Ciarán O’Rourke – Five Poems

O'Rourke photoCiarán O’Rourke was born in 1991 and is based in Dublin. His poems have been featured in a number of publications, including Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Spectator, The SHOp, The Moth, Earthlines, New Welsh Review, The London Magazine, Crannóg, and others. He was winner of the Lena Maguire/Cúirt New Irish Writing Award 2009, and his pocket-pamphlet “Some Poems” was issued as a Moth Edition in 2011.

To The Last Poet On Earth

When you cannot sing at midnight
as the moon-deep window
darkens, and the trees blow
on the far avenues
of San Francisco, speak your words
instead, as slowly as you can,
growing beautifully older
with each low syllable,
until the air is a page
as ancient as you are,
quivering and bare
with the need you filled tonight
for a voice with breath in it,
and this way, the dead light
of galaxies still will fall
on the alleyways
where our listening bodies
hold back gently
to wonder at that firm frailty
in the wind they felt, and much
later, as we wake by dawn
to see the pale flame
flicker on the world
and the sun-soft window
glow with air more nearly
than we knew, but not
unknown, we might
say gladly to ourselves
that we dreamt this once,
and think of you, old poet,
on your last earth,
speaking to the stars.


What poem
or prayer is there
to call this animal to heel,

that webs your body so,
and skulks
in every whrum of blood,

ready to feast
when you speak, or rise,
or raise an arm,

and what
bone-dull element
is Need to us, who cannot alter

or undo
the rock-dumb motion
of this room,

which sways
to keep you
from the waking world:

the rigid chair, the rolling
desk, this week’s flowers,
and the water-glass.

Against the ugliness
your walls contrive,
these things grow still,

till all that’s left
is the window
opposite your seat,

to which
the bleak rain beats,
and the wetting wind.

So think beyond:
to the sounds of home
and the carried sun,

to the high morning
begun again,
the water rustling,

and the rain
still green –
to walk out

in summertime, a furl
of swallows lifting,
and the Barr Road bare…

We lean in, close
as breath to you,
and whisper news,

as if to make
grief ripple,
life break through,

to see you sit
without contagion,
your hands at ease,

or leave entirely,
your shadow flying
from the sickbed sheets,

like a sun-
set suddenness
seeping the sedge,

the corncrake
croaking love tomorrow
at the island’s edge.

(William Orpen, 1925)

Try as I might
to follow
the slow geometries
of flesh – from
your dipping leg,
along your hip,
to the pink
perfection of your neck –
catching every detail,
possessing the always
fuller picture
of your loops and lines,
you continue
to elude the graph,
your face
a delicate elision,
your fingers dim
in their pertinent work,
your breasts
by light’s transparent
easing into place,
sliding like an ill-
timed lover
through the window,
and impolitely
turning up the colours
as it goes,
so each drape
and naked rumple
of the furniture
has come to match
the pallor
of the sun on skin,
and the flounce
of sweat-black hair
above your ear
grows clear,
as if suggesting
what shade and stocking
on your outstretched foot
conceal –
your shadow spaces,
lush still, and secreted,
for all the morning’s
baring heat…
reminder, perhaps,
of the eye
that yearns for
what the skin remembers,
or that flame-
dark blaze, which
returns as water
to the window-pane
next day,
to fill each crack
and crinkle
that the night laid plain,
washing the room
with want again.

The Killing March
(Miklós Radnóti, 1909-1944)

Each day permits
the old atrocities
again –

the necessary deaths,
the far-off scream
come near,

the itch of madness
on the hands and hair…

History is one
disaster, feeding
off another, or:

what poems are made
to witness
and withstand.

You taught us that;
or someone did,
whose teaching stemmed

from what he saw,
from the hunger hushing
through him like a mist,

his head adrift
with grief, or sleep,
but not dead yet

on the killing march.
Against all murderous
decrees, and against

the unreturning cities
razed, the angel
drowning in the bricks,

the roads
where beggars roam
and drop, it’s true:

the oak trees
still are breathing,
and the fist,

which ice and metal
hammered once,
can furl

to feel the winter
in a luff of rain.

So it is, poet,
in this barbaric language,
built from pain,

I imagine echoings
to be enough
to raise

your sightless eyes
and famine face,
and faith

in breath, a force
to conjure
youth again:

that place
of which, you say,
the music speaks

in mutter-tongues
and morse. Love-poet,
eternal pastoralist,

in the din of one more
ending world,
I commemorate your corpse.

Guatemala, 1967
(For Otto René Castillo)

Say nation,
and the deer and moon
unlatch a shadow;

the darkness
a candle blows.

Say water,
and thirst assumes
a human shape:

the man
whose mouth
defied the desert,

whose lips
the owners of the rain
would govern,

whose throat
the street-patrolling
prison-guards would smash.

Say pain,
and the concrete
barracks’ walls

are politic with light:
in the blood-loud night
the shutters glisten,

the darkened windows
flash and gleam; next door,
nearby, across

the world, a thousand
silences conspire
to regulate the scream.

Say beauty,
and perhaps, my love,
I’ll find your form again,

my tongue journeying
the valleys, my fingers
rivering the slopes,

in search of quietness,
of storms…
and the real dawn

always gaining,
to burn the blue half-
sleep of it to air.

Or perhaps it’s you
I’ll see, my country,
with a hope grown vivid

at the edge of vision:
in the slum, in the mud,
on the stricken hills,

in the book of laughter,
in the nameless streets,
in the fists

of language lifting
with the stars and sun,
in the flickered flame…

Say poetry,
and the voices
of the sick

might rise tomorrow,
the faces of the earth
might smile.




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1 Response to Ciarán O’Rourke – Five Poems

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