Stride Magazine -



In the remote village church
a bell which sounds like
an old pan beaten
with a wooden spoon
is rung by a man with one arm
who used to be a postman.
His bicycle leans
against the weather worn
memorial to the dead
whose names may all be forgotten.
No one moves
because no one is there
either in the church
or out in the village
where a poster continues
to advertise a circus
whose artists may all be dead.
This poster too
tells its own brief drama ;
the cowboy whirling a lariat
above the sly horse
thats about to throw him
just before the long neck
and head of the giraffe
lands on him like a funnel
or an elaborate disguise.
The phone in its metal box
begins to ring and if
there were a spell
it would be broken
but there is only
a small glass of kir
left out all night
on the stone wall
glowing now a little
in the midday heat
as if it were
a significant lamp.


The bridge dissolves at sunset
and sleepwalkers tread
deft and light through fog,
their shrouds limp
glowing with damp.
They follow the stiff fingers
of a mute clock
pointing towards settlements
where weeping calls them
once more to seek out
the grieving rooms
the trauma gardens.

She kneels before
the angel of disturbances,
at each blue vigil
she leaves a flower,
a candle that licks
the hooves of black horses
raiding the quarters of regret.
A newly hatched storm waits.
She writes with flame
above the frozen river.


The river begins its sentence
as the lamplighter rouses
dormant portraits
on the walls of an empty hotel.
Penitents bend before sculptures
that stare into the sunset.
No one can be recognised.
Any face assumes
the map of its desires.
A cold line is drawn.
All movement is suspended.


They have left us to adjust,
to the familiar, transformed terrain.
We notice, as if for the first time,
the charming iridescence of the river
and try to recall the shape and scent of ships,
gravid, prows nosing towards new worlds.
The effort defeats our starved imaginations
and we find ourselves drawn to
the white emptiness of an art gallery.
It is somehow reassuring
to encounter other realities evoking
the terrifying world of childhood or
the pleasant disorientation of
wandering about in the future.

Outside, the tourists are disgorged,
their pockets and cameras stuffed
with trophies they will soon forget :
the desolate fountains of aborted theme parks,
the stalled restorations of an ersatz Parthenon,
a monstrous hotel where waiters are still on strike.
Unimpressed by the street art of beggars,
they ache to indulge in shopping and eating,
fondling and pricing fashionably inept folk art.
Admiring the daring of a newly opened creperie
they fail to notice, overhead, fabulous birds
straining at tethers, preparing for flight.



They are troubled
by silence, inertia and fog.
Engravings are found on
the backs of their hands,
the products of
much gazing, laziness
and sleepwalking.
They are gifted
companions of raincoats
hurrying nowhere
in the wind.
With imperfect hearing
they navigate cities,
avoiding the lobsters,
hunting aromas suggesting:
Unicorn Soup, Fragrant In Its Bowl Of Myth.
They change shape
though not their own.
Shuffling and mumbling
they are allergic to
conversation and corduroy.
Do Not Disturb!


They pretend not to see
when on winter nights
the eyes of the dice
roll past the churchyard.

They carry alarm clocks
to the dead mans orchard,
prepare to make maps
by the light of wild poppies.

They will not disturb the warm
murmur of cauldrons
or the snow and splinters
left in the corner of mirrors.

When questioned will deny
carpetbags heavy with teeth,
broken china and song.
Wont come when called.

Paul Donnelly