Poetry

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When You Left

After you left the drain in the backyard blocked

and the water rose in the garden as I laundered the clothes

or the dishwasher ran     a strange pool mixed

I structured a bridge of planks balanced loosely on bricks

and thought about casting rice on the way to the shed

And the outdoor lamp     popped with firecracker sparks followed

by a plume     of smoke     I bought summer garden lanterns half-price

with twenty euros worth of petrol and when the guy in the petrol station offered

to fill the windshield wiper’s water as I filled the tires with air – I declined

saying I preferred     not      to see where I was going

I refused    to put the bins out on the road     for a month     until I saw or imagined

the scuttering hind of a rat in the garden while unnatural potions conspired and grew

in complexity and whole cities began to collapse     one by one in a pop

When you came back

the garden sighed with relief, the collar dove cooed, and even the dishwasher smiled

 

Published in The Stinging Fly 2010

 

Appraisal

I tested what to do or not from strange lives     passing swiftly

before me     on a thirty-six inch screen or me before them

on a train travelling before curtains are drawn and after the lights flick on

to renovated kitchens viewed from the back, bird-tables, trampolines all gathering nets

I tested my body – giving up food, and days I could sleep in multitudes

pressing the pliable walls of my mind and scaffolds of thought to a fault-line

I walked across the country with my eyes closed

like a kid trying on sizes pretending to be blind because you haven’t figured out

how to gauge the distance of your life against others

Or like testing an ornament unbearably fragile you’ve been told not to touch

but you can’t stand the tension of not knowing

the exact measure of pressure it would take

to crush it

entirely

 

Published in The Stinging Fly 2010

 

 

An American Road Trip in Ireland 

Dust balls are billowing down these deadbeat streets     in cowboy Ireland     I dreamed

that you and Charles Bukowski were taking notes     in revenge     for that one I wrote

about you in the woods…so hell, here’s another one –

I’m wearing high heels and flipping poker chips

as though I lived in Paris, Texas     while I sing and dance your cowboy tunes in a jalopy

of ourselves and a car      stitched and bolted back together     and we were so far and running

even faster     with a line of trees coming up behind us firing history while we     passed

flat rabbits and killer hogs on roads drawn out     as though mazes on a paper map

until we reached the other side     of the country     Trapped on an island just three hours wide

with cow filled fields overlooking the ocean     I ate sandwiches filled with tomatoes so fresh

off the vine and getting fatter by the minute     as though they knew no restraint     while you

kicking dirt and clanging away at a pole     by the side of the road on the shores of Dunmore

were still packing baggage     three counties wide     and fixing to erupt having decided

to keep those murky secrets to yourself     rather stunning as you would say

how you visibly annul     all those smoke-filled rooms in midland towns

with long crossed legs on tipped back to the ceiling chairs     where our conversations rose

like clouds of moths     as we planned our escape on a road trip out of Ireland     never

having figured in      an ocean     or your luggage     and the birds were watching

from the wires while it all played out and the foxes nearly weeping

for where it might have gone

with a bit more road

 

Published in The Stinging Fly 2012

 

 

The Search

Are the Dublin Mountains subsiding or are the buildings rising?

I can no longer see       your dark mountainous withdrawal

where you hideout with Nietzsche in his final descent

believing the key lies in madness

and I’m digging up clams and nudging them open

looking for pearls of info on a strand       on the other side of the city

as Dublin Bay swells open and the mountains scuttle to a distance,

the waters are rising more rapidly       than my gill-sprouting lungs

can handle and I’m reeling along a tumble of currents in a blur of dark waters

with a bucket of clams left unopened

and wondering

should we have hedged our bets and who’s coming up

with what?       And I have no idea

if I’m rising or falling

 

Published in Poetry Ireland Review Issue 101

 

 

The Agreement

I turn     the ignition, foot to the peddle and shift into gear     in a remote

country lane     and they say suicides are happening all over the place

and I wonder why they don’t happen     more often

I ease the car round the bend when I see this guy     heavy built     a double chin

not fit for youth     and carrying an old man way     of walking

as if he stepped into his father’s shoes     too soon     He has a shotgun cocked open and set

for pheasant hunting having landed all out of context with the times     and the clouds

are churning low on the earth    Looming on the radio     is another mass shooting

today it’s Norway     What stops him locking that barrel in place     and taking me out

I slow as I near and he nods     before I hit the highway with its oncoming cars whirling past

and only a thin line     painted between us     a few unstable feet

and all it would take is a twist of the wheel     to burn a hole     in existence

you stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine     our grip on life so tight

white knuckled on the wheel

 

Published in The Stinging Fly 2012

 

 

The Room

I can trace your movements in this vacant room     by the paper cups

propped about,     your quiet surveillance     of the street below

your shiftings     through growing paper mounds     and later

or perhaps sooner     you were at your desk     where confusion and method

compete with equal energy     while whole conversations gathered and scaffold

the air     and you reminded me of Steppenwolf     though I read it

so long ago     that I’m not sure why

I met my friend’s older brother     when he just finished college and was moving

up to politics     in Belfast      So long ago     He smiled like you     and gave me

Herman Hesse, the I Ching, Gurdjieff, and one I’ve never found again

about such longing     and all that hinders it

may also foster it     and they say you know a man by his interests

These long days I think a lot

I try to figure out why systems stay in place     with no underlying

logic and how the answer’s always ‘well it’s always been that way’

and the way people rarely move beyond what suits them     at the time

and how principles are pliable and external and it’s hard to make any sense

and all these senseless, aimless commentaries     chatter through our minds

neither following a single line of inquiry to its conclusion, nor imagining new ones

and I Ching’s, Gurdjieff’s and God can’t help us

But the cold glass panels of your window     press like a balm     against my face

in your empty room high above the streets     as if life needed a cooling

and could afford me quiet against the temperature

of so many thoughts     at once     because these days clarity only transpires

takes shape, becomes visible     in the air of our conversations

and I know myself     through them     as if I could only know myself

through

others

 

Published in The Stinging Fly 2010