On the Eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (2012)

  1. Ultra montane

Fête des Lumières, Lyon

Rhône-red, the city fits in strobe
Light, shaking sky’s pressured snow globe.
       Snite-stung night fell,
Trains slattering Mary’s mordell:
Vézelay, Beaune. Shunned farmhouses
Flicker, each a votive cierge
             Whose smoke rouses
       Our summed Vierge.

The mufti-seminarist prays
(Office opened, unread): ‘Dark, blaze
       Your expressive
Silent score. Night-glare – oppressive
Cocoon of light – smother our wants.’
Irenic town Waldo’s pauper
       Maquis fled flaunts
       Its showstopper,

Gobsmacker splurge, spree of treacled
Bulbs. Feting your never equalled
       Matritude cost
Less than they owed you, ocelot
-Eyed Lady without spots. And still
The city burghers milk your feast,
       Clochards stoop-swill
       The gobs of waste.
Oy, vey! Ray, Gina, Che: low rum!
Big Sligo lad slaps every bum
       Note, Herod’s out
Music’s sleek innocence; devout
Brothers in Belfast say compline
As Harry Clarke’s eldritch stained glass
       Disordains tin
       Gods, bulls of brass. 

Was he a wonder, holy show
-Man? Summoned to a French pow-wow
         On B.V.M.
‘They’ll mitre you,’ (his bros). He them:
 ‘Rusticissimus sum,’ demurred.
      Stilted mantids flash through the foule.
             Gaulish wormwood
       Froths on his soul:

Resigned ambition, hamstrung lust.
A crowd face – a girl, her high-trussed
       Crown of sorrel
Hair parting light. There’s no quarrel
Here moved against themes the dogma
Molly-coddles, nonsenses sin.
       Look, my old Ma!
       Your fry spews in

-candescent: ‘Is that it? Quel blague!’
‘I’ve not seen as bad since the plague.’
        ‘Sac’bleu, don’t throw
Up that andouille!’ The great rondeau
Of Alps, extra-terrene, dorsal,
School to where he won’t follow: Rome,
       God’s own borstal,
       Mystery’s home.  





For Daniel and Clara


It seemed as though Murugan’s peacock screamed,
a comet trailing its tail somewhere
unseen leaving a few broken quills
in the grass, mad-eyed, fern-fronded.
Bats parabolised in the cypresses;
your Gold Flake smoke curled
into the tensile brawn of the silent many-armed night.


Sunflash momentarily stunning
on the kepi of the Pondi bobby,
sixty strokes of midnight passed
and not just strokes: innumerable
moves pulled, palms oiled, Reds
tape-strangled, businesses mined
by the Goonda Raj. Also marks
great Mary, how she bangled up
to Heaven accompanied by filmi
softly redubbing Apirāmi Antāti,
backdropped by the Jesuit baroque.
The Haussmannite boulevards empty
but for wild dogs, loping afraid of sun,
shoulders like tentpoles; a bigwig convoy
closing the road either late or an airy fiction
of the moustachios waxed to horsefly green,
his lathi-lollipop escort through the accelerant
dust to the other side only when he glimpsed
I was of that victim race, that verdant blood
that ran in Dane, MacDonnell and O’Dwyer.


Chisels denting Time, the long game,
the undeterred march of the elephants
to that royal appointment gyres keep.
Apprentices hawk their stone trinkets,
descendents of brown-eyed Chalukyas
Mahendravarman, the art-maven king,
lured across the parallel. Each Ganesh,
each bald egg of stone eye finished near
-perfect, but by beauty’s love or fear?


Keep en pointe,
Blessed Arjun, your
mind on wars as your
pink granite skin
silvers over.
The starveling heaven
rumbles at such displays, though gossip
rags tut-tut-yum-yum at your anorexic
legs. At your feet
a tabby brindled
with scutellae
 of mosses
mocks your
pose, pas de
chats, archimime
of holy saddos.
I hate and am like
this cat, his charivari
hoping to
will tumble
into your grammar.



[Karl O'Hanlon was born in Belfast and educated at Queen's University. He completed his MA as a Fulbright scholar at Georgetown University, Washington DC, before starting a PhD at York. He is co-editor of Eborakon, a poetry magazine based at the University of York. ]

Copyright © 2014 by Karl O'Hanlon, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.