Poem, Poetry

Ciarán O’Rourke

Shadow Play

Through solid weeks
of plague and rage, the earth

a drowning weather-dome,
my private liberty, at home,

has been to rest, mid-
morning, squinting,

as the swallows dance
above me, and beyond –

their shadow-play made whispery
by the bog-reflecting gelatin

of Shannon-water waves,
pushing, slow, and placid

as a dream. Far
from here, the fires scream

inside the mind of redwood trees,
an ashen sigh of sound.

I scan the skyline peaceably,
a grey-

winged, rainy-eyed
dishevelment of cloud,

and count the beeches jutting out
to snare the floating sun.

Stare too long, the colours run.
I lose the plot, and wallow

as loneliness begins –
my sin an outer circumstance

festering within.
O distant reader, skeptic,

take me intimately in:
my meagre, waifing wonder,

my belly-
aching thunder,

as if distilled
poetic anger

were another shade of hunger,
or remorse.

The voice I speak
was built on force.

But ghosting memories
converse

with buried gentleness.
Before the nurses

flurried round, her fingers
fretted softly under sheets:

she fluttered on
in quietness and chitter-talk

to stem all worrying,
then slipped below

to sleep, and final things.
The stone of hers I keep

is lavender, and fleet,
the falling weight

(I adumbrate)
of a wren’s heartbeat

or breathing seed:
a whisper that takes flower

wherever there’s a need,
like the spring-

returning showers
as I stooped to kiss her cheek.


Ciarán O’Rourke lives in Leitrim, Ireland. He has won the Cúirt New Irish Writing Award, the Westport Poetry Prize, and the Fish Poetry Prize. His collection, The Buried Breath, was published by Irish Pages Press in 2018. (www.ragpickerpoetry.net

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