David McLoghlin

 

 

(Ireland – USA)

 

 

 
The Session at Inch

 

—For Justin McCarthy and Niall O’Higgins

 

 

As the third reel was flung wide

and the first shiver began to run over the skin

Tom stood and started dancing

beside his bar stool.

The bar murmured, as if at taboo.

But when the musicians saw his eyes

brooding behind their lids

his listening—like a mirror—

began to concentrate the fire.

 

But each time they nodded

the chord-change

to bring it to an end

he kept dancing:

neat, never-learnt steps

goading, daring them on.

Roars of go on! began coming, then,

to the unknown English dancer

 

who answered them—lips tight,

sweating—with glints of gold in the firelight

from the necklace of small things

he had found along the way.

The jangle extended, into the atonal,

like the bells of steppe horses;

or a dancer of the tundra

circumscribing himself within a circle

tight as the skin on a seal drum

 

in which he was, over and over,

defining, and freeing space.

The bow of a fiddle angled high

catching the light,

until each instrument raised, and held it.

Then we were all in the one circle:

at one end of the house

an open fire,

the front door open to the sea.

 

 

 

Perseus: Aegis

 

But he managed to glimpse

Her dread form reflected in the polished bronze

Of a circular shield strapped to his left arm.

 

Ovid, Metamorphoses

(Translated by Stanley Lombardo)

 

 

Around its rim is etched the dead gods

—like lids, opening around what

the goddess gave to be my eyes

even as I went forward—crabwise—

into the place that eats light.

Where no human had been.

 

She said: when you go to the sulphur gates,

better go armed with something equal

to it. And hope that that angels stand

at the unassuageable gap

like the terrible, raging, prayed-for

protectors of the Dharma.

 

As the shield-arm splinters

the mirror-shield distributes the blow:

shivering, holding steady,

holding its own at the eye

of the cyclone—witnessing,

even as I am turned to stone.

 

The shield still exists—tarnished, beaten

greened silver, like a sapling

opened by lightning,

the city of the four directions

engraved in the malachite,

a mandala ripening underground.

 

Ever since, I sift poisoned soil

for the dull glint of adamant:

the sudden shock of its edge. The centre

is still gouged with the original story:

the pupils contract, see me coming.

Wait for me.

 

Follow the map given by fear.

Now, child.

Two Dancers: Flamenco

 

Before, she sits straight-backed,

her hands clasped

like birds before migration.

Now, with eyes

and hammering palms

she is forging a scimitar.

 

A surge within the spine; hot rain;

a slow roll of fire;

lips muttering an invocation

on the edge of the precipice.

And she is not herself

in the final coming-to-rest:

 

standing with one arm outstretched

and a face pale as bone,

she is Judith, smiling the cruel

inscrutable smile of victory,

throwing us a challenge.

One we are about to accept.

 

*

 

Out of stillness, a gesture.

Hand, strong wrist;

fingers spinning air.

Then: passes, feints, preliminaries

—like the wing-strutting of a learning bird—

begin to build.

 

Calmly, the cantaor drops one word,

Now, into the kerosene silence,

and suddenly the world is thick with eyes:

a hundred hissing jets of black flame.

It is the dead, keeping vigil.

Their dancer is about to make the journey.

 

At the front of the stage, he straightens

like a cobra—or a victim

transfixed by the event horizon,

looking for a way to begin.

A way to cross the divide.

 

And behind him goes the jaleo:

now soft, now insistent; understanding,

cruel-to-be-kind:

“si, eso; si. Eso si. Vamos ya.

Ahora.”

 

The spiral rises another level.

And he rises to it, rapt,

blind before the door

where there was no door.

And in the air there is a veil of sweat

like the sweat on the veil of Veronica.

 

 

 

Dún Chaoin

 

This could almost be a Hill Station

on the way to the Himalayas, when fuchsia

glitters in the hedgerows after rain,

and through the walls, the sky is visible.

Those young mountains at the world’s roof

are still growing. But these, grown inward,

are old and thoughtful, with fields up them,

vertical fields, like ladders up the mountain.

The horizon was scanned by weathered eyes—

they played the box at eight in the morning

—still on island time—took pride in how

 

with a click, each stone found its place,

and walked into exile hob-nailed, lonely,

single-file. Feeding them dilisk, dulse

and carrageen, giving salt to the earth,

their fields look as if the land made them,

had secreted tender, organic forms

to map the sides of Mount Eagle.

Under a roof of timbers out of the Great Blasket,

You trace that mapping. Building out of need

became an art. Between the waves’

 

breaths, these forms are drawn in sand.

You breathe, watching the island retreat,

become remote in fog, but still figurative:

the form that has been almost inexhaustible.

Each year, to keep the memory of wells alive

—how easy it is to lose a place—

remembering the places of fresh water,

they go back into the island

to pull the brambles off Tobaír an Phuncáin

and find the water has cress growing in it,

is still rising from its source.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

David McLoghlin is an Irish poet and translator, who currently lives in New York City. A graduate of University College, Dublin and New York University’s MFA Program, his first collection, Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2012), was awarded 2nd prize in the Patrick Kavanagh Awards, Ireland’s most prestigious awards for a first unpublished manuscript. He received an Irish Arts Council Bursary (grant) in 2006, and was the Howard Nemerov Scholar at the 2011 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His work has appeared in Irish journals of note such as Poetry Ireland Review, The Shop and The Stinging Fly, and is published or forthcoming in the USA in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Natural Bridge, The Hopkins Review, Black Lawrence Press, and Éire-Ireland. Most recently, a poem was chosen by Alice Quinn to appear on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Dish. He is currently Resident Writer at Hunts Point Alliance for Children (HPAC) in the Bronx.

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