Self-Portrait with a Squirrel
for Adam Zagajewski
I have worked for twenty years
on how to avoid work. Since succeeding
I have been studying time slipping
through my fingers. I love the first person
singular, begin all sentences with an I.
I am engaged to Silence and gods know
it couldn not be anyone else.
At thirty-two I learnt I was intelligent,
at thirty-six I walked hand in hand with a man,
at forty-three I heard I was beautiful.
The only job I could do would be the one
where I am its object. My hobby is
to photograph dead squirrels. Often I ponder
on the biggest mystery of life – why people smile.
I enjoy staring at my shadow.
I try to believe in my inner cosmos.
In the meadows I pick flowers
which remember I used to adore them.
The book I take from the deserted islet
is in my head. Like Irving Layton
I discovered that everything
except writing poems and making love
bores me. On Fridays I openly share
my thoughts for fifty minutes, on Skype.
It costs me fifty euro each time.
Twice a week I give a howl of frustration
in the park. If I meet someone after that
I am the first to ask about the screams.
In my country you can receive two weeks in jail
for lovemaking under the stars.
Sometimes I wonder how much you can get
for being caught using a condom.
The poem was commended in 2018 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine
by Mark Doty, Peter Goldsworthy and Carol Rumens
From the West Coast
Dear Father, the weather here is impermanent.
What they call a glorious day is only a glorious split second.
Umbrellas are useless unless you want to fly. People ask me
how I am but do not stop to listen to the answer.
They thank me at the most unexpected times. They eat late
at night and wonder why they get beer bellies. After drinking
they mark their territory by spewing here and there. Aggression
and verbal abuse towards staff of the Emergency Department
will not be tolerated.
The paper says males here are among the ugliest in the world,
just behind the Poles. And they are short. For ten lines of
a letter of recommendation from Doctor Fahy I will have to sleep
with him once: for fifteen, I must have sex with him twice.
People call towers castles, hills mountains and greens parks.
Girls put headbands on their bums. Men wear sandals to match
their black suits at the dinner gala. Today’s lecture on art started
twenty minutes later than it should have, though most people
had still to arrive. The sign in a shoe shop in Upper Abbeygate
reads Leather is not a waterproof material.
Many houses do not have numbers and if it happens that they do
it is difficult to locate a sign with the street name. There are
no woods in the area. People say it is because of the English.
There are only a few bus stops in the countryside. If you are lucky
to find one, there is no timetable on it. Buses are delayed.
This is not how I imagined my death.
Published in THE SHOp, The Irish Times and the anthology Writing Home by Dedalus Press
What I Love About the World is its Roundness
after Edwin Morgan
what I hate about the sun is its indiscrimination
what I love about a snowstorm is its distant view
what I hate about lowlands is their sluggishness
what I love about the bread of life is its sourdough
what I hate about diamonds is their near future
what I love about my hand being kissed is the promise
what I hate about six o’clock is it is always too late
what I love about love is it’s almost translucent
what I hate about hate is it does not go mouldy
what I love about hate is its self-advertisement
what I hate about love is its patinated silver bars
what I love about early mornings are their wings
what I hate about philosophy is its promiscuity
what I love about my precious life is its third act
what I hate about my mind-mate is her absence
what I hate about earthlings is their love for woods
what I love about a throne is my inner child sitting there
what I hate about my tongue is its wrong timing
what I love about dancing tango is their scent
what I hate about the abyss is its hospitality
what I love about him is his seeing my voice
what I hate about you is it takes you so long
Originally published in Skylight47, Ireland
The Great Dark Spot
Someone else will have to
answer your letter.
I am busy conferring with
the expansion of the sky,
of exploding stars.
I am tired of telling you
what burns inside,
about feeding the fire
watering a single plant.
I return to myself
the centre of all beauty,
I repaint the Great Dark Spot
relocate the Asteroid Belt.
You are a page
torn out of a star atlas
rustling in the distance,
a speck of astral dust
in no one’s eye.
Someone else will have to
tell you it was not us.
Originally published in Stand, UK
To Make it Through
imagine people as little children
listening to your story.
But don’t tell your story –
widows and orphans first.
Sweeten crumbs with sporadic smiles.
Nod. Always stay in line.
Picture others as sick youngsters,
their hair catching fire,
yourself as mother. Don’t turn away
while being complimented.
Show enthusiasm for invites
but crackle inwardly.
Breathe through your nose. Nod.
When awake keep writing,
it could become Life in Letters to Nobody.
Walk fast, glance at your wrist,
run into a tunnel, stare at brightnes.
Originally published in Emerge Literary Journal, US