Martin Burke







From S



No, no, no. Not because I can’t –I can- but I won’t. Not now – not ever with or without its amen, amen. Even when asked – she pleaded for this with the smell of weeds and crepe about her. No, no, and no again, now and always, for it will always be demanded of me but I will not give it. Negation as affirmation – this is my weapon in my battles and wars though there is but one war I’m engaged in. Old warriors I have come amongst you to be what I must and will be – your warrior-strength to the strength of my hand nor forgetting the mind’s fortitude and aptitude for matters yet unfinished or begun. And the sea before me, the sea behind me, the sea on my right side, the sea on my left side. The mothering surf. From here across it yet let not your silence come upon me but wave after wave of utterance. She also pleaded for utterance but I would not make it. These shabby rags – inheritance and a broken pot whereas I in the cauldron will stir…As a foretime so be it hereafter. And I will prove myself thrilling to the wind. Other lands, other tongues. Tongues of fire to cast the earth in tongues of fire. In exile to be. From this place tonight. From the dark and dank wood. No patria. Yet a mind held aloft like a signalman with a lantern (he who holds up the light is the light) Yet I see them gathered who are gathered against me. How brightly my eyes flash against them. How even my footprints will be spoken of. How my triumphs will burn the wind! Even the sunlight will be jealous as I outshine the dullness and sluggishness of these days. So let my pride be arrogance unto the meanness of this town – what do I care? They cannot abide me and I will not abide here when on the waves of the sea I will ride – see, I stride the dolphins of my desire. Young Angus to the ancient town who will undo its culpability. And today day zero of my calends. Breaking all to remake all to the new delineations – see me, I am fire to old wood. For I have become the gathering and the dispersal. Cauterising the wounds of my soul – I am wounded but not grievously so. Nor maimed into silence where the ways of words will gather about me to goodly ends. And flocks of twittering sparrows in my hair. The laurel leaves already about me and glistening in the sun.


So now must I instruct a Greek dilemma to their minds – which is my Greek dilemma – and under what stone can I place my sword? – or enter the chapel perilous with a smile on my mouth and a brash glance – or draw it out of stone according to the prophecy I will fulfil under this thunderous rain? (ye gods of Greece I will accept no answer that is not my own) see them, newly come to inquisit the air about them who do not yet flash in the sun – that out of such formlessness I should form… – to kneel, perhaps, but in what adoration or in kneeling to espouse the counter-prayer I yet might impart as has been given me by those few warriors I treasure – taking from the store-house but adding to the store-house like some sly prophet in the agora but not yet the proffered chalice to my lips – more to my liking are these buds of summer as my symbol – and not Greek but solid English as my weapon – sharpened on those stones (how the stones themselves are sharp) like a causeway for those who are dispossessed of weeds and crepe (I am so dispossessed like one with the nudity of a god) – nor death songs about me to the flickering of candles – (espouse that my true brethren, ye few, ye fewer ye none, for that is and will be my true instruction my true admonishment) – unto the beauty of which… – as is now and will be – world without to the world within – into my innards as into no other (there is no other than I who can do this) – espousing only the fecund verb To Be (I will also be thus espoused) – but to their quizzing minds I am already ancient who nonetheless would place about me a ring of offering stones (hail disciples for your glittering tribute!) – that I be unto you also what I will be unto myself – see my stealth in this – my subversions of the modalities – my pennant flashing in the air above me – O defiance! – yet unto these my little ones… – unto them as be unto all of us in our needs – “yet you will, will you not, acknowledge the dogmas?” – I will not – and if such is to be my transgression – against history no less as has been given from the old days – days of that woman’s betrayal through the womb of time – metronome of my blood and sinews – o mothering sea shelter us – from history again, the ongoing purge – as it was in the beginning – shall we say… no, no, no – resistance (I have made of it the perfect armour yet I am pierced) – yet still the living gather about me – questions and accusations – that Greek dilemma – as ever it was and will be – no end to it – nor as they quiz my quizzing heart – that perpetual light may shine and cancel the dilemmas with light abounding – “But surely you…?” no, no, no – not that I can’t-I can- but I won’t – and see, listen, see the old thunder rumbles again and nothing is resolved – who now will gather the bushels of light – that unto us be born – also of the low ones of the world – by which name we might…- the unfinished sentence everywhere – low light abounding now just above the trees – o abundance of leafage, Greekness of perfusion that might be instructed unto the many – for the sake of which their questions are indulged if not always answered – Greek dilemma I have wandered wittingly into – I am pierced – the young Angus is the old Balder – “but surely you…?” no, no, no – even if the garden be despoiled – bright apples that I… – approvingly – and so to walk these formless paths I shall remake (not a stone will go unnoticed) – already I am plotting against the dilemmas – o brightness of this my angelic rebellion.


Sweet day that you are no brevity could be as nice. Good affirmations. Question the body so as to question the soul. Not every answer is a finality. Scallop of the pilgrimage city that I carry into the hard intractable day. Opening that does not always close. As aforetime is not necessarily hereafter. The border of the body shifts into the border of the soul – what border has chaos? Soul the unformed substance. I have none that is not the body’s delight in this intractable world. Word of the world. Apples to pluck for sustenance where the tree of knowledge is the tree of exile. Exiled into the world (and after this our exile show unto us…). Show.

-Your temperament is not what I would call pliable

-I was not aware pliability was counted among the virtues

-It’s a social more than a spiritual necessity

-Then I will add it to the poverty which is mine

-Do I sense the stirring of pride in your voice?

-I see it as a refinement of character

-Ah, so you are a believer

-I have made the observance but no longer do so

-Other rituals perhaps…

-Let us say I believe in a word’s incarnation

-That’s merely a mannerism

-Yet it is affirmed

-In the flesh sir, in the flesh

-Disputable I think

-And in that is your satisfaction?

-No, in that is my dilemma

His seedy words. His doctrines. Yet if the self not incarnate the word…What will this day incarnate? Some compatible form? Some paradox only a living faith might resolve? He would say day is night’s grandeur revealed but on what revelation may I lay down my obedience? In the noise of day Homer’s music resides.


Audible day and this my aubade. I will make no broken music. Mine to be the sonnet in stone as in those cursive manuscripts. Hail morning! I greet you thus. Lips to the flute, hand to the hand-drum – let there be new rhythms. Word incarnate in the bell of a sound. Gull’s cry or child voice. And I will tell of the trembling. As no other has known it so shall it be. Word upon which and from which. Bell’s treble also. Sea-surf in some soft curving. As it was in the. Beginning! Beginning! Ah, but surely this is day’s grandeur also? Antigone’s cry (We are Roman or Greek in our circumstances and choices). Audibility of my song to child and gull. Word: a fount, baptisms. By water transformed. Thus to the sea of language I go. Where even as I walk my heels make music (And in the echo dwells the echo of an echo) Refute that! Or embrace it unto your betterment. Sweet gulls of joy sing to me. And from the mothering surf…That in a word…After echo on the air. Audible.


That unto us be these things of the world. And unto the world be these acts of ours. The act, the subtle gesture dormant in the unspoken and unmoved. The act: see it as a theatre of the mind. I have adhered, I have performed. Priestly in gestures and modes yet secular to my companions. Already they gather about me-and I see them gathered. Yes, unto me be these things of the world. O sires of Sion, o children of the transubstantiation! You also within the compass of my mind. Forefathers of cunning, I am not less than you would have me be. In the flesh sir, in the flesh. As aforetime? As aforetime so hereafter. Can it be other? –no, it cannot be other so let the usurpers tremble (I see them in their bothersome imitations). They would ride the gilded carriage but the horse has cantered: clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop: goodbye old fiend of the woe-begotten century even as the clock majestic ticks away remaining time. That unto us be this and such as yet may befall. Fall of Adam our mark yet featureless creatures abide. Slow tide of the mothering sea.  Old graces and new worlds. So let me contradict myself even to the millionth part of the smallest decimal point: clip-clop, clip-clop. My subtle gestures as counter-command to the waves. I am young Angus again. See me ride the dolphins of my desire. O sea see me! A gesture and a subtle word. Chain-linkage of the mind. My mind. No other to be mine. In the flesh sir, in the flesh. Incarnation and annunciations. Like a figure wandering out of El Greco into a Breugel setting to wander back again. A reply sir, a reply! Mythos of an island. Sailors. Fisher-folk. The nets that I have cast against those nets that there be transubstantiation! (forgive my exclamations). Land stories also. Hero with a crow on his shoulder or the dying gaul with his sword beneath him (not under a stone). Termination of the race. New race begun: tick-tock, tick-tock. Gull and wave – sweet weaves of time as might be sung in a song (I will be that singer). The transubstantiating sea. And a gull’s arabesque-hail mystery of craft and flight. Unto me be these things of the day. Choir of the day my reply sir, my reply. Alpha, alpha, alpha.











Martin Burke was born in Ireland but for the past 27 years he has lived in Brugge, Belgium .

He was active in the poetry scene in Ireland in the early 70’s with poetry published in the Stony Thursday Book (Limerick ), New Irish Writing ( Dublin ) and New poetry ( Cork ).

On the move to Belgium poetry ceased and it is only in the past four years that it has once again returned. Since then he has published several books and has developed a style of writing that draws on the visionary poets of the total poetic tradition and this is one that allows him to bridge the gap between the written and the spoken – a development that culminated in the publication of KINGS-five poems for the theatre.

Indeed theatre is also a great love of his and he is in the process of setting up the Kosmos Theatre Group – a bilingual theatre group (English and Flemish) – in Brugge.


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