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La Piccioletta Barca - Issue 19
Astonishment & Dublin Canals

Astonishment & Dublin Canals

Astonishment

To which the acute and judicious proposer
answers: “Not. . . . .’ William Molyneux, 1689,

I do not think, he wrote, that a person
Blind from birth who suddenly can see
Can distinguish visually
Objects known prior only by touch.
I do not think, he wrote, that seeing
A globe or a cube would have any relation
To the globe or the cube known prior by the hand.

Not. . . . [He] has not yet attained the experience.

This night, for me,
Molyneux is a cleansing.
Holy.

That perception starts from zero each time,
And is experience,
Not hypothesis.

Certain sights, certain music,
Certain scents, certain stories,
Certain embraces, my heart recognises.

As real.
Life cannot be theoretical.
It is recognition.

As when Strauss’s Elektra recognises
Her disguised brother, and sings
Near inaudibly: Orest. Orest.

Molyneux. Irish, is he?

All Plato is a footnote to Molyneux.
My mother isn’t.

Dublin Canals

A bird smashed against a windowpane
in Howth. What a way to go.

In memoriam is present tense.
Those who have passed over never say it.
Water flows. Water is always present tense.

When I travel from Paris to Dublin
And open my mind to think a little,
I am not in Paris, I am not in Dublin,

I am in a third place. There is no I
From which to look out. Only to be.
I do not think – excuse me –

That there ever was Adam and Eve.
Only to be. A cataclysmic relief, that.
Water flows. It is to be. It is soft notes

And departures, as in the title of
Clare Sawtell’s poetry collection
With its silhouettes of horses and of words.

Dublin canals. Dragonflies cling
To them. Water flows along them.
Up and down go the locks, not to adjust

Water, nothing can do that, but to work
With water. During each rise and
Fall, the locks existed; exist.

I had a friend who once a year
Would speak on a bank of one of
The canals. A poet speaking of

Another poet. I pass the spot
Where he used to speak. I want to
Pause, in memoriam, but I cannot.

Sometimes when he spoke, locks
Would go up and down I do not know
About the poet whom my friend honoured.

I know about my friend. He never tried
To adjust the water, he worked with it.
Speaking on that spot, he existed; exists.

Richard W. Halperin ‘s work is part of University College Dublin’s Irish Poetry Reading Archive. He has published four collections via salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher, with a fifth listed for 2020; and eleven shorter collections via Lapwing, Belfast, with a twelfth listed for 2020.

Poems, the Ideas for them & The Temple

Poems, the Ideas for them & The Temple

Poems, The Ideas for Them

 

I think they come from
the land of transfiguration.
The poet builds clumsy tents,
as Peter wanted to for Moses, Elijah,
and Jesus. I cannot picture that land
having anything to do with perfection.
So, more in keeping with the poor
in spirit, the meek, they who mourn.

Or perhaps the ideas come
from the land of Willow Pattern:
pagodas, lakes, islets,
old folk crossing a bridge,
or maybe they are young folk –
difficult to know which
under their little hats.

 

The Temple

 

A woman, an Irish poet, once gave me
A blurred colour snapshot – it looked
Like an old Polaroid – of a small house
Beside a lake. The colours were mainly

Browns, the darker browns the lake
And the reflections of the house in it.
‘I call the photo The Temple,’ she said,
‘Because that was what we called the house.’

This was all years ago. Evenings,
I sometimes pull out the photo and
Look it at it. I, too, call it The Temple.
Not for the house on the shore, but for

What is upside-down in the lake.
What temples feel like.

 

Richard W. Halperin ‘s work is part of University College Dublin’s Irish Poetry Reading Archive. He has published four collections via Salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher, with a fifth listed for 2020; and eleven shorter collections via Lapwing, Belfast, with a twelfth listed for 2020.

Arthur Waley, of an Evening

Arthur Waley, of an Evening

Of translations of the Tao,
it is his I spend time with.
He does his patinage on thin ice.
For me, it suffices. To the wisdom
of the Tao he adds his own
wisdom. He interprets a text
which survives in a language
no one speaks anymore,
and which may have been spoken
more in gestures than in words.
He writes beautifully because
he thinks beautifully. Some poetry
is hygiene.


Richard W. Halperin’s latest poetry collection via Salmon Poetry/Cliffs of Moher is Catch Me While You Have the Light, 2018; his most recent chapbook via Lapwing Publications/Belfast is Sunday Visits, 2019. His work is part of University College Dublin’s Irish Poetry Reading Collection Archive.

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