3 poems by Berni Dwan

OUR LADY OF BASEL

You sit serene in your ‘stately pleasure dome’ surrounded by sleeping men and

transitory love birds – possessions in a worn carrier bag, bedding neatly

folded beneath your trolley. The crown of flowers in your nest of hair speaks of

South Sea islands. The trinkets on your avian hands and wrists reveal a

magpie’s treasure hoard. Your clothes proclaim every pattern and

colour, as loud and bold as you are silent and gentle. Queen of your heaven at

three a.m., you settle in a dingy corner of Basel International railway station –

an unlikely grotto. But you are a graceful nightly apparition, a pleasant enigma for

the weary traveller. Your trolley-top tray is immaculately set for dinner. You peck at

it like a shy debutante, dab your beak delicately.

Our Lady of Basel you dazzle me with your beautiful serenity, shining as

your travelling companions fade. You fill the pre-dawn hours with showers of

colour and light. Our eyes never meet and yet I see you for ever and ever

Amen.

BREAD AND CIRCUSES

The Kapellmeister sits atop the world, atop his head a stovetop hat. A

fatly leery look bedecks his jowly face festooned with ticker tape mustachio. Psychedelic 

eyes and lips – too fulsome florid – add terror to his snake-oil self. He’ll swallow us 

entirely or take us bit by bit. “Ahem, ahem, ladies and gentlemen. Lend me your ears, your 

eyes, your wakeful hours, your sleepful hours, your dreamful hours.”  We

are transfixed by the menagerie of medleys bestowed upon us – the mediocre blend of 

B list stars in jungles – whining, crying, dying. We are mock-horrified by misfits coaxed into 

‘show and tell’ fight or flight for our schadenfreude delight. Fly on the wall swats reality into 

orbit. The modern mountebank to a monumental waste of time sullies real-time 

sleep with real-time likes and dislikes, posts and ripostes. Enslaved to 

super foods and super fools, exposés and cliff-hangers, conspiracies and confessions – we 

pay for the privilege. The privilege of seeing house, garden, face and body restored;

makeovers will make us great again. Our

boundless generosity gives impulsive standing ovations to crocodile tears, spontaneous 

rounds of applause to braggadocio. We are appeased; distracted from the persecuted, the 

disenfranchised and the war-weary; tickled pink by the peccadilloes of celebrities; too 

busy to vote – too stupid to notice the Kapellmeister directing our lives, changing our 

very world before our very blinkered eyes. 

BABEL BUS
(or Dublin Bus before the pandemic)

My desire to speak in the tongues of the

ones on the bus is insatiable. I drown in the ‘riverun’ of

exotic words rolling over me. Waves of foreign youth flood the 

top deck with 

mellifluous Romance, Goth-like Germanic, Steppe-strong Slavic. They

enunciate Middle Eastern dialects like beautiful laughing prayers, sing 

Asian vernaculars like ancient stringed instruments. Indian 

sub-continental words dance and whirl, African languages 

deliver the cast-iron certainty of rock-solid stories down the ages. The

Dublin bus sails into town; my skipper – a solemn Pole. I name this ship 

Finnegans Wake; mine Anna Livia Plurabelle will learn some novel lingo. I

am a fool for Farsi, a sop for Swahili. And the wheels go round to the sound 

of the babble of the new new new cosmopolitan rabble who dabble and 

gabble in each other’s tongues, who patter in a smattering of lingua franca to

understand each other. I

am jammin’ to the intercontinental lexiconic mash-up on the Babel bus. 

About the contributor

Teacher and journalist, Berni Dwan broadcasts about history and literature. Published in Poetry Ireland Review, Cránnog, and Irish Times New Irish Writing, her Smock Alley shows and her collection, Frankly Baby, are observational. Berni came second in the Johnathan Swift Awards and was shortlisted for the Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award.

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