The Manchester Review
Sean O'Brien
Two Poems
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The teller in the high white room
Beside the silent harbour loathes
His ledgers and his counterfoils
But adds and checks and enters, does
What he is here to do. He knows the rules.
The sunlight floods an alleyway,
Its premises abandoned.
Venetians, Turks and all the rest
Are dead and gone, likewise their gold.
The enemy has sailed away,
Gone south, gone west,
But no one living has been told.
The morning is eternal. It is not.
For now is noon, the sun too hot
For thinking or for loving.
The noonday girl’s asleep, her bitter breath
Distressing to the bitter clerk who lies
Beside her in the sunstruck heat, his cock
Shrunk back in white surrender.
Slowly in the blazing bay,
The ferry turns, is leaving.
The bank is opening again. The clock
Repeats that this is always, always,
That you are not here to wonder.
All the days will be like this.
The hills grow pale, the sea’s dim haze
Means time has passed invisibly again.
The widow in her blinding black
Comes up the street with bread and oil
And speaks to no one, and the surf
Returns, returns along the shore,
Still seeking the perfection of its form,
A girl not quite a girl, who frets through
Every finical frou-frou adjustment: or
Like this, perhaps, or this, or this,
Her breath still bitter in the kiss.
A sailor would know how to name that star,
The first of evening, hanging in the square
Like something no one ever says.
Lock up the money and the bonds,
Remembering to wash your hands,
And see the world become anonymous.
In this day there are all the days.