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Filíocht Nua: New Poetry

From: New Hibernia Review
Volume 17, Number 1, Earrach/Spring 2013
pp. 40-47 | 10.1353/nhr.2013.0008

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Cranborne Woods (17 May, 1994)

for my mother

We stopped the car, ducked below the fence
Felt time unravelling in a revelation
The seconds fall and scatter into thousands

Of tiny saints, a reborn multitude
Flowing past the trees, through pools of sun,
Each earthly form a spirit flame, pure blue.

They watched us drift among them, large as gods,
As if we'd come as part of their parousia
To stay with them forever in these woods.

As time grew darker we slipped away like ghosts
And slowly drove . . . towards your death next May
When once again I saw the risen host

Could watch you walking weightlessly among
The welcomers, the gently swaying throng.

My Father's Flat

Tugging apart the curtains every day
He always saw, three stories up, a grand
Sweep of the Thames, the trees of Battersea

And, squatting there, the Japanese pagoda—
Inflaming, a parody of a bandstand,
Its four sides flaunting a golden Buddha.

It glowed like a lantern near the glitzy braid
Of Albert Bridge at night.
        If he had crossed
The river he might have heard Renounce the world

Escape the gilded lips or seen Gautama lying
In mortal sleep, his face relaxed, his flesh released;
Even in death, teaching the art of dying.

At night, across the river two golden eyes burn
Into the heavy velvet of the curtain.

Kevin and the Blackbird

I never looked, but felt the spiky feet
Prickling my outstretched hand. I braced my bones,
My heart glowed from the settling feathered heat

And later from the laying of the eggs
Heavy, as smooth and round as river-rolled stones,
Warm as the sun that eased my back and legs.

When I heard the cheepings, felt the rising nest
Of wings, the sudden space, the cool air flow
Across my fingers, I did not know the test

Had just begun—I could not bend my arms
But stood there stiff, as helpless as a scarecrow,
Another prayer hatching in my palms—

Love pinned me fast, and I could not resist:
Her ghostly nails were driven through each wrist.

Brendan the Navigator

The naked hermit, cliffs of ice, the cold,
The island of the saints emerging from
Black fog as light, its shore of powdered gold

And apples ripening in every orchard
The youth who welcomed each of us by name—
These died around the settled fires of Clonfert.

But Judas on his rock, wind-burnt, stripped wise,
Writhing above the slaughter of the sea
Remains pristine inside my deepest darkness

His eyes alert for the approach of demons—
I see them glowing as when we rowed away
And hear his voice above the raucous ocean,

"Hell is stasis, keep heading for the sun
And when you reach the light, sail on, sail on."

Verbum: A Voice from the Book of Kells

"Remember this: I do not have
A name or face, or form,
And words and paint prolong the lie
That I can be depicted: I am beyond
All sense of what 'beyond' can mean.
To know me you must close your eyes
And leave the road of affirmation,
The road of thinking and imagining:
Just be a pilgrim to yourself,
Alert, not knowing where to go,
But trusting in your ignorance
And travelling inward all the time.
Watch out for clues and signs—observe
The spirals of your thoughts,
The interlace of hopes and fears,
The circles of your good intentions
Revolving ineffectually,
The nibbling mice of jealousy
And hissing serpent of resentment—
Just watch your convoluting self
Proliferate without your intervening
Until it dies away to nothing
But silence and a glowing stillness,
As a stone exudes warm summer light;
And in that pregnant emptiness
You may just glimpse me
But only unexpectedly
Like a half glance at a sunshaft
Erupting in a neighbouring field;
And if you see me you've become
The unstained love you sought in me—
Then who is who?
The eyes through which you see are mine."


He sits against a trunk and bends
His knees, a lectern for his book;
Thoughts fly and land like birds around
The glade, unless he makes them still,
When, as they say...

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