Philip Quinlan has two print publications, True North and Leaves and Limnings, made
in collaboration with the artist Annie Ovenden, and a chapbook, Head Lands
(forthcoming spring 2012, from White Violet Press). He has received nominations,
in 2011, for both The Best of the Net and Pushcart. His work has appeared
in: The Flea, The Chimaera, Lucid Rhythms, Lilt, Soundzine, Numinous, The Avatar
Review, The Centrifugal Eye, Sea Stories, Shit Creek Review, Shot Glass Journal,
Victorian Violet Press, Whale Sound, Studio 360, In Stereo Press, The
HyperTexts, Lighten Up Online, Antiphon and Raintown Review. His website is www.theverbfori.net
for Paul Christian Stevens
These latitudes are falsified;
wrecked deadening has done for us.
We compass the meridian,
but who will stop the sun for us?
Our sextant-blinded eyes bleed brine;
no times or tides still stay for us.
All sheets, all shrouds are cut and dried;
our cleats cannot belay for us.
In sympathy at distances:
we navigate by hunger, thirst.
Noon shadows say our will be last.
Shall stern or bow go under first?
We cross the line with rituals:
traversal which will be reversed.
We’ll Easter home at empty sail,
our mark be missed. We fare the worst.
Good Friday, 2013
The Lady of the Lake
after a visit to Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Co. Galway
She died in Egypt; you were bound to bring her back:
this was her garden, arboretum and parterre.
You built a church for her—dour stone, auprès du lac—
and raised a cross to loss of heart too much to bear.
Green marble carved into the curvature of love,
and, at the shore, a wind lyre reminiscing her:
the simple facts of missing her.
In time, you wove—
to imitate the complication of her hair—
a celtic knot of fleurs-de-lys in this enchanted grove
in which you pictured her, spelled Guenever,
still living, radiant in her pavilion.
And there, beneath the absolute of blue Atlantic air,
what you imagined was a fictive Avalon.
The figure of Winter at Bignor Roman villa, W. Sussex
Because the snow has come to pass―
an old religion with a single miracle,
one hymn in slow and semitonal fall,
its liturgy a solitary ritual―
we celebrate the dying of the vine.
There will be yet another burial,
a second coming down to nothing:
Once, under a time, they built this wall ...
Ruinous ivy and the rime undo.
But as, if anything, the word
was with the wind in the beginning,
so we worship, at the white mosaic,
a chain of certainties no latter faith can shake;
and, since the past cannot deceive,
this day our children will miraculously wake
and still believe.
A Wish and a Prayer
for a son
My voyager, the not so many moons of you
pale to the moons that I have seen.
For me, no spices in the wind again,
no whichways of the tiller-turn;
now I am put ashore, my sun lies shattered seaward,
every sparkle is a smithereen.
This oldwise hull is holed
below the waterline, astern,
and I was there and back
but cannot mark you everywhere I’ve been.
Hard by the heart, now you must strand me down,
take with a sliver of this silvering:
always a star to tell you where you are;
so many islands to be lost between.
or, A Litany of Wishes
One day for every dollar that you made.
An eye to every colour left unsaid.
Payback for all the pain you had to trade.
A loaf, a fish, for everyone you fed.
The tooth to bite the biter when betrayed.
Forgetfulness for any tears you shed.
The memory for echoes once decayed.
A lamp to light each fine line you must tread.
Forgiveness for the error when you strayed.
A way back if you ever get misled.
A place replacing paradise mislaid.
An ear to hear the song inside your head.
Some joy, that every sadness be outweighed.
Each line as yet unwritten yet be read.
A final flowering before you fade.
And love, or if not true love then
some other truth instead.
The blossoms of perception unfold out of a ...
self-reflexive union of mental and natural lights.
Arthur Zajonc – “Catching the Light”
Amphoric air. Its ocarina aftertaste.
Light, seeming solid, weighed on tables laid to waste.
Lost leaves’ first fritter. Love’s last teeter on the brink.
A scripture written in unsympathetic ink.
Sea seen as vitriol. Salt brittling the skin.
No word of blue for this, and silver less than tin.
Beast of the labyrinth. The flesh that he consumes.
Some sacrificial birds hidebound in catacombs.
Up silken strings, time was a climb hand over hand
to learn of no returns to golden Samarkand.
Canopic heart, a landlocked part, a terra cotta jar
to hold leftover longings in. A tomb of sand.
Before there was a bridge, there was a track.
I read the sea fort ruins—in their rust,
the cause that led to their abandonment—
and the way beneath the waves
beyond the chatter of the sanderlings
where avocets are harvesting the brack―
torn sky in tatters on the slack.
There was a mist that day.
Four men walked out across the bay
and may be walking still...
This archipelago of skeletons
remains, as if the sleepers were somnambulant.
I think of those, once sunk, resurfacing,
returning, having delved so deep
they lay unfathomed by the leaden bell,
but I have been too long at sea
and they are never coming back.
Learning to Paint Clouds
Consequently, when I am 80, I shall
have got to the bottom of things.
Now you are done with seeing things, begin
by setting down your name,
forgetting everything you ever knew:
those tints and tinctures that were never you,
the way by which you came,
perfecting feather, flower, leaf, and fin.
Erase the lines, but leave the shadows in,
with all that they contain;
such lack of artifice was always true.
Only the necessary things remain:
plain parchment, candle flame,
a quill of water from a grail of rain;
all else is still within,
and, consequently, finally,
your seeing is a seeing through.
Now you are done with seeing things.
Do Not Go East
Do not go East: satori is at hand.
In shifting shells, in sea shelves seeing is
believing: more than all beliefs unshelved.
Do not go up: here heaven has a hold.
Air there is thin, too thin for breathing in,
and yet there is a rapture in the deep
beneath the light: green, dark and wonderful.
And dark is where the dreams are; past things, too:
the place we see ourselves unselved,
and find an ocean, opiate enough
to drown all doubt. Go down, then, if you will,
and sink into intoxicated sleep.
Shells shift and speak tomorrow and afar;
tomorrow is the place where rumours are.
Maybe the songs made up a history.
You drop a stone to mark a place;
hold back the sea with some philosophy.
Those days both were and weren't the days.
You see the estuary in sepia,
not in the colours that you knew.
The sands that shiver in the shallows,
though they never stop remaking you,
have settled ultimately on a plan—
a course the river used to run,
where once you walked under the water
and listened to the voices drown,
one day when everything was not the same.
This is a place you knew by name.
Terns, in a compass mood, will curve and go;
some songs you can't sing any more.
Love is a binary, a brittle star;
wrack burns on the abandoned shore
and some stars die by friendly fire.
We were the people who bore the beginning,
who first stood to reason, saw further by standing,
who left by the crossing: the first to go over.
And we were the people who pictured our distance,
not meeting our own kind in one day of walking,
who lived by the turning, left shells by the river,
who held all together with nothing but chanting,
yet harked back forever: the dark matter, haunting.
Our words learned their memories, told at a gathering:
we were the people who drew from the knowing
that eyes are for innocents, tongues are for telling time,
places for honouring—each has its own dream.
If we are now nothing, take note of our absence;
here are our hands which we painted in shadows,
After the Harvest
After the harvest and commotion,
after the shaking of the day:
a room lamp-litten by the spill-fire,
late summer thunder coming.
After the days of calculation,
timing the cutting to the flood:
unreckoned love, endurance
in light of lesser longing;
the waste haulmed up, ignited,
interred, the plough infolding.
After the garnering of sorrow
in all the years considered good,
after the calving and departing,
fall has another meaning:
the wheel no longer turning
at the well, no water-giving.
After the harvest, nothing:
the heart no longer haling.
Last fires of the year and ever
lit now the light is failing,
and, after all, ingathered.