2 Poems by Glenn Whalan

BEACH SCENE

Blinded by the sun. A silhouette of a seagull hovers, 

lone dust mote, unflappable, tangled in the fluff of eye debris. 

I blink; rays penetrate, slice. The gull spirals across my mind.

She flies the headwind; stuck against memories and floats, motionless. 

Wan day moon drifts westward as cirrus gallops;

a sly ocean creeps from behind.

Rocks bob up and down – bald-crowned men

with seaweed fringes their sole remaining glory. 

Washed and combed by waves, they wait for dates with mermaids. 

The tide will come in; the bald men will drown –

sinking beneath waves they will grieve lost opportunities,

as does the earth pass by the sun. 

Spray ignites the air, is extinguished, and falls apart. 

Distant squalls will fell storm clouds to sea

yet jellyfish tentacles rain; they hold each cloud aloft. 

Where can the line be drawn, that separates cloud from sea? 

Surely it’s not the horizon. Where can the line be drawn,

that separates you from me? Give it wings, it will fly.

Then – clouds shift a bit, make way for sudden sun 

and as they do rays absolutely pour down. 

A sunburst – heavy beams hit the strand and hiss, 

form pools of brightness that grow to cover longing

and flood the beach with light.

The sea merges with the sky; the horizon has been defeated. 

The gull flew to the west, far from the morning sun, 

and then towards the sun, throughout the afternoon. 

Feeling the spin, and though spin made her sick, 

she flew headlong towards it. 

With no one else to notice, she flew away from land. 

She flew until she disappeared from every past we’d shared.

And as the earth moves past the sun 

I must make myself complete just by being here.

TEMPLE OF THE LAST RESORT

They are wheeling me along the frayed and faded road 

and I stare ahead at shattered stone as wall cracks warp and woof 

across the temple of the broken that is the temple of the last resort. 

Pigeon shit streaks maidens crushed in bas-relief. 

A crow pecks at the socket of a fallen monk in stone.

Plastic bags fly skyward, ride whirlwinds, are chased by dusty children.

The keeper collects sandals but ignores my busted chair,

where dust puffs squeak from underneath as seat suspension jars

and as we reach the entrance of the relic house, a shrine, 

temple women – browned and covered – turn to glare and step aside. 

An infant drops dried breast and cries, the mother rocks and pacifies; silence –

a yellow dog watches, wanders on, like them it’s ceased to care.

I feel my body lifted and note knotted hands beneath me

as my bearers place me slackly at the foot of gilded feet,

candle flare and incense smog both weave and waft together

as my eyes lock with the old eyes of the one I’ve come to see.

And so I sit, and nothing happens, and so I sit, and nothing happens,

and so I sit, and nothing happens, and nothing was ever meant to happen.

And only silence has come to rest upon a base of emptiness, 

and time has gone and lost its way, having no business here.

And the eyes and then the icon and the temple and the town 

and everything else named in the greater world around – none of these matter

for what once mattered has been stripped of further meaning. 

I know I mattered once. I know of when you touched my gilded feet.

No colour blaze, nor holy chant, no spirit’s touch, nor taste of God –

the intense dance of incense stills – nothing avoids the void.

What happens next, I hardly know, am only just aware:

consciousness shifts, the mind moves, the whole being’s lifted up. 

A rocking reversal to my chair as spent attendants haul and heft

and air grows vaguely fresh and light as sun settles on shoulders.

Wheeled around I turn to leave; the women stand before me. 

And with the slowest, shyest steps, they reach out hands to touch. 

And as they do their faces change, from fear to need to understanding. 

They touch my feet and step away, as others take their place. 

They make the movements of their practice, stand, bow heads, absorb. 

In this way they feel a stillness, the emptiness, the finality of belief. 

They stand for a very long time.

About the contributor

Glenn Whalan is an adventurer and nomad whose writing has appeared in Slippage Lit, The Blue Nib and others. His debut novel, In Absurdia, is due to be published in 2020 and charts a search for reality in a world that’s far from sane.

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