Three Poems

Posted on May 18, 2009


By Paul Perry

Black Dust

no, it’s November again
the golden falling month

and that black dust
those leaves
are words you did not use
or misused
or forgot

we’ll all be gone soon
the spirits surround us
call them memories if you like
if you can’t say the word:
ghost  soul  spirit

the past emerges like a river
dressed as a circus come to town

there are the posters
and the smell of unhappy animals
angels left behind
or a woman with wings anyway

it’s not the parrot I know
or the owl or doves
trailing out of the tent like smoke rising

it will be forgotten
they have closed their gates
your enemies
the dead
are always restless

give them the site
the circus
the sky’s height
and crows
surrounding Timon’s tree
all the salt hours

I’m ready now.

Zero Point

I closed my eyes
And told you what I saw
You said no
But I kept on

The garden showered in light
The eucalyptus towering and diving
And waking us with its myths
Its stories of my grandfather in Spain

At war his poetry and how he took
When he returned to Ireland
His life and the life of the one he loved
And in broad daylight

Imagine the family’s shame
Which is why I am writing in the dark
And why you are wondering
About the zero-point of our love

I don’t blame you
Well maybe a little
Another reason I keep talking
Like I had a theory of everything

And why you think to live for ever
No great shakes
Too many full moons you say
Is that I’ve often wondered

About what will be in the long to come
That is when at night my lungs
Aren’t filling with water
Nearly wrote eyes instead of lungs

And before I forget
Today I saw a hungry blackbird
It’s cold you know
Blacker/Colder than a coal miner’s face

Rubbed its orange beak
Into my hand
Felt like the time
You put your hand

On the tensile fence
On the farm of your childhood
Or your grandmother’s
My merula to your moses

How this turned into a memory
Of you I can’t say
And all of a sudden

My date palm
My caucasian chalk circle
I your gentile
Your barbarian

I imagine we meet
In one or another future
Where it happens again
On an old road

I throw stones
At your glasshouse
Take the shards from your hands
And let the bird fly.


Back then you were full of impetuous
passion, all or nothing promises,
like the hot Mediterranean sun in July.
Said things like now or never.

Words were like drums.
And you climbed all the trees.
Painted your face and
tried to fly a thousand times.

Clover and honeysuckle
you tangled in and drank.
Chickadees chirped for you
and the nights conspired.

Somewhere in the haze,
the drop-zone addiction
of the now said stop and the fields
once green grew overgrown.

The self remaindered itself,
met its image in a cul-de sac
of confession and retreated
to a place without adjectives.

Not that it started you praying,
but it did make you a little blind.
Your handwriting grew large
enough to make out but not understand.

Now you make love to any man
with an echo of the ‘only you’.
You forget their names as quickly
as the light goes out

and walk alone by the canal
to where you once lived.
That’s what happens.
A life of wrong turns and detours

takes you away from where
you thought you were going.
Blame chance if you like.
Blame youth or the midday sun.

Blame Tantalus and the golden dog.
Whatever. The main thing is to remember
what you once had and pine,
go on, keep crying,

now you’re the girl at the circus
the one without her candy-floss.
Your grey eyes returned me
to where I am. Still bitter,

still mad, but not so dangerous to know,
no? The images you sell, if only
you worshipped them, bang on the doors
of your dreams. There’s one

of a violin, or a man playing a violin,
two birds rest on his lap, the music
takes him above the city,
and away from the names

you once gave to their love.


Paul Perry is the author of two critically acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently The Orchid Keeper [Dedalus Press, 2006]. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry Ireland Review, TLS, Granta, The Best Irish Poetry 2007, and The Best American Poetry 2000. A new book The Last Falcon and Small Ordinance is due from Dedalus in 2009.

Posted in: Poetry