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Two Poems by Kevin Graham

Song of the Grateful Voice

 

There are a thousand doors to let out life 

Massinger, The Parliament of Love

 

It starts with nothing, maybe a voice 

bubbling from the depths, a stab 

of light in the shining dark. At night 

animals stand over the world like stone. 

The heart dozes chambered in guilt, 

afraid of what it knows. A dawn-blenched 

parcel of spray floats in the mind, 

spreads across the invisible eye of the world. 

We see the glorious wheel move 

through a suffocating blur, pin desire 

to middle distance. The rancorous finger 

of the wind whispers of Patagonia, 

carries spices, gifts of the unknown. 

What else is there but Isaiah’s coal? 

Something in the desert at midnight 

in Utah, perhaps, the sky a frame within 

a frame, a ghost within a memory 

sailing after knowledge, the honest 

idiocy of its flight. Love drips and gathers 

its dress of apple-scented wax. 

The shadow behind the curtain 

is a character from a childhood story 

in which sleep climbs through the window 

and curls up at the foot of your head. 

The ambulance comes, the ambulance goes. 

Overshadowed with grief, buildings 

crowd around another wasted life 

and someone touches the bronze knees 

of Christ. We grow like molluscs 

in marine phosphorescence, secrete 

a pearl very far away and torment 

ourselves with the meaning of its value.

Cruelty has a human face. Come lay 

a wreath on the part of the world 

you miss the most (including your body). 

Come closer, it’s not your fault. 

 

 

Song of the Childhood Voice

 

The Child is father of the Man 

– Wordsworth, ‘My Heart Leaps Up’

 

This is the honey-house woven fibre 

by fibre, a source spilling crystal clear 

reflections. We have seen it rise up out 

of nothing, seen it decorated with melancholy 

flowers. What is it about the invisible 

space that makes the past glimmer? 

Maybe it’s the nature of enclosure, how it 

shelters virtue, fortifies the awestruck 

state that can only be described in abstraction. 

The fire that shone behind our heads 

is gone. Time stops us in our runner 

tracks, makes us get down in a foot 

of snow to work out our own reasons. 

That we might drink the bubbling rim 

and leave the world unseen; that we might 

will into being what never happened, 

drink the medicine of our own scream. 

The eye of childhood fears a painted devil. 

It haunts the footsteps where we walk, 

covers the nets of day and night. 

Reality is a scrim of cold light, shaking out 

vast private caves where secrets hide 

and multiply. We shed brightness, lose 

soft skin once nourished by milk 

and fearlessness. There is lamentation 

and harmony in the leaves, understanding 

where moonlight walks across the grass. 

Touched by fate, have our angelic 

hearts turned to flaking stone? Calm down. 

Look at the sunset, how it’s like an old 

acquaintance leaving. Or the dawn, 

how it warms the breast as though through 

a looking glass. A semblance comes to life 

like bindweed or willowherb; that stack 

of helleborines glowing and jostling 

at the edge of a forest we almost recognise. 

 

 

Kevin Graham’s poems have appeared in Poetry Ireland ReviewOxford Poetry and others. He was shortlisted for a 2014 Hennessey Literary Award and is working towards his first collection.

 

 

Image credit: Beth Van Dam

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