POETRY PROPER

Issue 5

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“Since words are spoken by everyone, the custody of language is a sufficient responsibility in itself for a poet. To inscribe in language some hitherto unexpressed area of experience – to fill in some blank corner of the human canvas – is worthwhile; to speak the small truths that feed into the bigger Truth. Also, the aspiration of poetry is always towards the creation of something permanent in language: in our era of the disposable, the ephemeral, this is counter-cultural – as, indeed, is the fact that genuine poetry transcends the blinkered vision of the journalistic present; it inhabits the present, but it is also very much in dialogue with the inherited forms and the great voices of the past.” Dennis O’Driscoll 1954—2012
from an interview for RTE’s Undercover (April 9th, 1998), in Troubled Thoughts, Majestic Dreams (Oldcastle, Gallery Press, 2001) p.45

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CONTENTS
Page ‘Cino’ by Ezra Pound Poems by: Helen Tookey Rody Gorman Ron Singer Caoilinn Hughes Matthew Ryan Shelton Featured poet: Ciaran Carson Poems by: Angela Cleland Henry King Richie McCaffery Nathaniel Joseph McAuley John Dennison Photographs: Paul Maddern, from ‘Flotsam’
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Cino Italian Campagna 1309, the open road Bah! I have sung women in three cities, But it is all the same; And I will sing of the sun. Lips, words, and you snare them, Dreams, words, and they are as jewels, Strange spells of old deity, Ravens, nights, allurement: And they are not; Having become the souls of song. Eyes, dreams, lips, and the night goes. Being upon the road once more, They are not. Forgetful in their towers of our tuneing Once for wind-runeing They dream us-toward and Sighing, say, “Would Cino, Passionate Cino, of the wrinkling eyes, Gay Cino, of quick laughter, Cino, of the dare, the jibe. Frail Cino, strongest of his tribe That tramp old ways beneath the sun-light, Would Cino of the Luth were here!” Once, twice a year – Vaguely thus word they: “Cino?” “Oh, eh, Cino Polnesi The singer is't you mean?” “Ah yes, passed once our way, A saucy fellow, but . . . (Oh they are all one these vagabonds), Peste! ’tis his own songs? Or some other's that he sings? But you, My Lord, how with your city?”
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But you “My Lord,” God's pity! And all I knew were out, My Lord, you Were Lack-land Cino, e'en as I am, O Sinistro. I have sung women in three cities. But it is all one. I will sing of the sun. . . . eh? . . . they mostly had grey eyes, But it is all one, I will sing of the sun. “’Pollo Phoibee, old tin pan, you Glory to Zeus' aegis-day, Shield o' steel-blue, th' heaven o'er us Hath for boss thy lustre gay! ’Pollo Phoibee, to our way-fare Make thy laugh our wander-lied; Bid thy ’fulgence bear away care. Cloud and rain-tears pass they fleet! Seeking e’er the new-laid rast-way To the gardens of the sun . . . * * *

I have sung women in three cities But it is all one. I will sing of the white birds In the blue waters of heaven, The clouds that are spray to its sea.” Ezra Pound

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Katherine Katherine has been dead a week I think of her in this way off & on – that strange ghost, with the eyes far apart, & the drawn mouth dragging herself across her room putting on a white wreath, & leaving us, called away; made dignified, chosen. And then one pitied her in a room high up childlikeness somewhere felt her reluctant to wear that wreath, which was an ice cold one. And she was only 33 posed & twisted & the doll on the bed, which I detest Katherine has been dead a week visual impressions kept coming & coming before me strange ghost, with the eyes far apart & the drawn mouth kept coming & coming and I was jealous very tidy, bright, & somehow like a dolls house

the feel of her a Japanese doll

And I was jealous of her writing – the only writing I have ever been jealous of

we met, beyond death in a room high up that faint ghost, with the steady eyes, the mocking lips, &, at the end, the wreath set on her hair

the mocking lips & the feel of her

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& the doll on the bed, which I detest Katherine has been dead a week how we met, beyond death, & shook hands; saying something by way of explanation, & friendship: yet I knew she was dead

Japanese doll kept coming & coming and I was jealous childlikeness somewhere

agonised, & at moments that direct flick at the thing seen which was her gift dragging herself across her room something driven & forced yet I knew she was dead & the feel of her & the feel of her & something driven & forced to cram into one year the growth of five or six & the doll on the bed, which I detest Katherine has been dead a week husky & feeble, crawling about the room like a little old woman the drawn mouth something driven & forced had her look of a Japanese doll, with the fringe combed quite straight across her forehead kept coming & coming yet I knew she was dead and I
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& the perpetual rather sordid worries & gibes

a kind of childlikeness somewhere which has been much disfigured & the doll posed & twisted Katherine has been dead a week I think of her in this way off & on – the feel of her yet I knew yet I knew and I the doll the mocking lips dragging herself across her room & the feel of her & the doll that strange ghost & the doll & the doll on the bed, which I detest Helen Tookey the mocking lips & somehow like a dolls house explanation, & friendship: yet I knew she was dead and I was jealous of her writing that strange ghost

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At the Castle A four-square block of wood tapering from 5 in. to 3 in. A grate of oak stanchions set diagonally A portcullis, the chase of which may still be seen All angles are of brick And carved ornament in head and jambs And only the excellence of the mortar And the soile betwene the waulles grue ful of elders But little of them exists beyond the broken wall-ends But the patterns in black brick are simpler But this is only conjecture By what must have been a miscalculation of levels Circa factorum le murther holles de novo Much of the brickwork having fallen away Of fireplaces, and the toothings on the west tower Of payments to men watching in the moat at night Of the machicolations, and probably the slabs On the right-hand turret the maunch or sleeve Pro levelyng le erthe intra muros The burning of the bricks Then felle alle the castelle to ruine Helen Tookey

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The Son of a Buck Hornydevil Mountainy Man
In the Mournes, in the Twelve Bens, I threwspent my worldlife walktravelling the rangeway, avoiding mankind (and meat) without conversation or commerce with any man. Under the sphereskies for a while under the cloudshadows I stopped travelwalking to sit down and sat down on my tod for a spacetime in a littlelowlyinghollow. I berryeyelooked, I jetjumped, I shunfled to the furyheather when the cloudblemishfog squanderscattered in front of me justhoneststraightup, shame on me, as a laymanherowarrior would not as I saw a quicklifeliving lifebreathsoul. Peopleboundaryhelp me, peopleboundaryhelp me, exaltgreat lord, from the son of a buck hornydevilantlermountainyman on that hill over there and the Fenianwildernessdeer pursuing me forever, I hearfeelsense them roundunder me in every jointspotplace.

Fear na mBeann
I mBeanna Boirche, sna Beanna Beola, Chaith mé mo shaol an siúl an raoin, Ag seachaint an duine (is na feola), Gan chaint gan bhaint le mac an aoin. Agó hoch deirí neirí nann Agus mo rulann heigh ru lann Amuigh faoin spéir dom seal faoi na scamaill, Stad mé den siúl go ndéanfainn suí Gur shuigh mé taobh liom féin ar feadh tamaill I logán ar mo thóinín buí. Agó etc Dhearc mé, gheit mé, thug mé teitheadh don fhraoch Nuair a scaip os mo chomhair an ceo Díreach, mo náire, mar nach ndéanfadh laoch Mar chonaic mé uaim anam beo. Fóir orm, fóir orm, a Thiarna mhóir, Ó fhear na mbeann faoin gcnoc úd thall Is na fianna de shíor ar mo thóir, Airím fúm uaim iad i ngach ball.

Rody Gorman
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The Statue of Imitations “Imitation,” someone said, “is the sincerest form of flattery.” I forget who – Dryden? Byron? – someone dead. Oh, yes, I ‘remember’ now (courtesy of Doctor Google). It was Charles Caleb Cotton, whose own poems are justly forgotten. As for the statue, it is a Statue of Liberty, of sorts, although it only exists in my head. Picture the Statue of Imitations (who, thanks to the Statute of Limitations, is, perhaps, immune from being impugned). Imagine a hulk, ultimate epigone, wearing that “I don’t bother to shave” look, black T-shirt with punk-band logo, voluminous khaki cargo pants, and Doc Martens half-sunk in fertile, sticky clay. Instead of clasping book and torch, Imitation’s empty hands reach skyward, palms open, in the “why not?” position. If looks could talk, his would say: “Hey! it’s all up for grabs. Just make sure you use righteous models, and shuck-and-jive to get around the copyrights. That’s the way to guard your ass from lawyers, that tribe of greedy high-end suits, slaves to coffee, booze, and precedent. “Imitation, oui, a time-honored art,” the garrulous slacker drones, intones. “‘Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal,’ said Eliot (T.S.), not averse, himself, now and then, to a spot of plagiarism. Lancelot Andrewes’ Good Friday sermon, in Eliot’s ‘ Journey of the Magi’, e.g., had a resurrection of its own. Right on! Let’s invite both toffs over to tea. “Imitation has been practiced,” the learned Statue persists, “by hordes of righteous copyists. Take Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the mighty line, which the Bard boosted time after time. Marlowe, who died in 1593, did not stick around to whine. “Or Homer to Virgil, Virgil to Dante, that adamantine chain of borrowing. Milton snarfed this fancy word from Prometheus’ chains, forging an off -the-rack bondage accessory for his Adversary of choice. “But, pushing the major players aside, and gaming a storied metaphor – think Chicago Cubs, 1910, think double play – hacks and tinkers, even, have taken, perchance, the words of great thinkers, bringing home, or stealing, their bacon. “What’s more, Bro,” the fatuous slacker perorates (at last), “one of these days, your own number will come up. Then, just as you on stolen words have fed, your words may feed generations to come. So why not savor the prospect now, prima factum – before the fact – since, soon enough, Dude, you’ll be gaga or dead.” Ron Singer
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Bruisewort I can no longer make a daisy chain that is the sum of its parts. The joins lack mindlessness. The split stems are DNA strands: backbones of sugars and phosphates linked by invisible ester bonds like children’s crossed palms, swallowing the weekly good intentions in white unleavened disks that are neither sugar nor phosphates. They taste of hands. To discover the atom is a start—to know what it means; its particle trinity that has oceans cleaving to the tilted earth resisting the Moon’s recurrent invite; miraculous photosynthesis, which is bodiless, yet we grope about for its photon torso. If I reassess the sum of its parts, does the daisy chain become divinity, since the electron and its positron hold the pattern of our future infinitesimally? This is more modellable than we would like to concede. Its Latin name, a propos, means pretty-everlasting. You could say interminable-beauty, but that is evaluative, not quantitative; besides, they were once called bruisewort. Names are generally variable. A daisy chain is not, as the eye would allow, a succession of weeds: each one is a composite flower, whose petals are not just correlative, but are individual flowers. Even the yellow centres comprise microscopic flowers. They are an army of atoms; of false flowers working together to spread the seeds of their existence. If their astral particles are the emblems of probability, should we swallow the astringent petals weekly and see what follows? ∅ to know how anti-particles balance the pseudanthium with all its quarks! With a fast enough machine, we could decode the daisy chain in calculus, Objective-C, transcendental equations. Would the parts of its sum be atoms or litanies? Caoilinn Hughes

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Snake Creeps through the Grass The characters seem staged: a businessman swallowing a crustless sandwich, flaunting his close-fitting skin and rugby ball cufflinks; two young ladies with thick lace tights like curtains waiting to be pulled apart beneath their crushed velvet dresses and shallow breathing; the beggar-victim with a beard reddened by weather, fury, Dutch Gold; me. We stand in the park beside a group practicing Tai Chi to consider the motives of the brat who stole the beggar’s beanie. It seems like a modern day musical, we agree: ‘Rich kid steals fetid hat with one dollar sixty in copper condolences.’ The beggar declares: ‘Insanity! Anarchy! Jealousy! That hat was worth more than money. To hell with hi m! The cunt.’ Sensei dip into ‘snake creeps through the grass’ interpretatively. I wonder what the vagrant makes of them. That they are taking up more than their share of oxygen, maybe? I confirm the cunt-thief was twenty-something and sporting brand new faded jeans. His hair flopped open on his head like a dead butterfly. I don’t describe how it gleamed. I don’t point out that the Tai Chis did nothing to intervene; that their ‘cloud hands’ seemed to wave the thief off lovingly. Caoilinn Hughes

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Studies In this courtyard walled in lime white and razor-wire, I smoke and spit, craned forward, waiting for the rain to accumulate in stone and earthen pots; a skinny rose trellis anchored in coarse gravel, its lattice wintering gray lichen; and a downspout dribbling dark into an iron grate. Matthew Ryan Shelton

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Featured Poet: Ciaran Carson
AUTHOR'S NOTE: These poems are part of a projected book, whose working title is From Elsewhere. Those with English/French titles are my translations of poems by Jean Follain (1903-1971); those with English titles are my response to his poems, whether spins on them, or takes on them. In other words, they form a dialogue of sorts.

The Rag (La guenille) Powerless to imitate the bird the rag hangs from the branch red beside the sweet apple the bird flown the apple fallen it stays where it is exhibiting the chill of ages and its colour in the silence; men are organising in the dark times not far from this tatter marking nothing but the space it occupies.

Sunset The north wind picks up the streetlamps come on one by one as an armoured car speeds into the oncoming dark from lamppost after lamppost along the stretch of demarcated road the union flags begin to flicker in their tatters.

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The Burned Island (L’île brûlée) Concerning the burned island one has a long memory of all the shadows of inhabitants and those of ploughs and harrows. On a certain morning a great noise was made and shook all the rooms. Reality dwells in a child’s hand, writing with such force on the ruled paper that by the second line he pierced it through and made the steel nib bend then an icy wind arose which made the naked branches bend.

Timing Device As with thunder the rumble comes after the flash the shimmer of a tolled bell stroke after stroke reverberating heard one certain day but now but a glimmer of all such memories of bells a newsreel flicker the skeleton of a building or its scaffolding he cannot remember the number of victims let alone their names or in what month of what year that certain day fell.

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Concerning Flowers (Des fleurs) Flowers seem to watch assembled in large numbers on the edge of precipices and one can fear these clumps unsleeping in their enclave of leaf-mould, no miller no tumbrel but the solitary sky of a province where sometimes a great bowl breaks among its painted flowers.

Reverberation From time to time following the rumble of thunder or a bomb upon a mantelpiece a Dresden vase crowded with open-mouthed flowers trembles about to topple over.

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The Key (La clef) The dark key attached to the heavy copper ring with a day number in the white night that hangs from a nail in the vast inn has been taken by the sleeper who now from the wood of the bed lets go a hand gloved in mud.

The Beyond Windows too may have locks but only on the inside lest the window be a door he thought as once again he climbed out into the night to go where he had gone before to wake up at dawn in his own bed clad in mud from the neck down remembering nothing beyond unlocking the window.

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Reprise (Un soir se refait) An evening recoups its losses in the shuddering of wheatfields hammerings on doors armoires emptied getting up from its knees from under the confines of the black robe flecked with sunlight a beast slouches to its corner untroubled by the days of horror which reprise a couple at the turning of a road swamped with birds.

The Odds A burst of gunfire in the bookmaker’s shop where men are smoking watching the horses on television one of them dying as the pigeons on the square outside transform themselves into a purple cloud boiling up from the cobblestones to the sound of their own applause.

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High City (Ville haute) By night garments are constructed by indomitable women with lively voices to the smell of flesh in vogue amidst the rubble. By day once more railings, pillars, turrets, yellow tiles and ruptured walls will be seen again in the clear light of a city piled on a high rock for the edification of travellers.

Window He bent to his task at the keyboard as if about to play an aria of which the notes or words were not yet known. He stared at the ruin beyond the window and began to touch-type thinking of what had been before the bomb and typed some more. He looked at the words on screen and struck the keys for print the printer ticked and ticked and then disgorged a page with nothing on it.

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Abduction Inside, the carriage is panic-plated red, is stop-signals, warning signs, blood everywhere, danger, danger. This child is front-page news. He's in the hands of the man sitting opposite, in the hands of every man in the carriage, trapped in the jaws of the headline closing around his school photo. The train brakes scream and I am back in that ditch at Achilty straddling the deer's hot ribcage, hand to its chest, while you try to prise the dog's teeth free. I hold the deer's head to mine; I could draw a gut bow across its cello neck, soft stretch offering up its quivering strings to the kiss – I could draw that note again. I don't know if the blood, wet on your hands, is the deer's or the dog's or your own. Tree-broken light flutters through the carriage as if we are running fast, our hearts are beating flat out to head-off some beast: the beast they tell us is coming for our children, the beast they say has got one, the beast we have brought with us, the dog that is running deep and close in the woods. Angela Cleland

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Trackside Semi Do they know their house is flowering, its white harled sepals spread, releasing a proud-stigmaed bloom, petals bold and swollen as burst lips? Perhaps they do and are inside troubling over issues of pollination, whether it will bear fruit. They lift their heads at each distant lawnmower drone, at the giant insect clatter of this carriage's wing-casings. They drop their eyes as we pass, just another train, aware their house is wearing their hopes as a button hole. Angela Cleland

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Chreia When, as we followed the path beside the graveyard, I stood between you and the sun, you told me to move – just as Diogenes answered Alexander, who’d asked if there was any favour he could do for the senile cynic. Or did you say ‘I have been looking for your father’s bones, but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave’? Accounts of the incident vary. Henry King

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Bulletins Today an 8.8-strength earthquake struck Concepción, Chile. Roads reared up; a hotel fell backwards in the dust, an unknown number of people trapped inside. I imagine them praying in Spanish, and I could almost believe the earth moved for Mary too – but on what scale she should measure that magnitude, I can’t conceive. Later, a congressman pops up to tell us the only foolproof form of birth control is abstinence. But then, isn’t the basis of Christianity the fact that that rule, like all others, is proved by the exception? Now sex, like everything else, comes wrapped in plastic, we know it differs from these microwave dinners we eat while watching telly only because of who we’d share it with. I take your plate but it slips my fingers: mea culpa, mea maxima culpa – but whose fault is it that zigzags round the world and makes it shake? We aren’t bad people, you and I: we cycle. We recycle. We nod and smile at those who say an earthquake’s just a trembling of the hands in which God holds us, not His love. Henry King

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The Stick Stand Three of us live here and no one has any mobility issues yet but at the bottom of the stairs by the porch door is a small grove of walking sticks, as many types of wood as a Tunbridge-ware box. It’s icy out there this time of year and we go about expecting a fall but don’t need to make a tripod of ourselves with an old stick. We have collected these canes as left-over inheritances that no one else wanted and we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw away, snapped boughs of our family tree alongside ancient umbrellas, sparse canopies where moths drop like acid rain. Richie McCaffery

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The Orchard Man’s Radio The limit of the garden is the distance in the view when picking from the tallest tree, cut short only by the Northern Walls and a childish sky which stops and stoops to touch them. Anything beyond is the yellow wind-up radio which swings on the branch below and spouts out laws of physics which apply to no one within earshot and grow silence if left unwound. Here, night – a time for sleep only by habit – is much the same as day when work needs doing. The radio, though it clears its throat of static, says nothing, afraid perhaps of the ghostless dark or some story from childhood no one round here’s heard. Nathaniel Joseph McAuley

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The Dangers of Sentimentality to Work and Profit Few trees are planted in memory or honour of or for anything other than growing apples. Those that are, however, growing with his daughter and since his mother, are more trouble than a man should take from wood and fruit. Their yield falls near inedible and the growth of canker means more than simple loss of stock or missed pressing day. Uprooting of either – them with a pick, or him, is out of the question. Nathaniel Joseph McAuley

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The Child’s Bed He makes the child’s bed from applewood as if intent to show her the few facts of life. The trees, though stripped of bark and painted turquoise made from oiled begonias, mark out the parameters within which she can dream. Nathaniel Joseph McAuley

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Catechesis, St Andrews Come by me now; do you recall the cliffs of castle beach, and how the rock laid bare its laden belts of life let down? The pronounced black seam in the sedimentary crumble, proof against progress or success—yours, or any other in the graduated powers of our stepgabled, end-stopped city (your name here, high and distorting on the overtaut awning!) Come by and stand, empty at last in your mastery, at the edge of what you’d presumed was there for the taking, and taking so much for granted; you are not your own, any more than the fulmars that ride this airy conjunction, not knowing they do what they do and so in their way are better servants than you, who was bought with a price and, knowing this, still put on airs. So here, you might turn away from the drop, murmuring with relief, it’s all relative, it’s all good, you should just try harder, be true, be free, and so forget the bells at your back: not all good, but well: is, and shall be. Come by, sweet-heart: East Neuk, North Sea; Bell Rock, the Eden estuary, how the westerly ramps up and over-shoots your situation entirely, unrelentingly plays on the levelled, in-shore face of things before us. What is it required of you? Repeat after me. John Dennison
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POETRY PROPER
Editors: Miriam Gamble, Paul Maddern & Alex Wylie email: editors.poetryproper@hotmail.co.uk

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