Tag Archives: Derek Mahon

The Chinese Restaurant in Portrush by Derek Mahon

Before the first visitor comes the spring
Softening the sharp air of the coast
In time for the first ‘invasion’.
Today the place is as it might have been,
Gentle and almost hospitable. A girl
Strides past the Northern Counties Hotel,
Light-footed, swinging a book-bag,
And the doors that were shut all winter
Against the north wind and the sea mist
Lie open to the street, where one
By one the gulls go window-shopping
And an old wolfhound dozes in the sun.

While I sit with my paper and prawn chow mein
Under a framed photograph of Hong Kong
The proprietor of the Chinese restaurant
Stands at the door as if the world were young,
Watching the first yacht hoist a sail
— An ideogram on sea-cloud – and the light
Of heaven upon the mountains of Donegal;
And whistles a little tune, dreaming of home.

Image result for Chinese restaurant

This is the third poem upon this theme following my previous posting. Notice that the place is only almost hospitable. This reservation is somehat typical of Mahon. Nevertheless there is a lovely  relaxed and informal feel about this poem and the sense that home is not entirely out of reach.

Rising Late by Derek Mahon

Sun on the eyes, clear voices, open window,
birdsong; ponies clop by on the road below.
Whine of a chainsaw, the recurrent roar
of power tools from a building site next door
with crashing, rumbling, safety beep and buzz.
A seagull shadow flickers; harbour noise;
a honking coaster backs out from the quay.
Enter a fly, the vast breath of the sea.

Waking mid-morning to a springlike new year
and a new age of unbeauty, rage and fear
much like the last one, I wonder if
a time could ever come when human life,
relieved of ego and finance, might thrive
on the mere fact of existence. A naïve
hope, but naïve hopes are what open
the doors when January comes round again.

Such tiny houses, such enormous skies!
The vast sea-breath reminds us, even these days
as even more oil and junk slosh in the waves,
the future remains open…

A Disused Shed in County Wexford by Derek Mahon

They are begging us, you see, in their wordless way,
To do something, to speak on their behalf
Or at least not to close the door again.
Lost people of Treblinka and Pompeii!
‘Save us, save us,’ they seem to say,
‘Let the god not abandon us
Who have come so far in darkness and in pain.
We too had our lives to live.
You with your light meter and relaxed itinerary,
Let not our naive labours have been in vain!’
——————————————————-
This is the final stanza of ten lines. The full poem may be found at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/92154/a-disused-shed-in-co-wexford
The “Web-throated, stalked like triffids” i,e, some type of mushroom remind me of the deep impression that Anthony Gormley’s clay figurines made upon me when I saw them, years ago at the St Ives Tate.
Antony Gormley's Field for the British Isles at Barrington Court

The Last of the Fire Kings -an extract from Derek Mahon

Five years I have reigned
During which time
I have lain awake each night

And prowled by day
In the sacred grove
For fear of the usurper,

Perfecting my cold dream
Of a place out of time,
A palace of porcelain

Where the frugivorous
Inheritors recline
In their rich fabrics
Far from the sea.

I find these few lines deeply even profoundly moving.  The whole poem may be found at http://www.troublesarchive.com/artforms/poetry/piece/the-last-of-the-fire-kings 

There it states,”Derek Mahon’s reference to an ancient curse can be construed as referring to the weight of tradition in Northern Ireland and the legacies of division and violence.” However, it is the mythological images that it conjures up and which I do not fully understand which particularly appeals to me. Although it may help a little to know that a frugivore is an animal that thrives mostly on raw fruits, succulent fruit-like vegetables, roots, shoots, nuts and seeds. It can be any type of herbivore or omnivore where fruit is a preferred food type.

For those interested in an analysis or interpretation of the whole poem, there is a PhD thesis from Durham at https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/108461.pdf

Under the influence of both Louis MacNeice and Dylan Thomas

It is always a pleasure to discover a new poet as I did when I came across the following book locally, which I strongly recommend for its style and elegance ;-

The spirits have dispersed, the woods
faded to grey from midnight blue
leaving a powdery residue,
night music fainter, frivolous gods
withdrawing, cries of yin and yang,
discords of the bionic young;
cobweb and insects, hares and deer,
wild strawberries and eglantine,
dawn silence of the biosphere,
amid the branches a torn wing
— what is this enchanted place?

From The Dream Play
By Derek Mahon

More may be found at www.poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/poems/detail/92168

Image result for derek mahon

 

Erinnerung an die Marie A. (Berthold Brecht)

b

 

 

 

 

 

An jenem Tag im blauen Mond September
Still unter einem jungen Pflaumenbaum
Da hielt ich sie, die stille bleiche Liebe
In meinem Arm wie einen holden Traum.
Und über uns im schönen Sommerhimmel
War eine Wolke, die ich lange sah
Sie war sehr weiß und ungeheuer oben
Und als ich aufsah, war sie nimmer da.

Seit jenem Tag sind viele, viele Monde
Geschwommen still hinunter und vorbei.
Die Plaumenbäume sind wohl abgehauen
Und fragst du mich, was mit der Liebe sei?
So sag ich dir: Ich kann mich nicht erinnern
Und doch, gewiß, ich weiß schon, was du meinst.
Doch ihr Gesicht, das weiß ich wirklich nimmer
Ich weiß nur mehr: ich küßte sie dereinst.

Und auch den Kuß, ich hätt ihn längst vergessen
Wenn nicht die Wolke da gewesen wär
Die weiß ich noch und werd ich immer wissen
Sie war sehr weiß und kam von oben her.
Die Pflaumenbäume blühn vielleicht noch immer
Und jene Frau hat jetzt vielleicht das siebte Kind
Doch jene Wolke blühte nur Minuten
Und als ich aufsah, schwand sie schon im Wind.

Autor: Berthold Brecht
Titel: Gedichte 1918-1929
Verlag: Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1960

b2

This poem has been translated by the well-known poet, by Derek Mahon, where at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Mahon it is mentioned that he is interested in established verse forms and ekphrasis:(the poetic interpretation of visual art). Here is his version of Brecht which can be found in that excellent collection, The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems edited by Michael Hoffmann.

b1

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cloud

One evening in the blue month of September

We lay at peace beneath an apple bough:

I took her in my arms, my gentle lover,

And held her closely like a dream come true-

While far up in the tranquil summer heaven

There was a cloud, I saw it high and clear.

It was so white and so immense above us

And, as I watched, it was no longer there.

 

Since then so very many different evenings

Have drifted past in the general flow.

Perhaps the apple orchard has been flattened;

And if you ask me where the girl is now

I have to admit I really don’t remember.

I can imagine what you’re going to say

But even her face I truly can’t recapture

I only know I kissed it there that day.

 

Even the kiss I would have long forgotten

If that cloud had not been there too-

I see it and will always see it plainly,

So white and unexpected in the blue.

Perhaps the apple-boughs are back in blossom,

Maybe she holds a fourth child on her knees;

The cloud, though, hung there for a moment only

And, as I watched, it broke up in the breeze.

b3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Brecht Love PoemIch will mit dem gehen, den ich liebeIch will mit dem gehen, den ich liebe.
Ich will nicht ausrechnen, was es kostet.
Ich will nicht nachdenken, ob es gut ist.
Ich will nicht wissen, ob er mich liebt.
Ich will mit ihm gehen, den ich liebe.
I want to go with the one I loveI want to go with the one I love.
I do not want to calculate the cost.
I do not want to think about whether it’s good.
I do not want to know whether he loves me.
I want to go with whom I love.