‘You say I am repeating something
I have said before…
I shall say it again.
This is the spring time
but not in time’s covenant.’
– T.S. Eliot, East Coker/Little Gidding
One afternoon I woke up words
no one uses now: When Flora had ourfret
the firth, in May of every moneth queen, when
merle and mavis singis with mirth, more or less.
So when a boy said Stall on! meaning Wait up!
I was openly shocked: to have heard it said
what I would say, have been saying since
his age, is strange. It is strange that a word
may change the changed back
to someone in the world: to be smacked across the face by time
and yet resurrected by an upstart
with his gift of tongues.
Parents to ourselves, and each other
The smell of sweat under my arms
is as abusive as the priests.
Their abuser in turn
high in the gods
of the Circus, dropping a thumb-bone
on his own head – now
a re-embodied martyr who I call dad,
back to hawk on me, and my mother,
suffering who knows what,
breeds her abuser.
What a bombed-out city I walk out of – mom’s
bombed-out body after my older brother – her brush with death
mushrooming up through my stalk – I piss myself,
step out of the shelling semi and zings gradually
without my hair, and return to the baldness owed me.
All of us humbled, hubristic, floored, curled up on the floor.
A deerlike stepping with spats out of the abattoir
and buffeting into the merciful creatures we are:
altitudes starting up out of the foetal position
with our maulsticks and hogshair: our spattered screens
with everybody’s blood: the sheet growing milkish and mirroring
but no less bloody, the hole in the canvas kept.
Now my past-life’s murderousness brings me to this one-room:
my own thumb pressing me down into my patched-up trousers
and curtains, installed like a monk, living as Holbein’s skull
in its span across the ages…dressing me down
to the final floorboard – its warring colours
shooting up with the men’s hose, into the ceiling’s astrolabe:
wings that are not more than us:
our faces growing milder and milder with every wrong.
Kevin Cahill is a writer from Cork. He has previously published work with London Magazine, Stinging Fly, Manchester Review and The Edinburgh Review among other magazines. He is keeping his hopes up of finding a publisher for his debut collection.