Six poems by Mike Absalom

Mike Absalom, an Irish poet, painter and printmaker, was born in Devon in 1940. His mother was Irish. His father was Welsh. Educated in Quebec, Sweden, Iran and England, he majored in Oriental Studies (Arabic and Farsi) at Oxford and Gothenburg Universities before embarking on a career as a singer/songwriter during the 1960s and 70s. From 1980 to 2000 he lectured on satire, using his own verse as a template and worked as a harpist, fiddler, children’s entertainer and puppeteer across Canada and in the USA and South America. He returned to Ireland in 2002 to paint and write poetry. He has recently read and lectured on his own poetry at the English and also the Celtic Studies Departments of AMU University, Poznan, Poland. He lives and has his studio in Kilkelly, County Mayo. In September 2012 his book “Even the Grass Has a Hangover” was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Prize.

 

Six poems by Mike Absalom

 

Your White Shadow

Last night under a huge sky

I stepped outside and peering upwards

saw you float silently past,

in the white and silent shape of an owl,

eyes glittering with moon dust,

seeing me, and not seeing me.

 

You are a seeded sphere of life tumbling on the moon’s breath,

a silent incantation as you pass me by

casting your white shadow against my black darkness.

 

I am entranced by the beauty of your form.

 

Your dandelion clock counts imaginary hours

but each one is registered in a living breath

as if there is some sense in that childish tally.

And always I am entranced by the beauty of the form.

 

Last night under a huge sky I stepped outside

and peering upwards saw you sail silently past

in the white and threatening shape of an owl,

eyes glittering with moon dust,

seeing me, and seeing me too well.

 

This morning you are gone

like fingerprints on a river.

It is hard to gather you as evidence.

I have looked for moon dust

but all I find is empty bottles.

You will say they are mine.

 

Last night under a huge sky

I stepped outside and peered upwards

You floated silently past,

in the white and silent shape of an owl,

eyes glittering with moon dust,

seeing me, and not seeing me at all.

 

 

In the Troubadour Coffee House

In the Troubadour coffee house

lady artists

sufficiently decayed to pass as antiques

discuss opportunities

which they will miss

procrastinating

for safety’s sake

on the water margins

of unwritten books.

 

Every fifteen minutes

the tables are cleaned and cleared and polished

so that they may reflect faces

which are somewhere else,

because it’s too dangerous to be here.

 

As for me,

I found myself in tomorrow today.

It’s easy to lose thirty or forty years in small change.

It’s only small change after all is said and done.

Until the bill arrives. After all is said and done.

 

 

If you had been here tonight

If you had been here tonight I would have said

-Sit by the fire with me!

Listen to the burning turf weaving poetry

out of the dry stalks of the long lost bog!

And we could take a swig or two of the water of life,

Jameson’s perhaps or Bushmill’s or Paddy’s,

and watch prehistory turning to ashes

right before our eyes.

 

But you are not here tonight

and it is unwise to step outside

on the sharp January night that’s in it.

There is no saying whom you might meet.

Here the souls of the dead are everywhere.

They had sooner leave their own shadows

than leave their own stories behind.

The gary-gowlan is out there in his jack-a-lantern boots,

standing guard with his pitchfork at their graves.

 

If you had been here tonight I would have said

-Sit by the fire with me!

Listen to the hissing turf coals keening those old lost stories.

We can watch prehistory turning to ash before our eyes.

 

But that night you were not here.

 

Up where the forestry has levelled walls

and jacked out the keystones of old cottages

and thrown them about as if at a stoning

there is a darkness that even the moon can’t reach.

 

The night you were not here I stepped outside

and looked up into my own darkness.

The unimaginable past fell around me as starlight.

 

 

In Our Adventuresome Days

In our adventuresome days

this was a place we both knew well,

a small tumbled garden, choked by the forestry

flattened beneath the heavy tramp of implanted trees.

There was a brooding energy here,

almost vindictive in its insistence

not to be crushed.

 

The first time we undressed

a wild briar caught my sock

and scratched me like an angry cat.

I bled red for a long time beneath the apricot larches,

my fingers sticky as fiddler’s rosin,

and in the fallen stones I could hear

the echo of a silent instrument.

Was that the voice of old memories

soaked into the walls,

tuned up and biding their time?

 

This garden was as silent as our secret.

The forest had the fragrance of an abandoned church

and yet, heavy with incense and devotion,

it was still the perfect site for a sacrament,

although for us, of a different persuasion.

In our adventuresome days

this was the place and we both knew it well.

 

When we left, smelling of civet and musk,

we walked our separate ways to other places.

In our adventuresome days

this was the path and we both knew it well.

 

Pine though, and larch needles accompanied us always then,

muttering inside our underwear  and promising to introduce others

to the smell of Devil’s Turpentine as evidence of certain damnation.

In our adventuresome days

certain damnation was a place we already knew well.

 

But at least we had the garden then.

 

 

Nutter in Love

You are a peach.

Your soft flesh is to die for!

But whenever you get stoned

I find I am just left with a nut.

That makes me feel a right nutter!

Still, I have to say you really are a nut to die for,

so everything will be cool,

as long as I reincarnate as a squirrel.

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