Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His chapbook, ‘Among the branches,’ is forthcoming from Alfred Gustav Press. He was shortlisted for the Times Literary Supplement Mick Imlah prize in 2017, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Canadian magazines Quills, Literary Review of Canada, Dalhousie Review, Grain, Qwerty, Antigonish Review, Canadian Quarterly, Ekphrastic Review, Spadina Literary Review, and in the UK in High Window, Orbis, Envoi, Acumen, HQ Poetry Magazine, Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher, Dawntreader, Sarasvati, and Times Literary Supplement on-line, and, in Ireland, The Blue Nib, and in a number of U.S.A. magazines.

Pine needles

Picking pine needles gently out of moss,
thumb and forefinger sliding in to pinch,
to lift, to flick into the compost bag.
When too many fall from wind-rattled branches,
they bind into a mat that kills the moss,
aided by the murky pee of racoons,
or skunks, rats —I never catch them at it.

The incurious koi observe my sitting by the hour.
But soon I’ll need to up and work for them,
cleaning the pond’s pump,
taking the external filter apart,
fingers in to swish out clogging needles.

It’s not James Bond work,
not swift choreographed brutality,
cracked ribs, blood, smashed cars or elevator glass,
nor a roulette table and svelte woman
dark-eying me across the casino
in the capital of Exotica.
But after a pacific hour or two,
an immaculate patch of damp moss
green as God, quiet as my heart.

The lesser mystery

The Scheduler of my dreams
with sadistic glee last night programed
applying for jobs I have no hope of getting:
botched interviews, sweating fear, contempt;
as bad as those attempts at flying,
when I cannot pick up speed
and flail to rise above waist height,
or running in snared corridors
that labyrinth for miles:
club-footed scraping,
some terror tearing at the walls,
close and distant shouted groans,
or the first day teaching a new course,
whose required readings I hadn’t.

We give up the controls
as we pass through dreams’ distorting mirror;
no negotiation, no truce within
our lesser mystery, little death.
Escaping sleep’s dark thrall
gives only desolate relief:
something precious has been stolen,
lanes and bridges ripped away
preventing passage back
to right the wrongs, to fix the problems
as we emerge from half-sleep

Not big on bliss of late, my Scheduler,
but, cruelly pointing out what’s possible,
I wake some mornings radiant:
my sun-bright ships breasting the harbor.