Sunday, August 28, 2016

A poem with a Mantegna painting

The Lamentation over the Dead Chris

Mantegna, in his lifetime, was criticised for imitating sculpture: the loss of warmth that could be achieved in painting from real life. In the case of the dead Christ, however,  it is the marble of  the dead body that makes it perfect. The perspective draws more of your attention; then the suffering, fixed  stone-like in the image, fixes it in a similar way in your mind, and  it remains there: indestructible marble.

I am fascinated by the cold solidness of corpses; always drawn to run my fingertips down the cheek of a dead friend or loved one. The memory stays in my fingertips, and, somehow, it helps to know that the person is now changed to stone.


The Viewing.

Dead: the colour of old cream,
his eyes shuttered shut;
so neat, besuited and slim,
weight he lost dying.

They made a basket of his fingers
with a rosary spilling down;
everyone said he looked lovely
but then I touched his face
and it wasn’t him at all.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Goodnight to my wished for lover


̶.  I’d like to smash goodnight down onto your head
and with those stars write

love messages across your sky   ̶.


Monday, August 22, 2016

The Fire

A passion/a destruction. I am in a fire. I am the fire. 
It is a place. I am within it. 

It is a destruction. That will give.

The fire defines me. I give it coal. 
It gives me.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Brief Note on an Imminent Famine.

Everyone here will starve:
each bone will be a stripe,
each hand a bowl,
each leg a stick.

Then there'll be the gluttony
of cameras:
our threadbare skin 
will be devoured,
our eyes exported
shining like pickles.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Snagging Memory

Before The End.

The bedside lamp shone
in the pool of her eye;
it made her teeth translucent,
runnelled her face.

Daylight and I were reluctant visitors;
the  room smelling of trapped breath,
sickness and decay made me anxious
that I might inhale her disease;

and all I loved gone,
all dwindled down to duty.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fragile Nature


A fish is dreaming,
elbow deep.

With my fingertip
I draw a herring-bone
across his heaven;
he bolts.

Now the lake dreams,
empty like a canyon.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

What Does He See?

What does he see where I see only stone?
The man is still, his gaze fixed on the ground
but that gaze compels you to look again;
in such  moments a mind might overreach the stars.

I see my reflection, he says;
I see my hair no longer covers my head,
its silver ring above my ears, he says,
is like gorse cleared from a hill-top.
And, he says, I see the child struggling
in the young branches of childhood,
the school doors fanning him on and on
through corridors of captivity, a whirligig
through years, disremembering his own footsteps.
I see the would-be lover, and he loved his hair;
he put a shine in his eye like I polish a shoe;
and his full bracelet of teeth; my God, he could smile.
I see how time subtracts: aging dreams
till they become hobbled old goats that have outstared you,
till they have become unbelievable.
My young loves reflected back have their young faces still
but I would be afraid to see them now.
My plans and projects are shunted, rusting old carriages;
I don't visit them anymore.

The old man's arms are folded so fingers lie like stripes
on his right arm, forage in the dark woolen sleeve
of his left. His head is slightly forward,
his eyes unblinking as though entranced
by weeds growing on the floor of a pond.

I see too that I never held the reins of a life,
that indifference is a colander, indecision has the grasp
of a hand without fingers. Days are punched down
like receipts onto a nail; named, counted, collected,
they grow into months; life flitting across the pages 
of a calendar, falling  into the holes between Christmases.
And I remember those Christmases
long ago when I was young, the totting up  ̶
over a drink   ̶  of departed faces and the wishes,
the wish-bone skinny wishes for the coming year
that smouldered beside a glass of stout and then went out.

I see those faces whose roots entangled with my own,
how arrogance blinded me so I could not see
it was the carpet of their roots that buoyed me up
until recently, feeling them slip away,
feeling the cold gaps they’ve left around me, I discovered
it wasn’t I that put the colours in my head,
and with that discovery much has toppled
that hindered my view. I see, as though from a height,
my head is indistinguishable from all the others
rushing like froth from this life that we call

Now his face is raised, his eyes red-rimmed
with the racing bobbin that’s in his head:
I saw the ground and the scuffed toe to my shoe;
a lifetime might have no other measure than

its number of worn out shoes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Thou shalt not

    from Songs of Experience by William Blake

I went to the Garden of Love,
   And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
   Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
   And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
   That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
   And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
   And binding with briars my joys and desires.

The same theme appearing in the myth of the Piper’s Stones: piper and dancers lithified for having defiled the Sabbath; it refers to the change in culture on the arrival of catholicism in Ireland. A number of neolithic stone circles inside and outside Ireland are referred to as the Piper’s  Stones.

from ‘Above Ground Below Ground’

In those days the piper played the music of streams:
fast flowing runs, sprays that erupted in feet,
blood hitting high C, dancers whirling dizzy with life.       

Then a new order.

That day on Brewel Hill, piper and dancers broke the Sabbath,
angered a god, who having decreed that music-making was subversive;
had gaiety transfigured to stone.

Athgreaney Piper's Stones