst: it quickened its sprints

until it lay half-dead, barely able to catch a breath.

From behind my bedroom window I watched the mist

conquer my street: sunflower-yellow, feigning softness,

pollinating cars and bins and toys, then settling down

as a rug subtler than light in every slit, corner and crack.

My doctor said that this is what happens when male trees

are planted without thirsty females to suck up their pollen.

As these hazardous clouds of yellow swirl by, my boiling

tomato head thumps and pounds, thinks of my mum,

who lowered her hot head in the streets, especially crossing

a group of men having the craic, she pretended not to see them.

And I remember how her cheeks caught fire in church

when the congregation passed through the aisle,

the priest swinging his censer as if menacing the Holy Spirit

to take shape at any moment. My mother’s doe eyes fell

to the floor then, pretending that she never saw his shadow-

casting cedar in the back garden, her memories never stained

by the wind-swept pollen on her skin.


Christina Hennemann is a recipient of the Irish Arts Council’s Agility Award ’23 and the

winner of the Luain Press Prize. Her work was longlisted in the National Poetry Competition

and appears in Poetry Wales, Skylight 47, The Moth, York Literary Review, Ink Sweat &

Tears, Moria, and elsewhere.


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