The dissolution of beauty
There was a time when beauty
Ignited senses in creative ways
Then arousal replaced beauty,
Its short thrills scuppering engagement,
The suspended sentence of sleaze
Rounded up all my potential,
Impounded my versatility,
Until the shortest way through
Was the longest way home
And the long dark night of the soul
Seemed worthwhile for the shudder
In the loins before the leadean beauty
That hoisted the dark streets on
The residential freshly-mowed lawn
And the three-bed detachment,
Squatting down low to my optic
Fibres in spotlighted isolation.
Beauty is so deceiving
It barely acknowledges itself
Before it is upturned
Made to revolve around itself
Until it becomes a
The image and likeness
Of my tired, vacant eyes.
Working with my father
I wasted the day again
But realized it too late
After reading Carver
Then I revived and wanted
To work on something.
I tried remembering the thought I had,
The one about working with my father
Leaving his house in St Lukes together early
To carry the saw up to the skip of junk,
I wanted to saw the two old timber doors in half
And the old guttering.
The saw cut through the wet wood like
A knife through bread
My father looked on
Over my right shoulder
The morning was breaking
-Ah don’t be doing that
-Surely you don’t have to do that
But I was already half way through the door
And I was enjoying watching the teeth tear through,
The door from an old shed the previous owner
Had put up in the sixties or seventies,
Coated in tar with two pieces of wood
In a big X on its back for extra support.
I wondered what he’d make of me
Destroying the door he’d built one summer day in the sixties,
A man with a family.
I have no family,
Was this why I enjoyed the destruction?
I worked from both sides until only an inch was left uncut.
I turned the door over,
Leaned it against the concrete garden border
And came down on it with my foot.
It cracked in two.
My father ahead of me,
Carrying these half-doors down the hill to the skip,
-Thanks so much for the help Dad,
-Don’t be thanking me at all,
-I find this work relaxing
Later that night I thanked him again
-Ah, this morning.
I wanted Cork
I wanted Cork to be my Wessex or Lake District,
My Cheapside or Yoknapatawpha country
But I couldn’t stop leaving
Long enough for to discover it
Behind my inflections,
That loaded it with
Solid anger and desperate bewilderment
For leaving me behind,
Emotions too rigid for its
Opinions and intonations,
Its steely-jawed, skinny-necked,
Self-inflated, irrational logic.
I was like the son living too long
With his mother
Rising her only to have her complain
So, they could come together later
Over an apology.
But Cork accepted no apology,
Only ever deflected it back,
Its muddy banks and seventeen bridges
Knowing well what Heraclitus
Meant when he wrote about running waters.
I keep building homes
I keep building homes
Only to have the homes
Fall down around me.
There are so many kinds of filth here,
So many I can’t tell the dirt from the filth,
The filth from the grubs, the grubs from the worms.
When I feel, something detaches from the side of a finger
Through a muddy kitchen glove
I’m thinking it’s of its own volition.
So many kinds of filth and decay
I had never thought so much was undone.
Stubborn paint scrapings, rotten wood splinters,
Passive mud, ruthless concrete chips,
Drenched deciduous leaves,
Woodlice, dead woodlice, old matted cobweb,
Chrysalis crypts, cocoon shells,
Spider skeletons, scurrying centipedes, evicted ants,
Migrant dust, scattered dust, skin-like saturated plastic,
Old rusted pipe, treacherous broken broom handles
Laced with woodlice crusts and cobweb,
Fungus scraped off a damp gable wall,
Old nails entrenched in masonry,
Stolid moss, cuttings from a dead tree,
Shards from a plastic watering can
Left out too many decades
in the undergrowth.
It’s a struggle to collect it all
Into the black bag for the baby skip
So, they can take it to the dump
Pack it down
And break it down some more.
Dumping the remains of one man’s labour
A generation ago
On a day, he worked
To clear a space of junk
And build something new.
Michael O’Sullivan is a writer, critic and teacher based in Hong Kong. His poems have appeared in Asiancha, Desde Hong Kong: poets in conversation with Octavio Paz, and Quixotica: Poems East of la Mancha. He also writes stories, essays and creative criticism. His recent books include Academic barbarism, universities and inequality and Weakness: a literary and philosophical history.