First Published 29th July 2018

Light After Dark

The morning, after dark, gives way to light,
the house silent but for the humming
fridge and creaking walls. Listen carefully
and you can hear the water whispering
in the pipes, expectant, waiting for your body,
for the day to start. But what is there to do,
now that yesterday has passed into today?
At last you drag yourself from bed, count
years in faltering steps, survey your visage
in the mottled bathroom mirror. Face wet,
eyes closed, you see another face that soon
will fade. Already there is doubt in every image
apprehended; kitchen table, kettle, television,
all lose their essence in new light. Don’t ask
questions whose answers hide behind the orphaned
furniture. Put on your coat, go out into the day,
pretend you are alive because you are, even
if you do not want to be. Get on the tram
and let houses, flats and factories pass,
and people too; although you cannot read
their minds, you want to be like them. So be
like them. Sit back and let the low sun warm
your face. Open your eyes and you are blinded
by the sunlight bouncing off a passing tram,
transfiguring the moment as it dies.

Oxbow Me

I’ll brook no argument nor will I claim prior knowledge,
only allow I follow where I’m led, more accurately,
am carried by the swell. I have no choice in what I do,

but broadly I am taken with the flow of things, resisting here
and there, but always giving in to what is called my life.
The clear blue of the sky may only live inside my brain I’m told,

but others see in it a like shade too; the grass the same,
the earth and more. It’s enough to be going on with.
My final course, such as it is, is fixed but can meander,

eroding here, depositing there, until it seems I’m getting
nowhere, only for the banks to break and part of me
goes rushing out to greet myself, rejoicing, relieved

to find before I reach the sea that I am still here after all.


You were taller and stronger,
you didn’t waste words
but turned a cold shoulder
or withering look when
I opened my mouth,
so I turned away.

For so many years
in the same house
we moved between rooms
without speaking much,
but your books piled up
on the floor by my bed:
Kerouac, Kafka, Hemingway.

The Old Song

There is a song I sing to myself
when no one is listening. I whisper
it through dry lips on the tram
or in the street. The words are simple,
drawn from memory, but they can
change at times depending on the
slanting of the sun. At work I sing
it in my head, its music bubbles
underneath when colleagues speak.
When I pick up the phone the dial tone
hums along; the copier’s percussive
rhythm thrums its satisfaction.
I know the words, I learned them
years ago; the air is part of me,
but I could never write it down
or sing it twice the same. The trick
is to be somewhere else, outside
yourself when singing it so that
it’s new each time.

Bad Smells

I never wanted more than these four walls,
to be the centre of a rooted whorl.
I used to hold my nose in neighbours’ halls

when, with my mother, we went making calls.
Within the family shell I was a pearl,
I used to hold my nose in neighbours’ halls.

The world was just a series of pitfalls,
the smell of other lives made my head swirl;
I used to hold my nose in neighbours’ halls.

But as I grew I found myself enthralled,
my head was turned by beauty, by a girl,
and I who held my nose in neighbours’ halls

was plotting how to start life as it stalled,
to let my unique narrative unfurl.
I used to hold my nose in neighbours’ halls

till I became a slave to sense’s call
and with a passion let my body hurl.
I never wanted more than these four walls,
I used to hold my nose in neighbours’ halls.

Brian Kirk is an award-winning poet and short story writer from Dublin. His children’s novel The Rising Son was published in December 2015. He was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2013 and highly commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2014 and 2015. His first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017. He blogs at