POETRY: Purgatorial by John O’Donohue

Purgatorial by John O'Donohue

Beneath me sleep
splits like pliant silk
I drop derelict

into a bare dream
where my language
dry as paper

is being burned
by a young child
over a black stove.

I cannot see his face
but feel the fearsome
power of this play.

His uncanny hands
herd every private word
back to its babble shape,

fixes them in lines
mutters at the order
then, in a swerve

drives them over the edge
into the fire’s mass
of murmuring tongues.

He takes too
my inner antiphon
of wild, wind-christened
Creig na bhFeadóg,
Poll na gColm,
Ceann Boirne.

My weak words
half-meant, viral, deceptive
crust the pages like scabs
give off an odor.

Our shy night-words
which no other had heard
he spatters in
his yellow laughter,
they crackle like
honey in the flame.

I am glad to see his
stubs of finger grab sheets
matted with cockroach phrases,
taunts and names that once
crawled in to crevice me.

He stops
and finds the white scroll
but backs away
from its silence.


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