SIGHTLESSThe Sack of Madame Bovary
and The Blind Man’s Song
1. So much for rapturous embraces.
In the hotel room she unlaces
her boots, and finds a vase for the flower.
Demon lovers have had enough of her.
Sometimes a girl in the heat of the day
with dreams of love gets carried away.
Love is a sack to carry around
perfumes and nightwear. Nothing profound,
purely practical, and it has a strap
for the shoulder to swing on your back.
Her ardent fingers pluck ears of blé
Before they’re ripe and make a nosegay.
In daydreams the silks and scents suspend
in the air. Waking up’s a husband
and child. Or finding yourself alone
with a billet doux. Time to go home.
And leaning over the garden wall
where all the young men are playing ball,
You empty out the sack on the bed,
and try it on, worn over your head.
The mirror - you’re not hoodwinked - says hold
your breath till you won’t have to grow old.
She throws to the wind her harvest gift,
which blows it back, and her short skirts lift...
2. You saw yourself as the heroine,
in a true romance, the deathbed scene.
But your last breath came with a wild laugh.
A ribald ditty, your epitaph.
Before the blind man began to sing
racked by rat’s bane, gangrene set in.
No time for tender looks. The child’s cry
said it all. An ugly way to die.
‘Tread softly on my beloved wife.’
The words on your tomb weren’t true to life.
Poor Charles sees you crumble to dust
in his arms, and follow you he must.
3. Berthe now works in a cotton mill,
spinning out her life at the wheel,
weaving into sackcloth the coarse thread
to bag ripe corn for her daily bread.
Sink into the bath,
and hear the crying.
It belongs to no one.
Come up again,
and hear the wind
in the mountains.
It belongs to nowhere.
once more. The human
is silent. The wind
has dropped. Listen
to what’s between
the nature of things,
and peace of mind.
It clears the air.
The child in your lost look is hoping
to be good in others’ eyes, a faint
longing for approval. The broken
promise in life is not your complaint.
As a little girl you were spoken
for by your father. Though a saint,
his love could not protect you. The seal
of death was on him. The same disease
you have now. It’s not hard done you feel
but complicit, with a wish to please,
and be pleased. I can no more conceal
who I am not than you can find peace
in false hopes. Nobody is to blame.
I reflect but can’t meet your appeal.
The saint on a bicycle,
halo on a dayglo stick
attached to the saddle.
It doubles as a light, flick-
ers at night. Celestial
music is the warning bell.
And you don’t have to pedal.
Freewheel works uphill as well.
The wings a windbreak, or fold
to take the weight off the back.
Unlike angels, saints grows old,
and have bones. So wings don’t flap.
They serve as a wetwear wrap
should the cloud break and there’s rain.
Braking’s attained by praying.
Madame Disaster Waiting To Happen
The stout woman who smokes the cigars
has broken her other arm again.
She walks into potholes, motorcars…
This time she blames it on the men,
and fustigates against maladroits
(‘Don’t know banana skins from dog crottes’).
The plaster won’t stop her shaking hands,
holding the grip till the legs go dead.
I’m not going to give her a chance
to try to sling me over her head,
and fall over herself with laughter.
And so I wave and keep my distance.
Fist shake. There’s daggers in her glance.
She’s an unrequited disaster.
How to Write a Prize Winning Irish Poem
Close to the ground but not to the grave.
The little people play the fiddle.
A hurley cut from a woodland glade.
The flies steam off the errant cattle.
I beat the wife to make her behave.
Baby Conceptua swallowed her rattle.
My bubble of self-belief’s champagne.
Instead of a blind
musician or deaf
shoemaker, I’ve gone
for a deaf
musician and a blind
a dud ear
Lightning in the eyelid
in the bowels.