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Kevin Nolan

A Short History of the Dog Poem

for Bearrach MacSuibhne na d'Tuath
(Barry MacSweeney), 1948-2000

Amen, I will pour some in thy other mouth


(crack) half
and half
       and half,
and half, on the summit   I rest and shoulder
empty rejoinders      cack
vomit      — you shudder and tilt
   just barking to tip
out       in phase,
       the cone of silence
each September tricked
   I see your Jim walk in July with Jill
   when the moon is a spherical chemical
   scorched back
to reasoned exile across the land
in commerce  with luck and the
2 straight faces   you   were born wiv,
   yer'  lip sniffin up tarpaulin -------
   You lived on wax and golden breadcrumbs
       round a mask of pyrrhic substitution
a winding sheet as fog turned the last bud
       atmospheric as form,
who made this exile,        in local macropiety,
           to what end perpetuate, named for
control as Musick's kingdom   by the sound,
      for any stray to scab at matter?


Be        quiet now,   Now
   rise up thou unlicked thing,
what do we want when we can't be utter —
to gulp at air is animal,  twice-shy, promise crammed
 with the meaning of exactness,
Varied Pawprint,  save that once,
straplined in drylight to the park's end
as hollow as the form it took, you asked
       in clouds of resin
as beautiful as the clothes you wore
       of acetate and muslin
to denigrate        so heaven sent a lie
no state of mind
          that stone brake free,
   of prestige or funeral
too loved on air   to say,
                                 that ships rise from the sea,
   armed for the pick-up, cone of finite dispersal?

Ah, perfect timing: not the weird clay Arghol
   send you towards, but  no, two questions own
almighty void — each guarded
sleepsong kennels back of the van,
— too whacked to hang excaudate from the lowest bough,
— bruising the utter spaniel straight from the bottle-bank.

The British poet Barry MacSweeney died in 2000.

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This issue of Jacket is a co-production with SALT magazine,
an international journal of poetry and poetics, edited by John Kinsella
PO Box 937, Great Wilbraham, Cambridge PDO, CB1 5JX United Kingdom

This material is copyright © Kevin Nolan
and Jacket magazine and SALT magazine 2001
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