Ciarán O’Rourke was born in 1991 and is based in Dublin. He has won the Lena Maguire/Cúirt New Irish Writing Award, the Westport Poetry Prize, and the Fish Poetry Prize. His first collection, The Buried Breath, is available from Irish Pages Press.


First love, first touch,
first flame fatale,

I only half-remember you
as all my world:

the kite in your voice
I followed,

the ocean
salt I kissed.

Your year-by-year
recourse to reticence

enraged my fitful
poet’s pen

to jealous eloquence,
and flights:

I wrote to you
in Latin, or not at all.

Now, your silence
falls in pools about my nights;

my mind peers out
beyond its storming ledge

to find your stone-blue look
of hurt retained

returned again,
as snow-drifts packed the earth

above your mother’s grave
and I took my bullish leave.

Later, in shock
and partly manic dream,

I glimpsed, with
some extravagance,

the both of us
(the winter’s pain I stung you with)

in the nurse, nineteen,
who smelt the mud

of Stalingrad congeal
in piss-replnished roads of blood

outside her station-door,
and decades after

lived to read
the Crimean sea’s calligraphy of blue

in rising lines that slit her square-cut
window-pane in two

for smoke and other signs of war
resumed – some days I sit

and watch, she said,
and wait for waves:

I still don’t have a woman’s face,
the war took all my years.

Oh but, sleeper, swimmer,
second self,

did you forgive your nightmare lover
his cruelty and tears?


A void

packed in
with falling light

so thick
the scaffolding collapses,

no chink of dust
or flume survives,

the cosmic tenebrum
sinks down

from black
to outer-black

forever: today
200 scientists

breathed out
as one

a folding ripple-
breath of joy,

as the first and only
images came clear

of this none-
devouring, heart-

of-shadow shape,
a monster larger

than our solar space,
roaring blankly

in the dark –
its universal upset

visioned now,
and funnel-fed

to all the Earth,
where Facebook

yesterday decreed
a lasting tweak

or two
to how the dead

are housed online:
from here

on in, a
sifting string

of digit-code
will pluck

their future birthdays
from the flow,

the hidden data-
mine grow still,

so remaining users’
pain is stayed,

and the tight-knit site
itself remain

a place of love
where life lives on.