David Murphy lives north of Dublin. His poetry has been published many times in various magazines and anthologies in Ireland and abroad including The Poetry Bus, Stony Thursday Book, Revival, The Burning Bush, Irish Literary Review, Cyphers and The Shop. Also a short story writer and novelist, his website is at: www.davidmurph.wordpress.com
The lenses of your eyes looked hurt
when I declined your gift of a group-photo
taken on our last business trip together.
‘Why don’t you want it?’ Your brow
flexed in attractive close-up.
My mind went out of focus.
I could not prevent the filter
falling from my mouth.
‘Because you’re not in it.’
That black-and-white statement
illuminated feelings hidden until
my words flared between us,
a foolish flashbulb
lighting up my longing,
vaporising hopes and dreams,
exploding them at that moment
in an impact of Jovian proportions
caused by the revelation,
expanding like the universe,
that you were my galaxy, my nebula,
and I was the great big mouth.
Photoshop or some other software
could have put you in that print.
Not all the IT in NASA could,
in the aperture of my insanity,
prevent you fading from my world
like an image vanishing from a film
in an old-fashioned developing tray
when the photographer forgets himself,
gets his timing wrong,
and shines a light at the wrong moment.
SINS OF THE FATHERS
Night falls and birds come home to roost
in the rafters of the Round Tower.
Meadows darken on the outskirts of Lusk.
Farmers’ fields tilled and harvested of
corncrake and mandrake, planted now
with row upon row of tinderbox houses
– The Village, Dún Emer, The Forge –
concrete crop-circles in moist earth.
Gloom cloaks the Green.
Beech trees bend mossy boughs
around a squat church that lacks a spire.
What seems a steeple sits outside
the south-facing door awaiting elevation
– an afterthought in a graveyard crammed
with headstones to the locally famous.
Powerful families lie beneath;
names unknown to blow-ins,
tunes of fine old songs
no longer sung by the fire except
in depths of moonlight when bats
flit out to where sins of the fathers
lie buried deep and unspoken of.
Night’s vault closes. Old saints keep vigil in caves.
Black ravens fly. Infants cry. Dogs howl.
Young men growl on the by-pass racetrack.
Locals eye me with suspicion
as I wander home from pub or club.
I have lived here thirty years – an iota
in the profane history of a sacred place
under assault again, a repeat of the sack of 1089
without the bloodshed. Lusk has new enemies now:
ring-roads and estates not yet on ‘rate-my-area’.
No longer shielded in self-sufficiency,
birds of isolation flown to a new sanctuary
leaving us just another suburban village.
I walk along the path to home.
Old stars turn their heads,
gazing down from a thousand years ago.
An ancient piper leans on his drones somewhere
far away, perhaps in Rathmooney where
Cúchulain came to take a wife.
Red Branch knights are sleeping.
Norsemen no longer attack.
Barnewall rests in his tomb.
I switch on the kettle and gaze out the window.
That wall I painted all those
years ago has faded now, blending in at last.
The two of us huddle – a pair of dealers with
a stash of drugs in a pub full of secret policemen.
‘Worth thousands,’ you whisper, handing over
the package. ‘Don’t open it ’til you get home.’
An hour later: you on your inter-city,
I in my kitchen un-wrap an ink with gouache
framed and signed lower left; a well-known artist,
exhibition label on reverse inscribed with a date
from my tenth year – your thirtieth.
I feel your hand complicit on my arm.
You surprised me with a painting that hung
in your home for forty years – a portrait of the city
of our youth; a reminder of where we came from.
That implicit look in your eyes; this,
in your eighth decade your parting legacy:
a memory from the birthplace of our lives.