Ciarán O’Rourke – Two Poems

Ciarán O’Rourke lives in Galway. His first collection, The Buried Breath, was highly commended by the Forward Foundation in 2019.

His second collection, Phantom Gang, is due for publication from The Irish Pages Press. American Epic: On Paterson is available as a pamphlet from Beir Bua Press.


A leaden minotaur, enraged,
will know no pause

or mercy, ripping up
the world –

so Russia, blaring war,
sets loose

a continuous bombardment
of tropospheric blasts

on the port of Mariupol,
Ukraine, reducing

the sea-side city
under siege

to ashes in the hand, as
survivors waver, now, to flee

past piling bodies
in the streets, which house

two hundred
thousand living still,

slow-hunkered down
in bunkers underground,

where children
have no food to spare

but nonetheless,
with baited breath,

are waiting for the end,
the shelling

to die out, some
corridor of transit

to shimmer through the fog:
a massacre in motion

deadening the air,
as a line of thin-

lipped scientists press home,
elsewhere, the urgent

of plastic in the blood,

a micro-infestation
filtering the flow,

its trail of tiny tumours –
from the highest slopes of Everest

to the ventricles within –
promising, in time,

apocalyptic seizures,
undiscovered deaths,

which the paid-
in-full researchers plan

to catalogue and monitor
with ever-patient care.

Blue Morning

George Bellows, 1909

The metropolis is made and dreamt: inch by inch, by hand and eye,
the toil monotonous, but momentary. A sprawling monument survives;
the artist only waits – as the void of earth is filled, a glinting city soars.
On a ricket-fence, mud-sturdy brown, a loafing builder, hunched, alert,
illumined, bends his head to the nothing much, in thought or hunger,
grey fatigue, but steadying: for the melt, today, of winter light,
that’s flowing now on the swirling muck, the plume, the brawn,
the surging pulleys, and the hammer swung. Patiently, the station crew
sweats on, as the sun-buds burst in blossom, under the blue-backed foreman’s yell.





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