The Other

we Others in their city
are an and, a but, and a they
these cities belong to their cars
ready-made roads across meaning
where we dwell in their afterthoughts
in byways that once had the openness of villages
the city is a phenomenon of belief as well as living
that scrapes dust away from romantic ideals
no longer their transported cornucopia
our senses bribed by nothingness
yet questioning whose land
their possibilities of enterprise
as if productivity is redevelopment
and poverty no longer a modern condition

forced from our homelands of barren cattle
money systems intervening from afar
in their city our women are truth
our old heroes turned to stone
what are not wages is naked loss
secret amounts our only achievements
their boasts are lewd, their words: ‘You’re fired’
our expressions deliberately define our empty pockets
her centre is bread and their offering is stone
her room is a stable, her baby swaddled
his ox is a fact that can’t give milk
persevering in our presence
we’re far from their table

beneath their city of dreams
we awaken into our own bodies
waking up to everything that’s real
awakening into their difference and division
where their North shapes power through materials
where they maintain effective societies through controls
where every law protects every thing they’ve developed
let’s enter their dream and see ourselves as we are
see through semantics of us being undeveloped
leave out dependent state and third world
be the opposite of writing a poem
become the poem itself
be the one excluded
recent immigrant
fortune’s apparition
on whom the door closes
one initially of their same worth
once down in a hole in a forest burnt
carrying wood on our backs through their fire
now following a journey from scorched earth to rebuilding

with thanks to John Berger’s The Seventh Man

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The people’s avatar

This one-eyed jack, this pop-up, this joker
This arrogator, this poor billionaire
This matchstick to hard wood, this fire poker
This bombastic firework flashing in air

His flesh will fade since he’s simply mortal
Brittle celebrity not withstanding
His wife’s in diamonds at their gala ball
But he will not be the last man standing

Reality T.V. made him a star
Despite a secret wish to fire us all
Flaunts himself as the people’s avatar
Like his stock on Wall Street, he too will fall

Blustering sucker puncher, angry, smug
For now he gives orders like one more thug

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Dreaming of Trees

walking at night in the woods between my childhood home and the river
fully awake and wondering, in a dream both strange and familiar
particular trees reach out like lovers, breathing in their distinct rhythms
rough skins pulsating with heat, colours of their chemicals glowing with
rich greens and deep blues, druidic mysteries and radio waves
I am drawn by their yearning, their knowing, and their intimacy
a filament sprouts from my hip to the nearest tree, shimmering, transparent
trembling with desire, I am rooted in the same ground

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Still Standing

white traces of a broom mark the blue
where morning sky is swept clean
dogs are silent and crows hold their tongues
while citizens of Rathdrum stir in their sleep

on the green where Parnell’s statue stands
– ancient rebel meeting ground
fir trees guard the eastern front
– tall soldiers where they need not be
a locked iron gate bars the way
in remains of walls that still hold firm

sparrows come and go through the park
a stream slips under the southern wall
an island of turf and rounded rock
holds its rough ground out on the pond
one ancient misshapen tree stands
where Parnell’s bronze gaze rests
beyond his crossed arms and bold right foot
this town continues to hold him in memory

I heard no words until Parnell spoke
wrote nothing down until I walked the green
I was half-blind until the sun reached the glen
I stood for nothing until I stood here

for Brodie Power
Ireland, Summer 2006

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down below in the swamp
far from the clouds’ reflection in the lake
without the aid of sun or any medicine
far even from the pale light of stars

I am still agile and in good spirits
born with the map of the city on my hand
with the animus of silicon in my veins
the untraceable guile of the solitary

my morbid short-sightedness will guide you
let my air of superiority fill your lungs
drink in the forty-proof liquor of divinity
the brain-fire that warms this dreary bog

my twitchy nerves and hyper vigilance
have burned away the flesh
I’m one of the happy and vigorous ones
with luminous skin and handy serums

I don’t cheer for anyone or any team
the sky in the morning is my obsession
what will be your understanding
when the language of flowers is silent?

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Sanctuary (adapted from Psalm 24)

Raise high the roof beam carpenters

Open wide the city gates

Let those once turned away now enter
Welcome the ones who are seeking shelter

Who has the right to sanctuary?
Who is pure enough to stand in a holy place?
Who is gifted enough to climb a sacred mountain?

Nobody owns the earth
The earth takes care of us
We must also be caretakers
We all rose out of a distant sea
That ancient ocean can drown us again

The worker rejected by the builder
Is now the city’s architect
Children found alive in the camps
Are now the peacemakers
You who turn your eyes to worthless things
You can not see what is beautiful
But those who do not swear to a lie
They will witness the truth

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not merely words

not merely words for discord
what makes the other rich
the good old days again
verseless penniless
in debt til we die
kicked out of paradise
immersed in hard labour
not glib and not sentimental
daring not to encrypt ourselves
such underwhelming bits of flesh
with only a candle wick to light the way

we’ve instigated nothing new
no creation to unveil
no wedding glass to break

we bend our shaven heads
toward the night
forsaking humour
half-in, half-out
without words of angst or anger

an I who speaks, an I who stands
despite all the dark thoughts

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