Where are you heading to, Lascaux horse,
rust and bonfire coloured, running
across the eggshell coloured postcard?
Never mind if your legs appear too thin
to bear your weight, they were never meant to.
You were born like this, caught between the earth
and sky, under someone’s moving
fingers clutching clay and charcoal, lit
by uncertain fire light, so you seem
to move in and out of shadows, one
of Plato’s ideal creatures, not needing
anything more than this to be alive
and permanent. On the other side
of the postcard, words of love and greeting
from years ago, in some unknown hand.
by Ciaran Parkes
Editor’s Note: This poem carefully feeds images to the reader, and with each line, the ancient horse becomes more alive. It isn’t until the closing stanza that one realizes that this poem encompasses so much more than a picture of an ancient animal.
Hesitant, your voice
when I pick the phone up
but soon we’ve returned
to a remembered flow
from two years earlier.
I hold your warm
words against my face.
It’s winter outside.
As we talk I scrape
moss from the windowsill
and watch it falling, so much of it.
I hadn’t noticed it before.
by Ciaran Parkes
Editor’s Note: Spare lines and imagery effortlessly carry this poem’s central allegory of loss.
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.