Graham Allen is Professor of English in University college Cork. His collections The One That Got Away (2014) and The Madhouse System (2016) were published by New Binary Press. He was the winner of the 2010 Listowel Single Poem Prize and has been shortlisted for The Crashaw Prize, THe Strong/Salt Prize, the Listowel First Collection Prize, and the Fool for Poetry Prize. His poem “Bright Star for David Bowie” was RTE poem of the week in December 2016 and was a recommended poem in the 2017 Listowel Best Irish Poem of the Year Award. The first ten years of Allen’s on going e-poem, Holes: Decade One, has just been published by New Binary Press.
Epicurus On The Banks Of The Hudson
Sun slants through the web of sky
and the world of corners glistens,
constructing a halo to soften sight.
Everything alive bends its head
or cranes to catch its glory.
Everything responsive swerves.
The sentient universe is curved,
sweet parabola of creation.
Clouds come and light bends heavily,
the Earth returns to thickening stone.
Darkness spreads unevenly.
The world is an unsettled snow globe,
its parts cohere in movement.
Atoms fall from who knows where,
mix and merge and make and break.
Singularity is on the move, dissolves
in sudden unions. The wisest say
wander far but pay no heed to the gods.
The pages of our most transparent books
yellow in the window before they curl.
Just like the poet’s tunny leaps
and in so doing links land and sea,
no longer separate, so all that move
create a bridge, curved crossing
of affirmation. All movement flies
from the directix, all motion makes,
knotting the weave tighter, stitching
life in twists and flares and turns,
until measurement itself gives way,
hopeless in the depth of dance,
and our eyes are left a fever of rule,
betrayed by their own compass arc.
Light breaks into the spectrum’s fan,
filtering dust into marvels,
chimeras, hunchbacks, mermaids, angels,
sprites, griffins, monsters, gorgons,
stuffed bestiary of coalescence,
all creatures nest in the debris.
The wisest say celebrate the swerve
and pay no heed to the gods.
There is a storm coming in.
She drives off into the desert
carrying the future into no-man’s land,
far south of the border now.
She is the heroine because she knows
and because she says so.
She neither hides nor murders the word.
That few will listen cannot deter.
She is the poet at the end of things,
lonely muse of the bolted door,
pointing at the diminishing sun.
It does not matter that it stings her eyes.
First a storm will fill the sky
and wash away the abodes of men.
It is men, in truth, that will not listen.
Then another storm will take its place,
lacking nature, man-hungry, irresistible,
a nightmare wind to dry all tears,
as furious as her mother love,
as pitiless over all but one.
One single offspring is disputed.
All else are given to the flames.
“Rome is no more than Jerusalem.” P. B. Shelley (1819)
When I can I go to the Arch of Constantine,
where we spilled out on 9.11.,
and I think of what I could have said,
responsible there for saying something,
if I only knew what we all know now.
But the words of Shelley’s photocopied notes
stuck in my throat and I could not say,
repeating him, how civilization
and all created beauties rest, like foam,
on an ocean of horror and violence.
Outside the Coliseum on that day
we could feel the monster of history stirring,
though the rumoured word “collapsed” insured
they would level insult to the ground,
go on pretending their permanence
and re-born right to the power he so despised.
And I think now, as I did then,
of the absence of modern, Imperial ruins,
as I watch a tiny, metallic bird
fly through a window and cut across the moon.
I have never been to Connecticut,
though I have followed its poet’s watch.
Which is as much as to say
that it is only in writing, in writing Connecticut,
that I notice my error, the lazy parsing
of a voice that has not travelled.
I do not know if the hills there are green
or purple, or whether men wear hats
outside of Sunday morning, or
if blackbirds there are really that ubiquitous.
But I have learnt of mysterious links
that heal each thing that can divide,
remarkable composites, all rivals wed,
within the place of a poet’s eye.