Blesok no. 48, May-June,2006

Answering Machine

Pat Boran

Answering Machine

A flashing light will mean I’m not alone.
A moment later maybe I’ll hear your voice,
or that of a stranger, or the sound
of someone somewhere having second thoughts

and hanging up. But at least I’ll know it means
that someone thinks about me, now and then,
and whoever they prove or do not prove to be,
at least there is a sort of consolation

in the fact that they send a gift of light,
a sign to welcome me on my return.
You are not alone, it will say, first thing,
the green light of the answering machine.

Or else: how desperate you’ve become
for love, the glimmer of surprise,
alone there in the doorway of your room
like a man before an endless, starless sky.

The Living Room

A one-time philatelist I’d kept the glass,
never one to allow anything which brought
the minute into view to pass.

Enthusiastic and in my prime,
I’d magnify the tiniest mass
ten, a hundred, a thousand times.

Huge were the rings of wood, the whirl
of fingertips, the amoeba’s mime.
Still, the lure of something minuscule.

When the glass failed, my will
persisted towards the molecule,
the atom magnified to fill

a cathedral, angels singing around
electrons, protons, the invisible
neutrinos. Even still, these sounds:

a candle sputtering in the gloom,
a fly declining solid ground,
you chuckling in the living room.


I believe in a moment where things
come into themselves and everything
before and after is a kind of fading.
I believe, most days, in words
(as I might in diamonds) but
I try them between my teeth before I buy them.

I believe in truth, insofar
as it is a word with an almost
infinite number of synonyms
(though I can seldom think of any
and, when I can, am inclined to think
they’re probably just something I’ve invented).

On a more sanguine note
I believe I may be dangerous
(to myself as much as to others),
inclined as I am to self-belief—
and this despite the evidence—
though when alone I’m known to compromise.

I believe in making deals,
in foreign influence, new ideas,
in changing minds, too—my own especially.
I believe in love and sex
and children, if they believe
in me. But this could be wishful thinking.

Truths and Rights? Well, these few here
appear self-evident, as they say:
life and the various pursuits.
Otherwise known as loss.
This I believe the ultimate truth:
the liberty to permit oneself to lose.

In the roundness of the planet
(for practical purposes), in life and art
as electromagnetic waves across the surface.
Of something unknown. This I believe.
And in this planet in my absence,
despite Berkeley’s seductive philosophy.

In the future, therefore, though English
has evolved no tense for it
as if somehow doubting its existence.
So it would seem that I believe
against the odds, against words.
But I believe. Witness my belief.

I believe in things other,
things external, in history,
but in something like its opposite too:
a time unmeasured by events,
where clocks are works of naive art
like milk bottles left out beneath the moon.

I believe in a kind of Zen that says
dim the light to find the stars,
and in the little doll, the pupil, of the eye.
In rhyme, sometimes. I like the slow
almost wary fall of a word to its echo,
but I also like half-pairs, surprise—

And yet some warning might have helped
to make it easier when you left
last week. Though equally it might not.
If life’s a relay, not a race,
doesn’t that somehow help to explain
why progress is so often felt as loss?

Always back to loss. Still I believe
it is the handshake that makes the best
and most positive symbol of the human
(though I also rate the kiss
and, in recent times, the Mexican wave;
superstrings, not cause-and-effect chains).

In short (and what else is there?)
I believe the only real prayer
is a list, not of requests but of beliefs;
and this phenomenon of naming
is just another form of breathing
that reminds me how to be and how to leave.


       i.m. Michael Hartnett

The desk calendar on its last leaves.
In the lampshade a tiny spider weaves
a winter shroud.
The sky is a single cloud
darker still to the west.
The skull of a martin’s nest
grins in the eaves.

A Box of Keys

A box the size of a small suitcase.
It was the buildings he’d misplaced.

A Natural History of Armed Conflict

The wood of the yew
made the bow. And the arrow.
And the grave-side shade.

The Engine

With a four-sided aluminium key
and one hand clamped around the wheels
to hold them still, I hold my breath
and wind the engine of the small grey train.

I am five or six years old and I wind
for the soft creaking of the spring,
for the pull of these four small wheels
like the heart-throb of some living thing.

Later when I carve my name in wood
or later again stub out cigarettes
it will be with this same motion, but for now
I wind to be here, beside myself,

and with the last possible, last permissible turn
to release the perfect single ping
then watch as the engine heads out with the news,
a thing beyond me, a thing singing.

A Man Is Only As Good…

A man is only as good
as what he says to a dog
when he has to get up out of bed
in the middle of a wintry night
because some damned dog has been barking;

and he goes and opens the door
in his vest and boxer shorts
and there on the pock-marked wasteground
called a playing field out front
he finds the mutt with one paw

raised in expectation
and an expression that says Thank God
for a minute there I thought
there was no one awake but me
in this goddamned town.

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