‘Poem for Oscar with Stars in it’ by Kevin Graham

Poem for Oscar with Stars in it

Hoisted in the high chair of my arm – all bum and elbows
and chocolate ice-cream hands – you point a finger up at the fluid
night sky and say star. We’re on the porch of your uncle’s house,
on one of the year’s fledgling days, a couple of briquettes buzzing
nicely in an old barbeque. Leaning forward, you wet your fist
and try to blow them out from ten feet away, as though they were
birthday candles. The fizzing pylon looming overhead won’t stop
falling in my mind into the tender hub of our after-dinner party.
Sparks fly and catch in the fleeting nightmare, then recede.

Out here, in this Finnish-timber retreat, this otherworldly
stillness, we could be anywhere: Donabate, Tromsø, Chiang Mai.
The sea whispers beyond the bushes, dragging its enormous haul
back and forth between our listening ears. The flowing wine
has purpled my teeth and I must appear to you as a zombie,
you who toss your hair back suddenly and spot Jupiter kindling
in its hard-silvered light, make a purring sound and turn
to face me with all the wonder the world hopes you never lose,
and say again – in a voice that leaves before you know it – star.
(first published in The Stinging Fly, Summer 2014)
Kevin Graham is from Dublin, Ireland. His poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies. He was selected for the 2012 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and was shortlisted for a 2014 Hennessey Literary Award. He was featured poet in the summer 2014 issue of The Stinging Fly and is currently working towards his first collection. A chapbook Traces has been published by Smithereens Press and is available to download. Twitter @kevcgraham

Two poems by Ben Parker


There is a type of bird whose mating call comes
not from its throat but the inside of its egg.
So, while the female’s shell lodges the lives
of feathered embryos, the male’s encloses air.

When it is laid the casing dries and shrinks
and the carefully uneven surface starts to crack,
releasing the first note as a signal, its pitch levelled
perfectly to reach the ears of the intended mate;

then each fault-line breaks in sequence and the slow
unstitching gifts its song. About a minute in
enough pressure is still contained to sound
a harmony of chords, which either achieve their aim

or break the casing and the bird must wait
another year to pair. And with so much depending
on success, some island variants lay their eggs
on mountain tops or cliffs to catch the April winds.

On high-points such as these it has been known
for females to keep a vigil lasting weeks, and if
the weather holds its course the rocks in June
are still obscured by hunched attentive listeners.

(first published in The White Review April 2012 as an earlier version)

Allotments. Shattered chimney stacks.
A black bag tangled like a crow
in the leafless tree. As you walk

beyond the last of the deserted
red-brick factory buildings
the city rusts around you. The river

thins to a stream that could be forded
by a fallen branch. This is a place
of past tenses, an archaeology

of skeletal bikes, single gloves
and bleached cans of beer
the supermarkets no longer stock.

Spent matches hint at flame on flesh.
The rituals of childhood. Something
small and broken in the grass.

(First published in Popshot October 2013)
Ben Parker‘s debut pamphlet, The Escape Artists, is published by tall-lighthouse and was shortlisted for the 2013 Michael Marks Award.