Poetry – Fintan O'Higgins | Cassandra Voices

Poetry – Fintan O’Higgins

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Natural History Museum, Dublin 

Necrophorus investigator bears
The dead and follows in their footsteps. Moths,
Beetles – anaspis maculata: stained,
Unshielded – big names, small lives; thoughts
Made real, embodied in machines. The spare
Crater of earth, when all earth’s blood has drained,
Will hold its arc and torque, all else being lost.

The hinges in fleas’ legs, then, or the fascia
Of armoured woodlice, or the spastic spring
That spins itself in helical countertwists
Of muscle in shark or frog: the coil of nature,
Barely substantial, sustains and persists
In solid flesh, in every blooming thing;
In neural galaxies, in our behaviour,

In helter-skelter shells, and seeds and petals;
In honeycombs, in choufleur romanescu,
In hips and waists and golden ratios,
In ratios contrived of other metals;
In pentads, heptads, hexagonal sections;
In blurts of pulsing, liquid shapes or gaseous,
In every shape in every fruit in Tesco.

The Victorian whorl of iron, wrought or cast
Tendrils, poised above a chessboard plot
Staked out in dominion’s rectilinear pitches
Like America in barbed wire; or the glass
Holding still and fast those deep-sea creatures
Part  water and part number, and those insects
Obedient in angles, lines, and dots,
Curlicue in generation’s syntax.

If necessary shapes, not beautiful
(Beauty being willed, exalting submission),
Atomic and autistic, are fragmented
Blasted, involved, in fraction not in fission;
Then names are feathery fascinators, spells
Whose quivering thrum resounds upon the lips
Cross-hatches nooks in pathways where demented
Buzzings may refer to but do not tell
The true ring of the neurocalypse:

The veil of nerve, the net with which the moon
Drags heaving tides in black full swag of night,
The filter distilling thought from spinal twitch
The measured tension climbing to attune
Itself to the Fall, constructing absence which
Strobes from stencil to template, stasis and flight
Taut as a tent, and black and high as pitch:

The stillness in the flutter of fern fronds,
The still of distant waters’ frothing crust,
The clench and follow of a striking lance
(Not real ones, though; these days there’s no such thing)
The uninflected bow, the arc, the string
Invisible but present in stone or bronze
The heel of Philoctetes poised in dust
The tension in the stone of David’s sling.

That heroes are absences, in corridors
Leading to chambers where no gods are housed,
Makes words of footfalls echoing on the floors
Creaking on wood or clacking on stone tiles
Pronouncing sentences and syllables
Along a winding torchlit pagan course
Where leisurely visitors curiously browse
And wryly nod with educated smiles;

And turn and ask if there’s a coffee place,
Declining middleclass children working class sugar
And glance but do not meet the dusty eye
Of long dead bird, or butterfly, or cougar.
But with the trail of syllables and scents
Drop iterations of the shapes that figure,
As whirligigs and maelstroms live and die,
A small eternity of absolute stasis

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