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Three Poems


God is dead to the world.

But he still keeps up
            appearances. Day after
day he sets out his stall.
            Today, his special is

a sun-melt served on
            a fragrant bed of
moist cut-grass; yesterday,
            a misty-eyed moon,

a blister pack of stars.
            Lakes and mountains
are standard stock;
            flowers and birds

in season. The avocado,
            shining knight, and the
tightly-swathed cabbage
            remain evergreens.

Odd years, for novelty,
            he tweaks the weather
patterns, brings forward
            spring by weeks, lets

the crocus's petal-
            pronged attack on
frozen ground begin
            ahead of schedule:

softening air's frosty
            disposition; making good
the winter's blemishes.
            Special effects—flash floods,

meteor showers clashing
            overhead, the cradle cap
of a lunar eclipse—are reserved
            for visionary interludes.

Not that it matters;
            nothing is sacred anymore;
no one much takes him
            at his word, buys his

version of the story, seeks
            corroboration of his
claims; the steeple's beak
            no longer nourishes its flock.

People idly browse his wares,
            knock back samples
of coconut milk, add Gruyère
            to a quiche, test the texture

of the beach sand with bare feet,
            before resorting to the soft
option of a recliner: a pew from
            which to worship the sun's heat.

Blowing hot or cold
            as mood or precedent
dictates, he offers further
            cryptic clues—a flatfish

sporting two left eyes,
            a tree that moults fur catkins,
an orchid mimicking a fly,
            a blackbird whose bill

is toucan orange, a baby battling
            with acute leukaemia,
a cow resting among buttercups
            like a whale awash in plankton.

But few make the link,
            speculate enough
to track these fabrications
            back to source.

He starts from scratch each day
            with new creations: drafting
a summer dawn, he permits
            the sun—only minimally

resisted by the mist, a token
            skirmish—to assume control,
making for profligate horizons,
            lofty skies, beyond which

other universes stack up,
            dangled in suspense,
the way a mountain lake
            is cupped in sandstone hands.

And every pulsing star will live
            according to his lights,
individually illumined,
            nimbus visible to the eye.

There Is No Reason

There is no reason they can tell
why this life should not go on for ever.
The unflagging adults bang about
already in the kitchen where the flypaper
is scored with victories over evil
and the sausage-spiced air
they could slice with that breadknife
sinking its serrated teeth
into a buttermilk-based raisin loaf
hisses as the frying pan's palm is greased
with newly-churned doubloons of gold.

Friesian cows top up with marginal grass
on rambling journeys to the milking
parlour's lactic whitewashed walls.
A stippled calf is on the loose
like a stray dalmatian pup.
Frantic hens scour the yard
for something they never mislaid.
The chubby sow, slumped
in an armpit of mud, wallows
shamelessly in stained pink
nakedness, the full concatenation
of her tits on show.

Each day's routine is foreknown always.
Which field needs a fallow season. Which rotation.
When the seed potatoes should be planted.
When to risk the first nick in the meadow.
When the time is ripe for the combine
to make quick work of the corn.

Wisdom is a given, like the lush lime soil.
Like the climate which—for all their perennial whining—
gets it right on the whole, increasing (or not)
precipitation to the requisite extent,
turning up (or down) the volume of the sun
by the most appropriate degrees,
its tour de force their toast if it
delivers archetypal summer days,
hot on each other's heels, burning
with zeal to alchemise their crops.

Though not of this world, they know
full well each rood and perch they've
been allotted: its high points, its weak spots,
every vagary of its behaviour.

The last rounds of haycocks, raking in
the heat, sun dried like sandcastles,
must be rushed away to the safe
haven of the barn in case the fragile
weather shatters into smithereens of rain.
Cattle—methodically grazing meadows,
not missing out on a single juicy shoot—
will be drenched against liver fluke and husk.

Wake up, children.
Get dressed. Fast.
Haven't you noticed it's morning?
A once-off morning, far too good to miss.
The sun has been casting about for ages,
raring to shadow your adventures all day long.

Be seated on the timber form
while your honey-sweetened oatmeal
cools and home-cured bacon
blossoms rosily on the pan.

Nocturne Op. 2

A sad air's best for night as you mope about
the house, closing windows, checking doors.
Slow, cumulative strokes of the violin bow,
the most ruminative notes that can be coaxed
from the cello, nocturnes unlocked by black piano keys.

Strains that are trained directly on the heart
when its resistance sinks, like temperatures,
to a day's-end low: music that tells of how
things stand in the troubled world you now have
in your hands to potter about in on your own.

Music of the kind whose fearful darkness would
unnerve you as a child, but whose darkness
seems the very point, this late night here; a slow
movement's stark conclusions ringing sadly true.

Dennis O'Driscoll

Dear Life
Anvil Press Poetry

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