from A Selected Life and Vertical Man

le Thomas Kinsella

Galloping Green: May 1962

He clutched the shallow drum
and crouched forward, thin
as a beast of prey. The shirt
stretched at his waist. He stared
to one side, toward the others,
and struck the skin cruelly
with his nails. Sharp
as the answering and bark
his head quivered, counting.

St. Gobnait’s Graveyard, Ballyvourney:
that evening

The gate creaked in the dusk. The trampled grass,
soaked and still, was disentangling
among the standing stones
after the day’s excess.

A flock of crows circled
the church tower, scattered
and dissolved chattering
into the trees. Fed.

His first buried night
drew on. Unshuddering.
And welcome…
Shudder for him.

Pierrot limping forward in the sun
out of Merrion Square, long ago,
in black overcoat and beret,
pale as death from his soiled bed,
swallowed back: animus
brewed in clay, uttered
in brief meat and brains, flattened
back under our flowers.

Gold and still he lay,
on his second last bed, Dottore! A withered smile,
the wry hands lifted. A little whilw
and you may not

Yob tvoyu mat’,
Master, your health


Philadelphia: 3 October 1972

I was pouring a drink when the night-monotony
was startled below by a sudden howling
of engines along Market Street,
cursed ambulances intermixing their screams
down the dark canyons.

Over the gramophone your death-mask
was suddenly awake
and I felt something for you
out in the night, near and moving nearer,
tittering, uneasy.

I thought we had laid you to rest
– that you had been directed toward
crumbling silence, and the like.
It seems it is hard to keep
a vertical man down.

I lifted the glass, and the furies
redoubled their distant screams.
To you: the bourbon-breath.
To me, for the time being,
the real thing…


The golden goodness trembles. It is time.
And more than time. Kindly
step forward,
A black
bloody Business,
The whole thing…

He stepped forward through the cigarette-smoke
to his place at the piano
– all irritation – and tore
off his long fingernails to play.

From palatal darkness a voice
rose flickering, and checked
in glottal silence. The song
articulated and pierced.

We learned over the shallows from the boat slip
and netted the little grey shrimp-ghosts
snapping, and dropped them
in the crawling biscuit-tin.



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