Issue 6

Bernard O'Donoghue
Three poems

    i.m. Garry MacMahon

They’d promised a fine summer from the start:
the dolphins, they said, had shoaled into the bay
in April, and the warblers came a full week
earlier than usual. So we lay on twin beds
in the Gaeltacht digs, reading novels,
eating oranges and waiting for the rain
to stop so that we’d be able to walk again
above the sea by Ballydavid. But as we stood,
seeking out formulas and metaphors
for how the dashed spray poured back down
into the depths off the faces of the gravestone-granite
rocks, something changed. And the next morning
we read in the local paper that the dolphins
had unexpectedly gone back out to sea.


    ‘No room! No room!’ they cried
  (for Morag Morris, Christmas 2005)

On the way back from the dentist, I still stop
at the Art Gallery to view the same canvases
I’ve seen year after year: the forest fire
with its cows reassuringly indifferent,
Pissarro’s dotted suburbs, St Catherine
with her lilies. The attendant tells me, once again,
that many of their best holdings stay
in the cellar, never to see the light.

At home there’s no space left on the walls
to hang the new pictures I’d like to introduce.
I move things round, hopelessly: the icon
of the virgin is now over the stairs,
her matt, pastel gaze reproving us,
which before caught the warm light from the fire.

       Magic Lantern

A swallow of the dead, a bat got in
and beat on the bedroom wall. One winter
a comet, like an oldstyle, opened-out
girl’s hairgrip, was framed for nights. But stranger
than any portent, and more regular,
as they walked up the back path from milking,
the bucket’s glint cast a bent line of light
that moved along the wall, beginning at
the top right-hand corner, and panning southwards,
every blessed sunlit summer’s morning.