Ciarán O’Rourke: Five Poems


Let the sky-thin seasons stake their claim

in the ditch of my eyes,
in the flood of my bones,
in the torn out root of my mouth –

I’ll move
like light in the dirt, or a lifting lark,
like rain at the edge of your meadowed mind.



No photograph collates
the deep climb up

those muck-blue lines
of bog-track, sloped

to set the winds awry
and bend the cloudlight

backwards into rain,
or the clambering finish after,

our bustle and whoop
and swift declension, as knees

brace down for the peaty gaps,
and voices swing for home below,

where all the afternoon
he’s moved about, mowing

the rushes to a shaven green,
honing nature’s art

of unpremeditation
with a cleanly disposition,

even as a blade –
memory alone retains

what need has told us life was like,
a shimmer implicated

in the faded picture falling now
through the gripping fingers of this poem,

which says in doubtful,
delving faith of time,

that somewhere still
we’re paused perpetually:

on a hilltop flecked

and swayed to motion round us
as we rest,

our faces fixed
for larkwings on the rise,

to the high-lit spaces,
to the billowing sun,

our sky-filled breathing
holding fast.



A rising scent: a lush and nettled green.
A sheen of swallows soaring into view.

I give my time (my ticking life)
to watching weather beat and blow

along the river-banks, or simmer
like a mist of heat in every passing

rushy patch, long, drifting links
of meadowsweet a-whisper at the verge.

The light is lilting now, laconically slow:
the sun beds down, a copper god,

in meadow-marigold at dusk, the sky
a burning blue. I breathe the ancient summer in

before it dims. I died, you know, a beat or two,
when I rowed my stony days and nights

away from broken me-and-you, a burial at sea:
my sunken self-mythology, a memory

that flows. The flailing creature I’ve become
will curl into the sun-restoring dark,

a nervy coil, and twitch in pummelled pulses
to repeat, in dream, the falling-mountain-water blue

I slipped into – to look you in the eyes. I’m everything
I was when I reneged: weeping poetry, a brutal,

brimming boy; an egomaniac in love. I barely
recognise you, you replied. And finally: goodbye.



An age away, the scented evergreens
are still, a lucent wave commits
to hush, the sun emits a breath,
as the noon-dim
labourings commence:
the slender, severed necks
are tossed, the throttled mouths
are mounted in the heat,
and inch by inch
the fragrant earth is stripped
of human foliage, an
evacuated island
glinting in the sun,
whose high, in-
sinuating witness, too,
is whittled down
by windy-deep sea-distances
traversed by golden ships,
the agony
drowned out,
the heady deaths annulled –
a complicated commerce
that finds its second lustre here,
in the satin cheeks
and quiffed moustache
of the Laughing Cavalier,
the fluorescent cuffs
and florid sash
a single flow and glimmering,
his canny, quiet eyes
a-gleam, two tiny pools
of blue and black,
by the light of the world.



Next to a clean, shopped shot
of Jeff Bezos’s grinning head –

top, once more, of the earth’s
so-called list

of fish-faced, smiling rich –
wedged below

a line in bold, that
beacons the long

longed for arrival
of this boy who dreamed

of colonising space,
news flaps in also

from dark-aged Sweden,
where fifteen

hundred summers past
a nameless

massacre occurred –
was schemed, that is,

and swung to gleeful,
throbbing motion –

in an island haven, walled
houses looking out

on the northern seas’
easy crash of light,

with, perhaps, the usual
fart-filled bustle

and settled ache of peace
we take for

ordinary living:
here, I learn,

some as yet unrealised
phantom gang

came slinking
with the tide

one day, and before

the stock of bartered
jewels and laces, Roman coins,

along with every
shining thing, up-

turned their homely cup
of havoc

on the heads
of the island-folk,

whose now re-
surfaced bones

show signs of blunt
and subtle traumas, both:

the old man’s axe-
opened skull, for instance,

dumped and singed
in the blazing hearth,

or the gentle, goof-limbed
body of a boy

who was stunned
and gnawed by sharpened clubs,

or a shapeless other, belted
clear out of time

to a mud-shattering death,
into whose

stopped mouth, after,
were shoved the teeth

of a ravenous bull.


Ciarán O’Rourke is an Irish poet, based in Galway. His first collection, The Buried Breath, was issued by The Irish Pages Press in 2018. He runs the online archive of poetry-themed interviews,, and his second collection, Phantom Gang, is forthcoming in Spring 2022. Some of the poems above previously appeared in Cassandra Voices, Irish Pages, Poetry Ireland Review, and The Galway Review. 


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