The Speed of Sound
Slower than the speed of light, slower than
a speeding bullet, its effect is seen
when a child falls and there’s a gap between
his falling and his cry as if the world
had been paused then started up again.
Sometimes slower still, the cry creeps on
silently, to catch him years from then.
by Ciaran Parkes, first published in Chiral Mad 3.
Editor’s Note: End rhyme lends this poem a subtle sense of structure, and supports the emotional punch of the closing line.
A lake the size
of a small room
an island no bigger
than a single bed
when you set out in your boat
you’ve already arrived
to lie on your back
beneath a dazzling sun
so small you can blot it out
with one finger
by Ciaran Parkes, first published in Poetry Ireland Review.
Editor’s Note: Ten simple lines still somehow paint a startlingly vivid picture in this poem.
Sisyphus decides—why not—
to let go of the stone he’s been rolling
up a hill for what seems like forever.
He falls back, onto the long grass, noticing
the deep groove his stone has made
in the hillside, remembers
how he would always get so far and then
it would somehow slip his grasp, start rolling
back the way it came, to wait for him
at the bottom of the hill. Now it tumbles
over a field he’s never seen before,
getting smaller, disappearing
into the blur of distance. He knows
this is hell he’s in, no doubt of it
with all the treasure here, the brightness
dragged down from the upper world and spread
out like scattered flowers and all the people,
doomed to torment, misery, the loss
of everything they’ve ever loved but still
looking, for the moment, almost cheerful.
by Ciaran Parkes, first published in The Threepenny Review.
Editor’s Note: Three line stanzas carefully control the pace of the narrative, giving a reader a sense of the deliberation of Sisyphus and his fateful decision.