Co. Tyrone

Gwen Tener, Co Tyrone (Dungannon)

52 year old Gwen has been writing for 8 years.  She has 2 children and 4 step children.  Mostly short stories – one of which earned her a place in the final of a national BBC competition two years ago.  ‘My Story’ told her own story of how she captured her son in Thailand after he’d been kidnapped by his father and held there for 6 months.  She wrote ‘Memories on a Beach’ after her mother died and developed it for entry to this competition.  Her mum died 7 years ago on 5 November 2012.  She runs the Dungannon Arts Festival and is a member of Cookstown Burnavon Writers Group.


Memories at the Beach

In her room the air is stale with us sitting.
Her breathing barely moves the thin blanket.
So I go to the beach of my childhood,
where the salty breeze is fresh.
There’s the tartan rug, and mother kneeling,
to dry my shivering brother’s goose-bumped skin.
And poor delicate Ruth, who wheezed
crouches primly under a bright beach towel,
discreetly slipping feet into trousers.
And mother reaches to towel-dry her hair
while John dives on the food, hungry as usual.
A short way away, I sit, engrossed in
the task of the sandcastle. My swimsuit,
with the undoable knot when it was wet.
Feathers were flags and shells were windows
and seaweed all round was the moat.
Now mother takes the sandwiches from John,
And wipes sand from the forks of his fingers,
calling to me to come and get something
before all is gone. She pours juice from
the Quosh bottle. My brother’s plastic cup shakes
in his hand. His hair stands stiff on his head.
With my red sandal I kick at the line
of purple seaweed, crusted with dried salt.
I hear the crackle, Mother drapes the towel
over my shoulders now that Ruth is dressed,
And re-packs the picnic basket while with one hand
she combs John’s hair. I show her my collected treasures.
And all the while there’s the rhythmic pulse of waves
back and forth, to and fro, in and out
regular as breathing.
In the bed in the fusty smelling room
the lean frame sighs sadly and lets go.
And I see that she really won’t leave me
And I cling to what’s left and am glad.
In my heart she lives on forever,
Like the tide’s constant thrum, she is there
Back and forth, in and out, to and fro.

By Gwen Tenner

Patsy Horton, Marie-Louise Muir, Gwen Tenner, Paul Maddern and Beverley Brown at Stormont