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They're coming to collect the table I'm writing on.
They texted a while ago to say they were leaving a suburb four miles south.
Midweek, early evening:
traffic should be light.
I thought of sitting here in gratitude, once more,
as long as supper lasts.
VINTAGE JOB LOT. My ad hung weeks unanswered in the whole foods co-op.
Then yesterday they called to ask if I'd sell piecemeal.
Happily. The sun has drifted slantwise of our building.
In the back lane behind me two kitchen porters smoke in what could be Cantonese.
For six years my things have waited for the party I was always threatening to throw.
There's the door ...
They've been and gone and bought the lot!
They were tremendously sweet:
her, Flemish, full of chat;
a fiancé with beard and bearing of some prince in waiting.
They came for my table just and took a shine to everything.
We laughed and lugged it all to her employer's truck parked running in the lane,
shook hands, wished luck and hugged for heaven's sake.
I came indoors to find this notebook open on the floor beneath my broken bread.
Thank you sideboard fetched halfway across the Fens.
Thank you captain's chest,
handmade plywood bed,
mess benches from the war.
Thanks to all those friends I shipped on for a song.
Thank you rooms in shade that might yet prove to be night already happening.
Thank you echoes echoing.
I have more hope in me than I'd have ever guessed.
TRAILER PARK ÉTUDES
The nights midweek are secrets kept.
No soul on site, no signal/bars,
and zilch for company except a zillion bright disarming stars.
I'll flit through ambers, quicker, higher.
I'll break each hamlet's Stop or Yield.
I'll fix some noodles, start a fire and climb up to the topmost field.
The stars at first are sparse, unclear.
They surface in that drag between the darkened grass and stratosphere,
of powder blue and bottle green.
They blossom, thick and fast, in droves.
They pulse, in clusters, magnify.
The smoke that's my potbelly stove's frays outwards through each needle eye.
I'll head below. I'll char till dawn some apple logs down to their core.
By pewter light when stars have gone,
I'll do a bit, a little more.
You live inside its sound effects whole weeks on end: its pin machine,
its cardboard drum, its soft-boiled eggs,
its silent-running submarine.
It's like the god of liquid rub-
ber stirred at dawn to slip downstairs and sip a cigarette, to drub his fingertips on solid layers
you poured across last summer's drought.
You love it, learn to, as it slows,
and even as you come to doubt its dribs and drabs and pigeon toes.
Forget the welcome rain outstayed.
For days the leaves are parchment sheet and wind hangs chimeless in the shade.
Still rain remains the point of heat.
The rain is near. Like everything,
it's best those seconds just before:
the broadleaf's backwards canvas sling,
the fly strip flapping through the door.
The wind's this ancient bloke below who chunters 'we', who wheezes 'us',
though no one else will come or go.
You want to ask the wind 'Who's us?'
but hold your tongue till, in your head,
the wind and him have somehow mixed,
the type of wind that loves a shed and banging on of things not fixed:
a belt-and-braces year-round wind,
a kiln-dried cobwebbed hardwood wind,
a greenhouse wind, a treebound wind,
an end-of-season car-boot wind,
a padlocked shower unit wind,
an upturned wheelie dumpster wind,
a channel not quite tuned-in wind,
a hollow flight-path thunder wind,
a dog-eared wind, a knocked sign wind,
a spouseless phantom ocean-blown autumnal graveyard Scots pine wind who speaks in plurals, moves alone.
One night last June, in cups, in love with pickled gin from bubbly flutes,
our clothes in coils about the stove,
we climbed the dark in birthday suits.
It's true! The grass was mown that day.
Like hippies chained in meadow flowers,
we tripped above the cut and lay in blades of petrol suede for hours.
We listened to the lowing black.
We giggled, kissed. We possumed dead.
We woke as flesh and straggled back like beasts for parlor, dressed, then read.
We trafficked grass in bedspreads, shoes,
and never spoke of that again through winter's interregnum blues,
of being spooked by skin, of when
the only care we had was grass,
the only stir for miles around our freezing bones, our clinking glass,
our dying to be rumbled, found.
to what do we owe this most recent
inkling? An indoors offshore gust?
Or air displaced by a practice
swing in gloaming?
I know this much: it comes to us, to life
that is. I get now how the still point comes to life and we've
but to wait.
better than never,
come to life.
TWO THOUSAND AND NINE
The purchase of a triplex repo goes through.
The postgrads upstairs worship Remain in Light.
My father has four years still to squander.
'And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on ...'
There's a mattress on cement painted cream.
There's comfort in the chants and footfalls of away fans from Bavaria, the Basque,
like horses wild in the lane beside my head.
At any one time I've a rice kilo, a cider flagon.
I've stopped hearing the extractor vents of the dim sum buffets and teppanyaki grills.
My son and daughter wish to be told the truth.
Easter is deafening. Our early bird is black.
There's another person, whose magic number their old man is. I must wait to be contacted.
They leave. For months we're hardly speaking.
My proximity to my father is not invisible to me.
Bank or flight crashes? I win driftwood online,
wend across the Fens and lose all bearings home.
'And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on ...'
Like one interrupted repeatedly mid-stream I say 'Where was I?' to reduced-to-clear shelves,
parking spaces, the letterboxes' pigeon traps,
the map of a campus farce on my big wall.
Such exiles as one becomes an epicurean of,
industrial backwaters as one seems drawn to,
hurt no less for having no one else to blame!
My mezzanine rings. Too out on a limb not to,
I have phone sex with a pantry in Lincoln,
a limo in Virginia, a cubicle in Brighton.
Death-threats and pity pints are equal friends.
My past life was in town and asking for me.
A GLASS OF WATER
I pour a glass of water for myself.
I watch what greys it gathers from the room.
It's not to drink. I want the wanting of a glass and water sleep can come between.
The glass of water sits there half the year.
Its level drops. Its bubbles bloom and burst.
I get the glass of water's hardly you,
and still I rise to mouthing arid toasts:
to hunger, thirst; to bliss that goes without;
to love abstained, the lull until the flood;
to near enough to touch it hurts, and not;
all windblown wishes, thistles in a field.
I tilt the glass of water to my lips.
I hold like this, before the wanting stops.
THE SWIMMING POOL
has a bamboo pergola, a film of tarp. It belongs exclusively to the half- brother's portion of the hill. Ulrich. Ulrich is territorial and seldom present. Should Ulrich present himself, the brief says, tease remotely. Make it seem all and sundry has been dipping in his absence. A gecko flickers the brickwork. An ass bellows vespers. Just when it seems something so prosaic could never come to pass, Ulrich's people-carrier is in the courtyard, his shutters open and vietato l'ingresso obstructs his access. Nothing fazes him. Not birdsong mimicked. Not draped towels. Not even the specter, face it, of his sister's tenant treading the cobbles in flipflops and little else. The air fills with children yelping. The night is rich with chlorine. Below, a band is playing covers in the grounds of a hotel. Does the singer know what she is singing? Or are the lyrics sounds mouthed to a beat? From the terrace downward are steps bypassing the campanile, the basins at the washroom's door, the woodshed. They yield to a public track that deadends at a circle of gates. Just before, in the verge, hangs a chain of plastic white-and-red and PRIVATA printed onto a sleeve of acetate. Here the family's land ascends. Through palm frond silhouettes, the plumbed oblongs of a caravan park abandoned around the millennium, a pine copse, the back of Ulrich's block rears into view: its shuttered oranges, its burbling deep indoors, its swimming pool's zanzara-addled gloss. The water feels room temperature, viscous, thick with floats and foam noodles. 'Hallo?' Ulrich is on his terrace. With each head-tilt, his slidescreen's opal is mirrored twofold in his frameless varifocals. Something akin to an electronic anti-algae snake times on and thrashes on the floor. Ulrich signs off, approaches. 'Buonasera please?' He is no longer whispering. A warm lungful and under. Concentrate on light, tiles of it wobbling overhead, bubbles of it slipping out. How befuddled Ulrich looks, peering into opaque black. How quiet it is. How clear things get. Drink light in. It is as good as human. The light is all but flesh and blood.
MY FATHER HANGS AROUND THE HOUSE FAR MORE
My father hangs around the house far more now he's dead.
He has even quit the hooch.
No white-knuckle ride this time,
no chaining pots of tea to knock a hole in some unslakeable thirst.
One day he just stopped.
You have to respect that.
He keeps the place immaculate.
Also, there's no more plámás or endless ready-salted yarns.
Now, his words happen the way remote islands happen to be surrounded by silent sea.
He is, in fact, every inch the guy I've always fantasized being.
Granted, the attic clattering at all hours got a bit much.
He claims he was looking for a ball sliced onto Laytown Strand decades before I was born.
I had only to raise it once.
Since that once? Not a peep.
He's been devouring Anna Karenina for weeks.
He says the difference of emphasis in the original is really striking.
Maybe I'm missing something.
Last I checked, Russian wasn't one of his languages,
he hadn't read any of the translations and realism in general was never his speciality.
Still, it brings out a glimmer of his old self.
After every chapter, he slaps it shut and paces the rug with fists balled in his slacks' back pockets and with that smile and wild faraway look in his eyes he always had between placing a bet and the race.
'Some girl that Anna,' he laughs, 'some madam that Karenina.'
He is clearly oblivious as to how it ends.
No way he's hearing it from me.
I'm nostalgic for Chorlton-cum-Hardy Golf Club.
I know! Nostalgia's weird like that.
The good stuff, you forget.
There was a huge elm behind the last, like from a story.
All the members had mohawks, including OAPs.
Or is that just me and memory being faulty
and fanciful? Possibly. Why did I never play?
I dropped you, saw your oneball off and spun away.
Too plot-lost, fogbound, forty
I was. What a silly moo! Forgive me.
It's possible too I was spinning out even then to meet nostalgia circling back inevitably
to this and Chorlton-cum-Hardy of all places,
where a city we lived in frays on pylon, Mersey,
an airport's shimmering acres,
arriving as late as always to fetch among such miscellaneous shadows my only son,
asked too often to belong.
My fiancée's ex had this crazy aunt.
The grand-progeny of two first-cousin unions,
her craziness (since blood will out)
saw her knitting roadkill she laid then on the verge.
Badgers mostly: their organs unfurled, their little faces startled.
There is no allegory at play,
nor can we attest to the verisimilitude of her art.
We say this only that its truth be handed down.
Knitted roadkill, they'll ask, is that a thing?
It is now.
A DECADE OF THE ROSARY FOR GERRY COONEY
Is it me, or do we seem marooned interminably in 1982? ... our trespasses as ...
We're upright, deskside, commencing final period with a decade of the rosary that Gerry Cooney —
deliver us from evil — wins a crown tonight.
There will follow a quiz on humanism.
Cicero wrote law. Petrarch worshipped Laura,
from 'afar'. He never laid a glove on her.
Gerry Cooney's left cross drops like logs felled on Long Island ... and blessed be the fruit ...
She was promised to some important count when he glimpsed her after mass in Avignon.
We offer prayers of forgiveness, love,
that a chap none of us has set eyes on
(who may be our history master's cousin)
thump lumps out of a Larry we've heard less of.
This before a grilling on the origins of atheism.
Any wonder we're flagging off message?
Erasmus was born in Rotterdam ... now and at the hour ...
Mr. Cooney leaves slack from one bead to the next to plead: 'Come on, men, make an effort.'
... ever shall be world without ... Whither its end?
A fat kid on the shortcut home behind the brewery who already worships 'afar' and hopes too much?
I already hope too much and hope's opaque:
black folds in Gerry Cooney's emerald silk,
an ocean's lag between tomorrow morning,
the veil that's shading Laura's face from view.
WHERE KIMONOS GO TO DIE
My words are speaking about me behind my back.
I'm sure of it.
that gradual inexorable molecule
-by-molecule outward dilution of pigment.
Only last week, early birds,
we mused about the name of that hockey star who fell nose-first at face-off,
whose blood entered the ice's fabric.
It never came to us.
By buzzer the whole rink had dyed flamingo.
Where kimonos go to die all doors are gooseberry and loaded with springs.
Stationery is the new snow,
gathering in drifts no nib's squid sullies.
One tiptoe into the parchment backdrop mountain range can symbolize a hundred miles.
Some belong. Some are honored guests.
Some of us, a gloved hand raised,
will leave most worms splitting the bill and turn into wind.
i The roofers are hooked on drivetime flint gritstone claystone chert
up and down the boulevard their shadows
I am scaffolded in for now
ii It gets in bones honey-coats leaves porous amber sandstone siltstone salt
there are times when all the world's asleep
I am groggy on sentiment
iii on cliché's hungover rust-belt sediment chalk greywacke mudstone marl
the things that are said when lovers touch
I am parked all month on the street
iv Soft rock from scaffold footsteps overhead gypsum conglomerate feldspar till
and if the wind is right you can sail away
I am bound to feel what others feel
HIS LAST LEGS
Relics of old decency. Mourning too. Terrible comedown, poor wretch! Kicked about like snuff at a wake. O'Callaghan on his last legs.
— James Joyce
6.236 His Last Legs (London, 1839) is the title of a brief and once-popular two-act farce by the American William Bayle Bernard (1807–75). The charlatan hero of the farce is the stage-Irishman, Felix O'Callaghan, who, as the play opens, is "shabby genteel" and down on his luck. Once a landed gentleman and "reigning star of Cheltenham," he has for ten years been the "football of Fortune," a failure at everything he has touched.
Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's Ulysses, Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman (University of California Press, 1988)
The curtain pulls back. My little son and daughter. There's a man. A man? I turn the shower off, wrap round, step out. Says he's your dad. They are on the edge of the mattress in their pajamas. Wait there.
Jimmy has his back to our fire. 10am. He is between the port's early house and serving hours up the town.
You're not welcome. I am holding our door open with one hand, my towel in place with the other. You know you're not. I am leaving wet footprints everywhere. Let's go.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Live Streaming"
Copyright © 2018 Conor O'Callaghan.
Excerpted by permission of Wake Forest University Press.
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