Francis O’Hare – Two Poems

Francis O’Hare was born in Newry, Co. Down, in 1970. His first full collection, Falling into an O, was published by Lagan Press, Belfast, in 2007. A further pamphlet collection was published by Lagan Press in 2009, entitled Alphaville. He published his second collection, Somewhere Else, with Lagan Press in 2011. In the same year, he also published a collection in America, with Evening Street Press, Ohio, entitled Home and Other Elsewheres. A new collection, Sailing To Omeath, was published by Arlen House, Dublin, in January 2020. He has published poems in various magazines in Ireland, the U.K. and the United States, including Poetry Ireland Review, Evening Street Review, Glasgow Review of Books, The Galway Review, PN Review, The Blue Nib and The Yellow Nib.

A Tale

In Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’
the little bird dies, its heart pierced by a thorn,
a martyr to unearthly love’s sharp sorrows,
its lifeblood bequeathed to a rose of such love born.

The rose, infused with the nightingale’s crimson blood,
is plucked from beneath his window by a student
and ends up broken, useless, mired in mud
and crushed by a cart-wheel, rejected by the prudent

professor’s daughter, convinced she can do better
than a mere red rose; jewels and silver buckles
being more worth having. It is thrown in the gutter
by the disillusioned lover who soothes his troubles

by going back to books, dull metaphysics
and dusty wisdom, deaf to the far-flown cry
of the little bird’s song, the sweetest of all musics
because so heartfelt, so wounded, so utterly

sincere and selfless. Only the old holm-oak
tree in the student’s garden sheds a tear
for a nightingale who sang while its heart broke.
And the moon looks down, its sorrow crystal-clear.

After Hans Christian Andersen

Different from the other soldiers,
Made with only one tin leg,
His heart a molten lump that smoulders
For a lady ballerina, bred

To a higher life, a paper castle,
A tinsel rose upon her lips,
The trompe-l’œil of her pose an artful
Lie he swallows in sweet sips

Until a goblin in a snuff-box
Warns him not to wish for what
Does not belong to him, the wax
Swans and paper ladies that

Exist for other eyes than his.
But his true love is finer than
All such baseness. Thus it is
No surprise when he’s knocked down

Into the street, a rushing drain,
For the sake of love is swallowed by,
First darkness, then a fish, his pain
Suffered, shouldered, silently,

Like his tin musket, out of pride,
Until he ends up back among
The other soldiers, warm inside
The family bosom, borne along

By fortune’s stream until he’s thrown,
And soon joined by his only love,
Into the fire, which boils him down
To a little tin heart, the blackened stove

Their wedding venue and their grave;
Of her a tinsel rose burnt cinder-
Black all that remains, the brave
Tin heart ashen, as if it mourned her.



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