Poetry

The Crossroad Tree

The Crossroad Tree

Friends are getting old; their children, married.
We’re driving out for nuptials at the lake.
Childless, I feel fraudulent and harried
attending vows we never meant to take.

Fields flow past. A landmark elm appears, broken.
It must have spooked the cows that felt its thump.
In rain and thunder, rabbits rudely woken,
darted from their den of shattered stump.

Last Supper

Last Supper
  — i.m. Vince Murphy

In the house where a father lies dying,
grown-up daughters and sons
have begun surreptitiously grieving
while hospice nurses, like nuns,
murmur their grave observations:
the patient has passed beyond pain,
beyond intransigent passions
and the filial bonds that remain.

Sunset

Sunset

A Painting of Saint Agnes

A Painting of Saint Agnes

No one caught the beauty that went before
and after you: it fed the air like light,
invisible, life-giving. And your life,
it faded into darkness too, as might

a martyr unredeemed by others' faith.
And into view a painting of Saint Agnes
shimmers; she shares the small coals of your eyes,
that knack of distant gazing, as if kindness

was an amber where the passing life was held.
No surprise then that a dark glance can unman me
in corridor, on canvas; or those full

Interiors

Interiors

A lifetime is barely enough to notice
colour veining stone; striated years leech
into vision, pocking in highlights
that punctuate an unrevealed epic.

Darks and greys line, bowed. Arrested
by a sermon on the sea, imagination
winds round the thread of their minimal
movements; odd heads bow like black buoys.

Hillsborough Avenue

Hillsborough Avenue

         —After Paul Verlaine

Forty Years Later

Forty Years Later

Why bother to root for my brother Joel?
Surely, your quarterback’s body is earth’s, Joel.

You knew how to sell elaborate jokes—
seemingly, you stand at my door grinning, Joel.

Named for the prophet of locusts and kairos,
has the Lord dealt wondrously with you, Joel?

Our mother was a saver of used things
that someday would be useful; she wept, Joel.

I could not have borne following your hearse
through rain. You are buried in sunlight, Joel.

Ms. Brown

Ms. Brown

Ms. Brown was a sunlight girl.
She traced my heel in a whirl.
She boxed my onions, shattered my keel,
Made me feel what I couldn’t feel.

Mercury-head dimes, her bright symmetry
Speckled my trout into live alchemy—
Feathered my bird and honeyed my bear
Castled my rook from here to there.

So the show would go on through weddings,
Forebodings, bleedings, and beheadings,
She worked her weeding as the catacomb dust
Sifted down over the garden of lust.

Homing

Homing

You focus your eyes upon the beams,
Mark with Cancer’s crab the horse,
Mend your ripped coat—at the seams—
Elijha took by force.

Your heart is the falcon’s heart
As you circle and circle round again.
A bird of prey must play its part
Dropping down through the wind.

Your grace is wedding death to charm.
On the thick glove, you balance
Feathers ruffling the back of the arm
On the razor points of your talons.

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