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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POTUS in Squirreltown

We make him famous, with our busy mouths,
this man who is more servant than bruised leader,
petrified, tangled in his own lines,
leaving the reporters cooling their heels.
As for me, my lips won’t be sealed in service
to his fear, or some ancient civic deference.
Yet my mouth goes dry hearing his triumphalist clichés;
invited to laugh like a child at his stale put-downs.
He has replaced himself with an empire of followers:
the morose, the sunny, the shy, the stalled.
I become, without agreement, his private doctor;
treating this naked man, stuffed full of doubt,
reduced to the remnants of a public self,
timid and free, fragile and powerful.
We have become the henchmen to his emotions,
swinging daily from impotent anger to gleeful gloating.

Then, he was in fame’s sweet mosh pit;
soon he will languish, not knowing where to turn.
Notoriety gives him the kiss of life and we cringe.
Then, the country was glued to his side and he gushed;
now, I close my eyes, cold to the warm glow of the TV.
When I open them again, it’s the same old show:
celebrity coat-tails, Jesus moments, power-brokers.
We know he makes provision for torture.
His trembling effusion is the mannerism of a squirrel
who renders the air with his pitiful cry.
What will he learn, caught in his own circle of fire,
when only the winter wind can keep him from falling.

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Inauguration Day Lament

It’s what you’d do, tempt fate to console her
Except you’re busted, her hope’s crushed
Caught without the elixir of money
Both marching on into the dark

We persist in eating and sleeping
While rulers write off our identities
Invest in our bad luck, our family failures
Trading inside on what’s beyond the dark horizon

Nightmares of mafia capos and national security
Making the bed in which we all sleep naked
No angels hold us in their hypnotic grip

We work for gods of celebrity and greed
Who make public service into the great unknown
While they empty out our wallets into what they own

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New Year’s Poem

the summer pond is mystical, in winter not merely stone
when light slants in a certain way, at a particular time
on a particular day, then something happens:
an uncertainty wilder than one imagined

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