To Brendan

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I strain to hold what moved you in the tide’s turn,
some shifting of shingle, a weft of kelp, fire
on the horizon.

You sailed between walls of ice, caught the flow
of volcanoes. Green below, mists, elisions
of nimbus and starlight.

Hurled to the gales, the chants that chimed
your hours eddied, drowned, resurfaced:
burst to the beat of the bodhran.

In streets of brick, would you still teach
the touch of current, stability of rolling, curve
and drift of destination?

Wedged between right angles, I stretch
for that unfathomable drive, the migration
of the grey goose.

On solid ground
I am unspent,
unsalted.

 

This poem was also published in the online poetry magazine Ground.

Analysing Lenin’s brain 

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Sliced deftly as prosciutto
at the Ritz, these slivers may hold genius
but I feel only sweat, blood pounding

in my temples. I have clear orders
from the Immortalisation Commission.
Examine each section,

discover signs of greatness. My heart
drums like toy soldiers, my eyes
strain under strip lights, the walls

of the Moscow Brain Institute seep
as I seek to decipher these maps:
a dry archipelago under glass.

Thirty-one thousand waterless islands:
not one means a thing to me.
I’m searching for flashmarks,

shadows of revolutionary thought,
the flush of a motherland’s pride,
or even the hint of a crash

of conscience, regret at comrades
shot in the back by their friends,
lovers strangled in bed. There’s only

numbness. Outside, October
is rotting. A whiff of pestilence.
The pounding of four sets of hooves.

 

This poem was selected for the anthology The Very Best of 52. It was inspired by this article in The Independent.

In praise of Sisyphus

in the torment of Sisyphus
I think I find meaning
a presence of duty
perpetual motion
the tension of sinews
contracting, relaxing
the weight finely poised
a dribble of sweat
that intensifies purpose
perfection of balance
from rock into muscle
spine into pelvis
thigh into calf
toe into rock
I think this is love