The Co-ordinates of Fear

 

I.

The Visitor

 

Out here, fox wails strangle the dark in spring.
A warm March day means a cold March night;
moths tender their flesh to lurking bats
in the gate lamp’s glare, a winter’s hunger
in each sonic twist and swoop to kill.
We’ve watched too many Westerns of late,
their thresholds painted on my eyelids:
the savage Republican camp of Ethan
Edwards, glowering in the doorway out
of the dark into the big blue murder
of open prairie; those stunted Weimar trees
and gleaming picket fences staking the line
between love and hate where Lilian Gish
croons a hymn, and cradles close her shotgun.
On Tuesday, in the middle of the night,
a rapping like coal on the cottage door,
the dog wild with shouting at our window.
I opened the door on a thin young man;
remembering, blood thins to the temperature
of the moon, an image of a weasel’s hairpin
turn needling me. He waited in darkness
after we turned him away, and I said aloud
lines from Yeats, ‘Augusta Gregory seated
at her great ormolu table’, curtains undrawn
as dusk fanned through the seven woods of Coole.

 

 

 

II.

The Decade Ahead Roars like a Wounded Animal

 

A dead sheep’s left to fester
in the bottom field, and gulls
gather in troops to pester
the raven at its entrails.
Out of the weak, something sweet.

Our barricades are made of hair,
a year or more like anchorites;
we’re governed in a bloody square,
gallows, pit and bullfights.
Out of the weak, something sweet.

Angels with horns writhe over us
now, mortar worth more than flesh,
worth more than the breath of us
expiring in the human crush.
Out of the weak, something sweet.

 

 

 

III.

The Personal Wound

 

Those stripped-carcass decades, the torchlights and dogs,
granite conversations in rented rooms: it all rumbles
in the background of things, a skin on stagnant water.
We stagger into a silence we knew intimately once
when the serpent and stars beheld the other in wonder.

 

 

 

IV.  

Daybreak

 

Dawn musters. On the brow of the hill
run young gods: stud horses that tremble
the earth to a storm, at first polemical,
then lyrical, their withers of marble.

They rub sides, toss manes in secret
fraternity. As purses of silver light spill
from blackthorn and may, the sleekit
song resumes, coal-tit query, blackbird trill.

In the lengthening coming evening
midges appear balletic, almost golden,
the air itself wine, and the breathing
earth aromatic with mint and dandelion.

 

 


[Karl O’Hanlon lives in Maynooth, Ireland. His work has appeared in Agenda, Poetry, Hopkins Review, PN Review, and elsewhere. His pamphlet And Now They Range was published by Guillemot Press in 2016 .]

Copyright © 2021 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.