“A Romance in Three Shards” and other poems by Darina Wade


Time, the liar’s almanack
Danced on our prognostications
The solar year eclipsed by a cell
Flares from a vernal corona
Visible to the naked I

Seen from my camera obscura
My infinite cell
An anchorite’s hazelnut
Inexplicable and undifferentiated
Like water on the tongue

I recast my reticle on smaller things
Heliotrope, breath of a mouse
An orrery of bones
Recanting the psalms
Seasoned with new unbitter song.



Variants of Concern

Skewered by waking
With eyes still closed
I lie ship-wrecked on my mattress
Washed-up and gasping on stinging sands

I dare to scan my inner eyelids
For some hieroglyphs
The rubble of dreams
Pebble-dashed and painful
Rosetta stone of my retina

Registering something there inaudible
A barometric disturbance on the cornea
I strain to hear a siren’s song
Melody of a swollen corpse
Song of some poor putrefying thing

Shaking, my feet reach for the carpet
The patterned bedroom rug
A periodic table of despair
I pad across it
Trying to remain inert
Holding my breath against
Noble gasses and elements of distress

To the ensuite door
And the hope of a shower
My acrid exhalations mix with the innocence of steam
The window opens to a world of rain
Dislodging the vacuum of night and nightmare
With the forgiveness of empty air.



A Romance in Three Shards.

1. Canvas

We filled rooms with light
And fierce honey once
Dust dark now
Shut up like a stately home
Out of season

You presented me with the most
Unflattering reflection of myself
But one that I loved best
The only one I recognised
So that the inside
And the outside
Were one
And only for a short while
I soared
And grew larger than the city
Because our tiny universe was infinite
While it contained us

For one white moment
You saw through my eyes
You overheard my thoughts so I could
Discover what I think

You were the blue screen
Against which
I became visible
The artist
Of me.


2. Lapsarian

I am no longer indifferent
New worlds quicken
I am re-created in entirety
And I cannot believe it is not written
All over my face
Perhaps it is

Your name is tattooed onto my retina
And with every single blink
I see the ghost of your face
Like the after effect
Of a camera flash

This very first thing my heart feels
Is to break apart
A death and a birth
Happening in the same room
With indecent and obscene

A love stillborn
Still, born nonetheless.


3. Enswined

We are two drunks
tearing at each other
missing the point
forgetting why and where we began

Did not we sell our souls
for this one thing?
In an instant to unremember its worth
Subsumed in blind amnesia
adrift, unmoored

No longer tethered to the
kernel of our encounter
that great, small, thing-without-which
hurled out a window in rage

Everything we need is here
Everything we have is gone

One atom of distilled love,
And what a shock–
a vacuum
a fall
a death will follow

We are the swine before whom
pearls were cast
in vain.


Two bodies

I stop here daily
in silent communion with the goldfinch
to muddy my city feet
and thaw out a gelid mind

Stealing breath from branches
I raid the sky for lambent precious metals
Siphoning sealight into thin veins
To take some small ease

When did you stop here, stranger?
And was this stopping
the last whipcrack of your defiance and despair
or some brutal dispatch
at another’s hard hand?
And did you suffer?

Or simpler, blameless,
Did you seek shelter and fail to wake?
Snag or stumble in dimming light?
Lose your way in whispered thrall
To winesong or advancing years?

I did not hear your gentle bloodhum
See the colour of your last grassy step
Taste the expiry of your breath in grey air
Nor wince at the heartworms dancing decay
Right where I stood

The quilltooth marsh feasted on you
Grateful though indifferent to your end
Only dental records
might betray you now, pilgrim.
We are two bodies,
side by side unknowing,
One living, one dead.


Not Undone

X marks the spot where life once stood–
An ex, a nought, a not
I’m standing on it now, as if to keep it warm

Confounded pigeon
sitting blankly on her cold egg
Ridiculous and poignant in equal part
tragi-comic and unwitting
sitting pretty in the eye of the storm.

Is there still time enough to doubt, to blink anew?
To take one breath before all is lost?
Sitting on the knife’s edge
Writing a poem.



You lie before me, and I stroke your arm
A gesture of seeming tenderness
And of course
It is
But secretly I am trying to rouse you
Straining with every atom of my being to wake you back to me
By dint of sheer desire and imagination

I am starving for your smile
Screaming for your recognition
How can you deny me?
My vanity thinks that maybe you’ll return just for me
Weren’t we the best of friends? Mother of my mother?
I will sit until you realise your mistake, and return
Stroking your arm so you’ll know it’s me, return
All is forgiven, return

You were 59 when we met
Only you remember that
Oceans of golden time and apples and raw jelly and worms
Monochrome Westerns tucked under your arm
Orange light streaming through closed curtains
Crying for an Indian squaw before lunch

Our world was under the piano
Magic and music books, echoes and dust
And when my fish died
And the world ended
You made little white scones and let me sob
Without hint of ridicule or reproach

You are still my gran
But I feel your attention wander now
From the now-here to the no-where
Or elsewhere or otherwhere
You are losing interest
And you must be tired
You long to see faces decades gone
As I long to drag you back here to stay with me
To forsake the call of sepia-toned smiles
Instead to love my tear-stained face

How can I compete with those who peopled
Your first 59 years and then some?
You might surrender now to their claim on you
Sweet relief and old-newness for the first time since last you met.



Darina Wade is a librarian at the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections at Trinity College Dublin.