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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
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JOHN McAULIFFE

 

 

John McAuliffe photo

 

John McAuliffe was born in 1973 and grew up in Listowel, Co Kerry and now lives in Manchester. He won the RTÉ Poet of the Future award in 2000 and received a major Arts Council Bursary for first book A Better Life, which was shortlisted for a Forward Prize in 2002; Next Door was published in 2007. His third collection, Of All Places was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2011 and his fourth collection, The Way In, is just out. He teaches poetry at the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester, where he also edits the Manchester Review and writes the regular poetry column for The Irish Times.

 

 

 

______

 

 

At a Concert

Montevideo

 

______

 

 

       At a Concert

‘Throughout the ravishing sestet he composed poems.’ – Richard Outram

 

 

He reaches for a scrap of paper as the crowd files in,

fumbling it out of an overcoat beneath the flip-up seat.

The quartet, in their appointed places, tune up: he keeps

to himself the feeling this might be the part

 

he will enjoy the most. Tall, rumpled, all in black,

the composer is the image of a curate who kept him behind,

in the sacristy, one morning to count collection money. 

The arresting opening bar strikes home and he feels

 

not at all bad, singled out even, though he worries

as the counterpoint continues, if that pain

coming into focus in his right eye is a scratch, he hopes not,

or a sty, which would be painful – he turns off his phone –

 

given the week he has ahead, the flights, there and back,

seeing his family, long journeys he’d like to read through.

But the half-stripped hallway and dented car, he arches his neck,

are on his mind and he wishes this passage would end

 

as he notices the light seeming to shift behind the cellist

gathered around her instrument like a slept-in coat,

and a familiar colour shines in the half-lit front row

which he forgets, responding to the cellist’s

 

sudden frenzied relieving response to the violins’ permutations.

In Niagara once, by himself, he photographed the spray

and a boat that circled and almost tipped over, knowing

behind him stood gewgaw stalls from which he'd take something away,

 

thinking of this, as the applause starts, unprepared, eyes abrim,

someone had said, yes, there would be no interval,

so this was it, over before he was ready, and around him,

in the rustling coats, the shifting sounds of conversation.

 

 

*

 

       Montevideo

after Jules Supervielle

 

I was being born and at the window,

passing by, was the horse pulling the plough

 

in from the brightening edge of the far field,

a mosaic which tile by tile the light revealed.

 

Who was driving it? Whoever was up

woke the day with a little pop of his whip,

 

night’s other element an archipelago afloat

above the day he had started,

 

walls raising themselves from the sand and cement

and river gravel that had waited in them, sleeping tight.

 

A little bit of soul, my soul, slipped by,

along a blue rail, a line in the sky,

 

and another bit folded itself

into a sheet of paper, under sail, adrift

 

till it lodged under a stone,

its wildness caught and settled down.

 

The morning counted its birds,

never losing its place.

 

That sweet honeysuckle smell

gave itself to the morning’s blue swell.

 

In Ireland, on the Atlantic,

the air was so affable, such a tonic,

that the colours of the horizon

came closer – to see the houses we lived in.

 

It was me being born, there where the woods almost speak,

on whose paths the grass grows, surely – but not too quick;

underwater, equally, seaweed and algae bob and wave:

the wind also will fall for them, they make-believe…

 

Earth, always about to begin again its orbit,

recognises us in its atmospheric dips,

feels, in the wave and in its profoundest deeps,

the swimmer's head, the diver’s feet.

 

©2015 John McAuliffe

 

 

Author Links

 

Article about John McAuliffe including poem at Poetry Foundation

John McAuliffe at Gallery Press

More from John McAuliffe in Southword Journal

 

 

 

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