Fund for Cultural Education and Heritage is profoundly grateful to the leading Irish Poet Mr. Ian Duhig giving us an opportunity to publish from the forthcoming ‘Selected Poems’.
On behalf of FEKT.org we are very honored and grateful for your trust.
Founding Director of FEKT.
Ian Duhig has written seven books of poetry, most recently ‘The Blind Roadmaker (Picador 2016) which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, shortlisted for the Roehampton, Forward Best Collection and TS Eliot Prizes. A former homelessness worker, Duhig still often works with socially excluded groups though now on writing projects and is currently developing a piece for Refugee Tales. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Cholmondeley Award recipient, Duhig has won the Forward Best Poem Prize once and the National Poetry Competition twice.
From the Irish
According to Dinneen, a Gael unsurpassed
in lexicographical enterprise, the Irish
for moon means ‘the white circle in a slice
of half-boiled potato or turnip.’ A star
is the mark on the forehead of a beast
and the sun is the bottom of a lake, or well.
Well, if I say to you your face
is like a slice of half-boiled turnip,
your hair is the colour of a lake’s bottom
and at the centre of each or your eyes
is the mark of the beast, it is because
I want to love you properly, according to Dinneen.
Margin Prayer from an Ancient Psalter
Lord I know, and I know you know I know
this is a drudge’s penance. Only dull scholars
or cowherds maddened with cow-watching
will ever read The Grey Psalter of Antrim.
I have copied it these thirteen years
waiting for the good bits ― High King of the Roads,
are there any good bits in The Grey Psalter of Antrim
(Text illegible here because of teeth marks.)
It has the magic realism of an argumentum:
it has the narrative subtlety of the Calendar of Oengus;
it has the oblique wit of the Battle-Cathach of the O’Donnells;
it grips like the colophon to The Book of Durrow;
it deconstructs like a canon-table;
it makes St Jerome’s Defence of his Vulgate look racy.
I would make a gift of it to Halfdane the Sacker
that he might use it to wipe his wide Danish arse.
Better its volumes intincted our cattle-trough
and cured poor Luke, my three-legged calf,
than sour my wit and spoil my calligraphy.
Luke! White Luke! Truer beast than Ciarán’s Dun Cow!
You would rattle the abbot with your soft off-beats,
butting his churns and licking salt from his armpits.
Luke, they flayed you, pumiced your skin to a wafer —
such a hide as King Tadhg might die under —
for pages I colour with ox-gall yellow …
Oh, forgiving Christ of scribes and sinners
intercede for me with the jobbing abbot!
Get me reassigned to something pagan
with sex and perhaps gratuitous violence
which I might deplore with insular majuscule
and illustrate with Mozarabic complexity
ad maiorem gloriam Dei at Hiberniae.
And lest you think I judge the book too harshly
from pride or a precious sensibility,
I have arranged for a second opinion.
Tomorrow, our surveyor Ronan the Barbarian,
will read out loud as only he can read out loud
selected passages from this which I have scored
while marking out his new church in Killaney,
in earshot of that well-versed man King Suibhne …
(Text completely illegible from this point
because of lake-water damage and otter dung.)
To the Literature Centre gifted with his name
his clapboard workshed seems miraculously flown
as angels bore the church to Holy Walsingham.
On the looped tape he is still refusing to mourn.
By Dylan Thomas Square his statue fidgets, turning from
the English chain-house steak bar and the new marina
to the sunset, where no wave breaks over his fame.
He sees through me as if I was America,
which grew a culture of his death under glass.
His daughter tells of being abandoned in her crib
in a glasshouse, watching the waves of Heinkels
he’d shown defiance to by making for the pub.
He heard unwritten children singing in the night
but when I listen, I am blinded by the light.
From the Plague Journal
I have been asked to write about our food.
I remember nights spent hulling ration-rice,
soya beans pressed dry before they got to us,
boiling black market sweetfish to hide their smell
from our Neighbourhood Monitor. We ate everything:
reed-root, pig-weed, tugwort, bar-weed ―
these may not be the scientific names.
We smuggled grated radish and bracken-sprouts
past our Neighbourhood Monitor once he started fainting,
propped beneath his Government banderoles:
‘There’s Always Space to Plant a Pumpkin!’
‘The War is Only Just Beginning!’
Later, our food became medicine:
dried fig-grubs for the incontinence;
ant-lions in sake for the headaches;
leek-leaves and cucumber for the burns.
I sold my son’s thousand-stitch belt
for peaches and eggs which I mashed and strained,
mashed and strained. Still my children died,
the last little Tadashi, setting his weasel-traps
of bamboo and abalone shells round the pond
he’d stocked with a few, tiny carp fry.
That is all I remember about our food.
Archbishop Mar Jacobus Remembers the Baron
Even the Syro-Chaldean bishopric I offered
on the strength of Hadrian VII
did not tempt Corvo. As mere Provost
to the Lieutenant of Grandmagistracy
of Sanctissima Sophia he fled
to Venice, convinced the Rhodes Trustees
were plotting his assassination.
Where else should provide a home
to the inventor of submarine photography?
I missed his inch-thick cigarettes,
gigantic Waterman fountain pens
and Graecocorvine vocabulary.
We played duets but kissed only once.
At last he denounced me as a fraud
and schismatic. I said he played the spinet
like a lobster trying to escape its pot –
after that, my overtures were useless.
For all his violence and absurdity
I warm to think of him now,
his cropped grey hair dyed with henna,
his white hand, wearing the spur-rowel ring
I gave him as defence against Jesuits
on the oar of his panther-skinned gondola
Flying the Bucintoro Rowing Club flag.
I think less of the lagoon-eyed fauns
he photographs and masturbates.
Does he think of me in Godless Middlesex,
where it either rains or they’re playing cricket?
The Syro-Chaldean Church is not doing well
despite my sigils, blazons, banners
and the undeniable splendour of our ritual.
The landlord’s wife is singing Auld Lang Syne.
This is going to be a Godless century.