“Colour” and Other Poems by Paul Casey

Colour

for T.S.Eliot and after fourteen poets

The purple stole away from the skins of plums
Everywhere we turned became a maze of colour
I protect you with an indigo coloured whisper
You curve the ends of my black and white day
Coffee brown, is mole, dying leaves, dry earth
But smell led me here, the smell of yellow
The blue, white and red stripes of exotic confusion
Moving over the green gravel of a formal grave

I wet my lips and a blackbird flies out of my mouth
Faces in the front row, silvered in screenlight, focus
I thought everyone knew what was meant by sugar-paper blue
Tyrian dyes and flax and peacock plumes
Gold and yellow where the clouds crack and break away
Anemone-blue mountains outlined against the pearl-grey morning

Colour was first published in Live Encounters

Fishapod out of Watercolour

The Spring sea arrives
in flailing sage,
clutches lime-white soles
with the early hunger of sand.

Seeping, air-bound,
caught on the cusp
of an inner eclipse
I turn to olive water.

Nothing can be at rest
beneath this marble ichor
moon of all things opaque
and aquamarine.

In stone-pale, heaving waves
tik-taa-lik struggle
to reach the shore
– to shift an ageing jade spell

for the sea to cast wide
her turquoise daydreams
helpless crashing raging

at the thirsty white sun,
the untempered one
as ocean sighs find all

that crawl from her murky womb
to stand and gaze uncertain
at ice slowly gleaming teal

or a fern vapour of dream.

– first published in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

An Béal Corcra

Delightful aftertaste
this river
of kingly colour
Ocular delight
this stream
of purpoesy
vein-aortic mix
of spirit liquid

as even
evolved vampires
overdose
on blends
of rich-thick
contradiction,
of unravelled
breaths expired

even as
seasoned muses
pilgrim-seasoned muses
each leave a trail
of purple dripping
from tongue and teeth
a new harvest
of mystery

and even as
starved poets sip
the mountain manna
purple poem wine,
dream-drunk poets
pulse-deafened
descend purply
their seasoned lips

– first published in the chapbook It’s Not all Bad (Heaventree Press, 2009)

Blue Roses

for Rosie

And then there are uncertain nights
when she blushes a sudden lavender
as I first remember, or darkens to a violet sleep.
Sometimes, she shimmers from the tranquil deep
of a burgundy world, dreaming and I
witness her water to a pale coral dawn

I’ve seen her shine as light as pear
tethered still and clear by the anchors
of warm mid-morning daydreams,
turn sepal green as if petal less
or glow amber as the fallen leaves
from a bouquet of autumn operas.
And on each blue moon, without fail
fold into the calm of origami white.

Usually my rose is a full flaming-red
cardinal weekend in a time made
only of roses. Is a wild flowering
rambler, a climber, a rosebush of scarlet
matadors, urging the shy and tormented
to dance in the showers of abundant daily joy.

If on certain days I could breathe
for her, roses of only breath,
they would each live as blessed
as a momentary labour of thorn-less blood
a singly purposed mist of quartz,
two thousand tender dozens per day
all shed before her footsteps and dewed,
tinted finely, with the scent of blue roses.

– first published in The Stony Thursday Book and then in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

In the Shade

ash green lakes
aquamarine memory
beryl tears
cambium skin
celadon mist
chartreuse touch
clover-sprung harp
copper green temper
coral turquoise tongue
emerald green heart
fern green sleep
forest green winter
grass green bed
gravel-green lullabies
grey-green wink
hawthorn essence
hazel green gaze
island green iris
jade green mouth
lime green aura
marble green poitín lips
midnight shade of green
mint green sight
moss green sex
myrtle green palms
olive green age
opal green seas
pea green ire
peacock-green visions
pine green bones
reed green waters
sage green fires
sap green toes
seaweed green thighs
spring green dawn
Tara green rain
tea green calm
teal sorrow-pools
thyme green dusk
viridian storms

– first published in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

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Colour & other poems are © Paul Casey

Pic: Shane Vaughan
Image: Shane Vaughan (2016)

Paul Casey was born in Cork, Ireland in 1968. His poetry collections are home more or less (Cliffs of Moher, Salmon Poetry, 2012); and Virtual Tides (Salmon Poetry, 2015). His chapbook of longer poems is It’s Not all Bad (Coventry, Heaventree Press, 2009)

In October 2010 his poetry-film The Lammas Hireling, after the poem by Ian Duhig, premièred at the Zebra poetry-film festival in Berlin and has been screened at StanZa in Edinburgh and Sadho in New Delhi.

He grew up in various stages between Ireland, Zambia and South Africa, working mostly in film, multimedia and teaching. He lectured screen writing at the Nelson Mandela University, where he convened the greater Port Elizabeth Poetry Competition in three languages and four age groups.

He is the founder and organiser of the Ó Bhéal reading series in Cork, where he lives. (Source: Irish Writers Online)

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Audio and Film Poetry by Paul Casey:

“Bookmarking The Oasis” and other poems by K. Srilata

Things I didn’t know I loved

(after Nazim Hikmet)

I didn’t know I loved windows so much
but I do – enough to wrestle
someone to the ground over them,
so light can, once again, flood my eyes.

I didn’t know I loved bare feet so much,
or walking away on them to wherever point,
my heart slung over my shoulder
like a sheep-skin bag.

I didn’t know I loved small islands of quiet
in the middle of the day,
but I do – they feel like old friends.

I didn’t know I loved the idea
of night descending like a tired bird
or birds flying in and out of rooms and poems
but I do.

I didn’t know I loved so many things.
Only now that I have read Hikmet,
am I setting them free,
one by one.

from Bookmarking the Oasis(Poetrywala, 2015)

Looking for Light, Sunbirds

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.
(Hafiz of Shiraz)

Looking for light,
sunbirds hop
on hopeful, spindly legs.
I am no different.
The same distaste of darkness,
and, at dusk, the same torment
of light fading.

Often, the only light to be had,
is desperate and feeble,
too deep to access,
my body, a manhole from which
I must rescue that one sweet ray

or remain, forever, bereft.

from Bookmarking the Oasis (Poetrywala, 2015)

Bookmarking the Oasis

I
That spring, I started placing
my poems into printed pages
.

Bookmarks of dream-hope,
they grow into slender, green leaves,
their pores closed,
place-holding,
in readiness for summer afternoons,
the promise of an oasis within.

II
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said
,

inking itself green
in leaf-vein
and human heart.

III

I have been working for years
on a four line poem
about the life of a leaf;
I think it might come out right this winter.

Winter
and the only leaves to be found
are the ones
hibernating
inside books of poetry.

IV

In the fall, the black bear
carries leaves into the darkness
.

I follow
                     the trail
To the centre.

Note: The lines/phrases in italics are drawn from David Morley, Songs of Papusza (Section I), (Philip Larkin, The Trees (Section II), Derek Mahon, The Mayo Tao (Section III), and Mary Oliver, Some Questions You Might Ask (Section IV).

from Bookmarking the Oasis (Poetrywala, 2015)

What I Would Like is to be a Victorian Man of Letters

What I would like is to be a Victorian man of letters
and retire to my study when seized by that particular need
to be solitary and aloof.
I have dreamt of this for years.
Female and non-Victorian though I am, I can see it all.
It is crystal clear, and oh! so delicious:
that desk – neat, rectangular, coffee brown,
its drawers deep and seductive,
holding secret things from another age,
a moleskin notebook,
a cup of tea,
a swivel chair with a pipe somewhere at hand
and a bookcase – except with my kind of books,
lots of Jane Austen and some Emily Dickinson for those long cold nights.

No adolescent daughters abandoning dresses in contemptuous heaps,
no grubby sons, their dirty socks hidden like bombs under books,
no spouses, no mothers, nor mothers-in-law with urgent and important thoughts.

On crazy days crowded with adolescent daughters and grubby sons, spouses, mothers and mothers-in-law,
I dream short-burst dreams of that study, some of them so vivid they make me weep between chores.

Deadweight

I carry her around with me everywhere.
There’s no escape. It is as simple as that.
Her weight’s on my lap when I sit.
My live, rotting Siamese twin,
You are the one who looks out of my eyes each morning.
When the day is folded and put away, it is your eyes I reach for
so I can dream in them.

Do you remember?
It was your eyes I was using when we saw that female monkey,
dragging along her still-born infant.
Which one of them was the dead one?
“Such love, I am told, is common, in the monkey world,” you said, too quickly.

Such love.
Such love.
It hung in the air between us,
heavier than a rock,
more dangerous than a loaded gun.

Bookmarking The Oasis” and other poems is copyright K. Srilata

국제K.SrilataA Professor of English at IIT Madras, K.Srilata has four collections of poems: Bookmarking the Oasis, Writing Octopus, Arriving Shortly and Seablue Child. Her novel, Table for Four, long listed for the Man Asian literary prize, was published by Penguin, India. She co-edited the anthology Rapids of a Great River: The Penguin Book of Tamil Poetry (Penguin/Viking), Short Fiction from South India (OUP) and The Other Half of the Coconut: Women Writing Self-Respect History (Zubaan). Her short fiction and poetry have been featured in The BloodAxe Anthology of Indian Poets, The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry by Indians, and Wasafiri. Srilata was a writer-in-residence at the University of Stirling, at Sangam house and at the Yeonhui Art Space in Seoul. She is currently co-convening a trans-national poetry initiative.

“Cuween Chambered Cairn” and other poems by Tim Miller

Cuween Chambered Cairn

 
I should go on my hands and knees to you,
you farmers from five thousand years ago.
Even though your skulls are no longer here
or the small skulls of your two dozen dogs,
in retrospect I realize how wise
I was, dipping in and out of your dark
—the familiar main chamber and three rooms—
to never pause in all my picture-taking
to never stop and extinguish the light
to have found you at the end of the day,
so that we were tired and a bit rushed.
Something like the terror at what went on here
would have overwhelmed me in the moment,
the seriousness of generations
which I only became aware of later:
like an ancient fireplace still smudged with smoke,
our shoulders were soiled from the gloom on your hands.
 

Horses on Orkney

 
Horses curled in the flaming spiral of sleep,
the huge immensity of their bodies
 
belied by the blankets they wear, or the
tight scroll they twist themselves into on the ground,
 
an enormity suddenly made small
or at least passive, compact, the coiled braid
 
of body closer to tree or landscape,
the tilted, chiseled head nearer to stone
 
or steel or something pulled from the fire,
some monument to just how this place works
 
that you do not escape the wind, but dream in it.
 

Dedalus & Icarus

 
The old craftsman came to Cumae after
a long life of art and flight, love and theft,
came alone to the Sibyl’s Italian shore
wasted with age and reputation
 
to the one who knew every alphabet,
the seeress who saw the future in driven leaves.
And warped with the same old age as him,
she asked that he carve her sanctuary.
 
His bent wrinkled body covered in dust,
he hammers and carves and polishes away
all of the horrors let loose from his hands:
his dead nephew; the bull-impregnated
 
woman and its awful issue; the youths
brought from Mycenae for its food; the slave
girl’s love that bore him a son, and the love
he took pity on that imprisoned them both—
 
he strikes them away and leaves them on the wall,
all of them and so much more envy and
revenge and awe at his talents, hammered
forgotten. But not his son. Twice he’s tried
 
to let him go, as the sky did before
the sea took him; twice he’s tried to fashion
his face or his descent or his youthful limbs
or just his eyes, and twice he’s stopped in tears.
 

Skara Brae

 
Follow the alley of flagstones
to a slab door of wood or rock,
locked with a shaped bar of whalebone.
Inside, opposite the door, a
dresser stacked with pottery, wool,
beads of bone and shell, or pendants
of whale’s teeth or the ivory tusks
of walrus or boar. The hearth is
central, the hearth is heat and light
and the cooking of all that’s caught:
mutton and venison, gannet
and golden plover and lobster,
eel and salmon and mussel, cod
and crab and pork, gull and scallop.
Wild berries fill the belly too,
wild cherries, hazelnut, honey,
some form of fermented plant for beer,
or the richness of cows and goats.
Near the hearth, a tank for fish bait,
while beds and shelves curl around,
around the fire fueled by seaweed,
and beneath the rafters of whale ribs.
 

There’s one building with no bedding,
but still a hearth, always a hearth,
no metal yet and only stone,
only wood and bone: blades, mattocks,
whistles, fine points or polishers,
all undertaken so near the sea
(but not so near as the sea is now),
generations of food-waste, ash,
dung, bones, broken pottery, shells,
or rope of crowberries—centuries
of families, layers of houses
stacked like rock atop each other,
farmers farming, hunters hunting,
a nameless North Sea and a still
nameless wind giving sound and flavor
to the landscape and the prized lives
that prompted those circles of stone,
that made an occasion of a
hill or loch, coast or height or isthmus.
 
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
we found the village and the bay
another excuse for green and blue,
five thousand years to our first world,
having flown far to propitiate
those who may have sailed from the south
to this true north, treeless and edged like a blade.
 

Robert Oppenheimer

 
Now I come to write in light and fire,
in a language of power we all know,
beyond every letter and poetry
and all the dithering of philosophy,
all the prevarication of politics.
The physicists have known sin, it’s true,
but also the brilliance of a burden
overcome in the brittle mountains,
a foul display that was beyond awesome,
beyond my conscience but still atop it:
in less than a second tens of thousands
turned to piles of boiled organs and black char,
the burnt but still living running for the
cisterns or the boiled, dead-crowded rivers.
 
News of a flood or an earthquake makes me
think of myself, since the questions usually
given to heaven are now tendered to me,
and its silence is something like my own:
any remorse is just ridiculous
and any warning is usefully late,
since I’ve already handled God’s fuel.
I cannot keep from swagger, or from mourning:
this knowledge a weight you will never know,
and with it a satisfaction, a pride:
numbers and elements resolved into
a thing that worked, but never should again.
 

⊕ Bone Antler Stone (Museum Pieces) by Tim Miller

Cuween Chambered Cairn” and other poems are © Tim Miller

IMG_4352Tim Miller’s most recent book is the long narrative poem, To the House of the Sun (S4N Books). His novel Bearing the Names of Many is forthcoming from Pelekinesis, and he also write about poetry, history and religion at www.wordandsilence.com.

‘The Mermaid in the Hospital’ by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

 
She awoke
to find her fishtail
clean gone
but in the bed with her
were two long, cold thingammies.
You’d have thought they were tangles of kelp
or collops of ham.
 
‘They’re no doubt
taking the piss,
it being New Year’s Eve.
Half the staff legless
with drink
and the other half
playing pranks.
Still, this is taking it
a bit far.’
And with that she hurled
the two thingammies out of the room.
 
But here’s the thing
she still doesn’t get —
why she tumbled out after them
arse-over-tip . . .
How she was connected
to those two thingammies
and how they were connected
to her.
 
It was the sister who gave her the wink
and let her know what was what.
‘You have one leg attached to you there
and another one underneath that.
One leg, two legs . . .
A-one and a-two . . .
 
Now you have to learn
what they can do.’
 
In the long months
that followed
I wonder if her heart fell
the way her arches fell,
her instep arches.
 
© by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, all rights reserved. from The Fifty Minute Mermaid (Gallery Books, 2007) The Irish language  original is here.

Thank you to Suella Holland from Gallery Press for allowing me to use this poem to celebrate Irish Women’s Poetry and translation on International Women’s Day 2012.

Clonfert Cathedral Mermaid by Andreas F. Borchert