Ciarán O’Rourke was born in 1991 and is based in Dublin. Winner of the Lena Maguire/Cúirt New Irish Writing Award 2009, the Westport Poetry Prize 2015 and the Fish Poetry Prize 2016, Ciarán’s poetry has been widely published. His first collection is forthcoming from Irish Pages Press.

Ping Pong

In the blue garden
you are playing ping pong –
blue, because

I’ve stumbled here,
foal-footed, head half-
lit with sleep, the grass

a prickle, a wash,
of bare blue under me,
and the air

like water, but thinned
to take my weight,
to make my scatter

through moon-big rooms
and out
to the rainless night

in which your voices float
an ease, a lightness,

You are playing ping pong,
trading a volley of limb-
long yelps for breath,

the both of you re-gathered
over and over
as laughter – to dare,

to dance a new trapeze
on this, the summer’s
trembling line…

and I might
be the hurried hush,
the dipping star,

the blink that brightens
at the rim,
who before his parents

turned to him, to wrap
his dream-quick
watchfulness in words,

became the bird’s
in the singing tree,

the flown ball given
into living

Four Swans

Not because
the days reverse,

our fingers feel
the spindrift

spinning back to rain,
or that we return

to what we were, retrieve
our dashing lives intact –

but for the motion in it,
and the catching light

it carried once,
that lives

as only dim
sensation now,

this book of wants
makes room

for the flock of swans
no battened heart

could conjure:
flung from the wreck

of Ben Wisken’s bones,
they curvled heaven

round them as they shook
the airy corridors,

tagging joy
behind them like a kite –

they hit the running
breath, and ran

the island ringing
through the wave…

and had they lit,
had they looked,

had they wheeled again,
they’d have seen

what gusting verse
can only dream:

the wind-spilled
wilderness aflow;

heard us,
the distant children,

singing down the sands.

The Clearing

No photograph collates
the deep climb up

those muck-blue lines
of bog-track, sloped

to set the winds awry
and bend the cloudlight

backwards into rain,
or the clambering finish after,

our bustle and whoop
and swift declension, as knees

brace down for the peaty gaps,
and voices swing for home below,

where all the afternoon
he’s moved about, mowing

the rushes to a shaven green,
honing nature’s art

of unpremeditation
with a cleanly disposition,

even as a blade –
memory alone retains

what need has told us life was like,
a shimmer implicated

in the faded picture falling now
through the gripping fingers of this poem,

which says in doubtful,
delving faith of time,

that somewhere still
we’re paused perpetually:

on a hilltop flecked

and swayed to motion round us
as we rest,

our faces fixed
for larkwings on the rise,

to the high-lit spaces,
to the billowing sun,

our sky-filled breathing
holding fast.