POEMS by Trevor Code
In a very old photograph
taken in eighteen hundred something
a black and white rediscovered
I find myself standing
with a hat on my head
and a jacket with side pockets
then I suppose I had been told
stand just so and imagine
so I did, and now I wonder
who was there behind me
and what my future held
whether the trees still growing
and the steady strength of the rock
gave permanence to my story
and if I had slowly turned
would I have seen Kathleen or Margaret
waiting there with their solemn look
as if they wanted me to speak?
BUSÁRAS – DUBLIN
Paid my coins to pee at the bus station
donated 20 p. to a lady whose coins were taken
by the jammed voracious machine
blocking all necessary access to relief.
The mesh of streets confused them, divided the soul
initially, but then in the light, commerce –
and songs out of tune for tourists,
and the way the saints blared and led the way.
It is a holy city, or a prisoner city, transports –
the place of emigration and prison ships
the loyal base of martyrs who in conflict
lost dominion and their heads for things feudal.
They came you might say, at the behest
of kings and queens or the pope as antichrist.
Rome was not built in a day, but its reach –
its tentacles like these curved malicious streets
and the canals which were once, he thought
running with red like the sunset – carmine,
or the cloaks of gentry and clergy, to behold
a procession of crosses and texts, singing.
Here there was the music: here many were born
who would bear it away and its echoes
then remember the heavy coast and its swell
and its perilous rocks as they sailed away.
Oranges oranges pyramids of colour
which are fruit and an emblem
tinted and mottled – and I think
it is not pure abstraction or fantasy.
It is the Boyne, and the Union
and death, perhaps it is death –
but there are green bombs and green guns
torture and relentless harnessing
the way we spy on our closest
the way we are primed, and the dismal
cannot be green, dye, and not other
whiskey, mellow and the way tweed hangs –
starvation, and our constant limitation
only on Friday, only at Easter, only
drill me that drum and all horses
parade in lines, and what is enacted
only looking back can the poet in derision
make of such a thing, a terrible beauty
which it was not, but was born
like that other thing of the desert
slouching in its mythic passage to be true
to haunt us at every anxious crossing
that the hole in our inner heart is there.
THE GHOST TOWNS OF THE TIGER
*during the Celtic tiger, many fruitless developments took place
I have lived in the shell of history:
the new fangled roofs, in imitation
of antiquity in another land
seem tiger’s teeth from the rotten tiger
the carcass polluting all the basic men
while the cages are unleashed
and bankers roll with the easy swell
as being too big to fail.
Teeth of the tiger, like dragon’s teeth
turn to seeds to propagate more fire
and bloodshed. We will set down
heroic tales at the well: those clad for combat
ride willy-nilly for something to defend
and say it is honour when it’s really themselves.
The robber baron sits in the chair of state
dispenses law and what he calls equity
in the name of union with an empire
larger than the one defeated in our fight.
FROM “THE LOBSTER POT”
an ornate clutter of antiquity
the dark green walls and antique signs
tobacco and unpunctuated s’ (apostrophe)
almost as if a tunnel in the rock
this deep sea green
and all the hanging pots
the welcome to this tantalizing feast for men
come back from the ships and the sea
here where the songs and Carne
looking for a repast and then some understanding
the story of the ghosts, if they be ghosts
that built this pile of rock
in another time
the buzz of conversation and the hustling narrow roads
a jovial darkness shunts the world along
who would turn for trouble –
– coming here.
bright posters and the coloured ships
the schooners and the records of a time
how close and how detailed is our world
when others told of days before the tiger
and its great appalling pelt –
You might sit and eat an apple on a grave
the dead will not object of that I assure you
and the old graves are table-like
a place they could be for urban picnics
we chain the gates at night to stop the drinking
but a possible libation might be expected here
consecrating the martyrs and the heroes, pioneers
they came without armour here and little dignity
attaining quiet and prominence with respect
those who walk by listen, and chatter at times
take photographs of grey stone, and wonder
that this time is built on the shoulders of death
they came to this place, made treaties and nature
swearing to die as they did for desperate causes
where no one knew the rights of it or theology
but followed the essential polity of rule
if you are with us then believe, and that is faith.
Melbourne-born poet Trevor Code (one of the Codds of Wexford County) has visited Ireland many times, and is immersed in the culture and history of his extended family and community. He feels at home in Wexford, uses it as a base for his writing, and has many relatives and contacts there and in Dublin.
He is also a supporter of Dromana800 this year, and has been invited to participate in that historic celebration (see Tinteán 6 May 2014).