Poetry by Mark Roper




The house takes place on bog.

When the milk lorry goes by,

our rooms are gently shaken.




Unseen, unheard, each autumn

thousands of clusterflies

slip somehow into the attic

to sleep away the winter.


A sunny day sees a dozen

seep through the ceiling

to grieve the golden windows.




A spider’s listening device

in every dark corner,

roads known only to ants;


woollens coddling moths,

worms adding their code

to the words of our books;


springtail and silverfish,

dark-winged fungus gnat;

beetles eating the carpet,


dust mites feasting

on cranefly fuselage,

on flakes of our skin.




The cast of bees

in your studio

after the funeral,



which led to finding

the colony of bats

inside the fascia,


which led to the bat

which entered

the bedroom last thing



where it described

in its own good time

circle after circle






What shall I give him, poor as I am?


I’ve sung these words for so many years,

but each time it gets harder,

until now I cannot sing them for tears.


If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.


Is it I first sang them long, long ago

in my father’s church, snowlight

silvering the walls, snow on snow on snow?


If I were a wise man, I would do my part.


All the long gone lives, all the dear dead,

does their presence rise to close

my throat, to soak the eyes in my head?


Yet what I can I give him, give my heart.


Might it all come down to that last word –

how the heart, if ungiven,

weeps, where once it sang like a bird?







Like birds on the brink

of a nest, unfledged,

beaks agape, there we were,

on the Mauma Road,

between Coumaraglin Mountain

and a far-off, shining sea.



Out of house, out of hedge

we were there,

larksong running

in stations of air,

soft heads of bog cotton

nodding assent to it all.



Words, what were they, and how

should we use them?



The coming of evening

over ridge and valley,

dewfall of stars

in the endless dark –

would we ever again

be ready, be able for this?



About the contributor

Mark Roper is an English poet, living in Ireland for some 40 years now. His latest poetry collection Bindweed, Dedalus Press (2017), was shortlisted for The Irish Times Poetry Now Award. A Gather of Shadow (2012) was also shortlisted for that Award and won the Michael Hartnett Award in 2014. With photographer Paddy Dwan, he has published The River Book, The Backstrand, and Comeragh.

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