Peter O’ Neill
When we were legion, nesting crows
Signalled our departure from the bay,
At Drumnagh. Now to strike out North,
With a determined march, our blood up.
It was the month of Mars, warlike we came,
The blood pumping clearly in our veins.
Our centurion sang a marching song,
Which we returned to let the enemy know.
The Roman eagle had come. And our ranks
Were full of both novice and veteran.
For Servius it was his first campaign.
He marched with equal parts of fear and
Wonder. And when someone cried, “ Aquilam!”
We watched it soar high above us, as one.
On Charon’s skiff we boarded, eight men
In, our contubernium, set off
From Deva Victrix in LXXXII,
At Agricola’s bidding. Mare
Hibernium! Us, but a lone cohort
Set sail to consolidate the
Trading post at Drumanagh promontory,
And to ascertain the strength of the
People there. Our blood was up
With the flush of success during our
Wars in Caledonia. Agricola
Wanted to consolidate our position,
And extend the empire into places unknown.
All in the month of Mars, god of war.
mille passum… unmolested, we marched.
Till one of the immunes, an engineer,
Placed the first wooden marker to denote
The first M paces, counting both feet.
Such is how empires begin, people
Forget. Built on the strenght and power
Of two small feet, multiplied by D.
All synchronised, and marching in pairs.
Such momentum. Servius looked down
Briefly at his cuneiforms, bare to
The air. The rest of his foot sandal
Bound. He but a single unit of this
Century. Two hundred feet on the move.
Armour and shield all making a noise.
VIIII. The Ban-Gaisgedaig
My trick in battle was to bewitch men.
Throw back a cape, expose a breast,
While putting a firm foot forward.
It stopped countless in their tracks.
More fool them! For instead of feeling
The gentle warmth of my bosom,
The swift thrust of raw iron would be
Upon them, penetrating to the core.
Flesh ripped, bones crushed. After the
Shock they would scream like skewered
Pig. Then, limp and passive, quickly fall.
Sometimes their privates exposed, members
Erect and wet, having shot their final load.
I then a metaphor, encompassing both sex and death.
we came at them with chariot
driving our horses out from the woods
we had been surveying them all the while
weighed down with armour and belongings
you could see full on terror in their eyes
as soon as we broke out screaming
firing spear and lance at them
I put an iron shaft through one’s throat
the full force of a horse behind it
the neck bone snapped in an instant
warm blood spurted every way
soon we were all covered in it
fighting for our very lives
especially us women
matter aligned with the apparent
weightlessness of cloud from which are emitted
like cooling moisture a disinterested harmonisation
topological shifts which come about
with the relentlessness of unseen and
random atomisation, paradigms
of existent yet invisible
organisms which co-exist alongside
of us day to day inebriating
visions of breath as yet to be even forecast
and which can inhabit the minute groove
of your index or forefinger terrain
so vast and intractable so as to
send one leaping back at once to the overtly
The Aristotelian notation,
The coded speak of things, their enigma.
Constantly returning to ground zero,
All bibliographies awash in
Tabula rasa. The polished
Becoming again, birth and death
Found in each consummate engagement.
For example, the skyward burst of
The ulmus uncovering its opaca,
Chimera waywardly looking on the
Horizon. Roman oars dipping out into
The bay of Loughshinny. The singing
Alliteration of rain, its drops
Dripping in pools of words, now at sea.
At the Writing Table in the Boathouse
Bars of light cover the notebook
Page, once inside your new cell.
Gull bicker and shriek, down by the pier.
A lone van is parked by the fishing boats.
Martello, then, straight ahead, over on
The promontory of Drumanagh, where
Apparently the Roman post, or fort,
Was stationed. British mimic again
pater familis. Above the strand,
The cliff of folded limestone rings
The perimeter like an amphitheatre.
A couple with bucket journey toward
You, bearing crab, shrimp, mere worm, or shell fish?
The trace of their footprint visible still.
The fell voices on the air, filling it
with empty skulls dressed up in
gosameer. Ulysses standing with
his back to the mast, listens to their
enchanting melodies, playing over
him. Tapping his foot to the beat of the
plaintive rhythm, which he has heard time
and time again, and as he listens further
he relaxes more and more, leaning now
against the wooden post, with a wry smile
upon his face, seeing again the images
of all the women he has ever known.
Their faces and bodies swirling into the
ether, never to be seen by him again.
Peter O’ Neill is the author of six collections of poetry, the latest two being Divertimento, The Muse is a Dominatrix ( mgv2>publishing, France, 2016 ) and Sker ( Lapwing, Northern Ireland, 2016 ). He was born in Cork in 1967, though lived in France for almost a decade an experience which was to have a profound effect on his writing. His Dublin Trilogy ( 2000 – 2015) comprising of The Dark Pool, Dublin Gothic and The Enemy, Transversions from Charles Baudelaire has been gathering great praise in reviews. Most recently, the poet Michael S. Begnal wrote in Trumpet , Poetry Ireland, of The Dark Pool ( mgv2>publishing, France, 2015 ), calling it a “unique achievement.”