Tim Cunningham- Three Poems

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim Cunningham is Limerick-born, and has worked in education in Dublin, Delaware, London and Essex.

His sixth collection, The Lyrics to the Nightingale’s Song,  is due out with Revival Press in April.


Opening the book at random,
Morning’s incense lifts from the meadow,
A lark gargles, rehearses
His scales, and a bleary daisy
Rubs sleep from her eye.

Like hippy aliens,
Ox-eyes periscope,
Scan the field,
Spot the sorrel’s rusty heads
Among a crowd of buttercups.
Orchid and knapweed daub
Purple on the palette;
Vetching and trefoil
Splash yellow.
Bugle keeps mute
And, in the margin,
Lesser celandines are the cowled
Doodles of some mediaeval scribe.

A velvet field mouse
Jinks like an inside forward
Riding the tackles
Of saw-wort and dandelion,
And a hare darts past
Parting green waves.
The breeze undulates,
Imagines the meadow to a coral reef.

Riding the intoxicating air,
Painted ladies flutter their elegance,
Brimstone butterflies have wings of flame

And, from thorn and ash,
Blackbirds and songthrushes
Are soundtrack to the scene.

But time now to turn the page
Before bandit angels steal it
To carpet heaven’s floor.


You are not reading this
Because you don’t exist.

Neither can you hear the nightingale
Or watch a sizzling sun
Sink into the horizon.

We apologise for this, accept
We are entirely to blame.
Our ignorance and greed drowned out
The decades of warnings and unwanted proofs.

We were the scorpion on the frog’s back.
Unable to resist our nature,
We stung him halfway across the river
And deserved the drowning.

Now that we have learned our lesson
And, like the bible character,
Are desperate to warn,
There are no ears to listen, no eyes to read.
A non-generation cannot take heed.
Anyway, why would you listen to us?

Not now, now that the nightingale is extinct
And the fingers of a black sun
Fail to find a grip,
Clambering above the horizon
At what used to be dawn.


Xenophanes was enigmatic,
Mused: ‘If fish could draw
They would draw their gods like fish.’

No point asking Socrates,
His ‘ignorance’
Would have thrown the question back.

Plato did not want the goldfish hidden.
Hidden, how could we compare it
To its own ideal form?

Aristotle did not care
About the where, but was fixated
On the purpose of the hiding.

Epicurus’ simple guideline
Was to find a place
Where the fish would be most happy.

Augustine seemed excited,
Eager to advise.
But not yet.

Boethius did his best,
Philosophising to no avail.
It brought little consolation.

Aquinas followed Aristotle’s template,
Showing interest in the why not where
And leavening thought with prayer.

Scotus distinguished between substance
And form but, regards a hiding place,
The subtlety hardly helped.

Occam offered me his razor,
Insisted, ‘Go and ask the goldfish.
He’ll know best.’

But the goldfish flashed and flickered,
Had no wish to hide.
I read it in the bubbles.




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