landed between paper tiger and paperweight
on the open dictionary, just short of papillon.
A natural under the spotlight
which must have drawn it from the night's
hot lung towards its sixty watts of promise.
Perfect, the disciplined pulse of its wings:
two coffee-stained teeth and all the grace
of your grandmother in her wedding dress.
Which you will know from the message I left.
But I didn't mention the tipulidae, the chironomidae,
that I'd had to kill the lights and I'm sitting
on a bed too small to contain your absence,
listening to something the size of a small bird
ricocheing off the walls, clicking like a stuck tape.
Originally published in The Ladder.
Now the sky has emptied
only a crow's call could map its vastness
or descending, open up the landscape:
the thistle-stitched guesswork of a hedgerow,
the feral earth, long-grass, leaf-mulch,
an earthworm musing through the thick dirt,
and the abominations of buried bones.
At this hour the sun lowers its cadaver,
a sinner to the pyre, sets its fire
spilling grain out across the water.
In the moments between evensong and sleep,
you will remember how the scent lifted from her
as, blanched in a bed sheet, she left the room
with the kind of trail two parallel mirrors suggest
on any object caught between them and eternity
or the red whip of tail-lights on an empty street.
Or the vast harvest of rye, cut down, trucked
into town to ferment in huge steel vats,
condensed to a shot in a fat glass beaker.
Adam O'Riordan was born in Manchester in 1982. He read English at Oxford University and later won a scholarship to study under Andrew Motion at the University of London where he was awarded the inaugural Peters, Fraser and Dunlop poetry prize. In 2006 he received an Arts Council England writer's award. His pamphlet Queen of the Cotton Cities (where these poems orignally appeared) was published by Tall Lighthouse in 2007. He co-edited Michael Donaghy's Selected Prose, which Picador will publish in 2009. He is currently Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere. You can see a video of him reading at the Ledbury Poetry Festival here.