How small a world moves past the mortared
gimlets; caught on the dark waving of a weirside
tree, possibility forms a tighter
jail than dull dumb grey rearing
to the bald white of a bleached, lichened path.

Everything must be guessed; traffic on the bridge,
sightseers leaning to waves of weed and trout; sun
on far pasture; the town’s longing
for its abandoned past.
You know the railway siding’s slimed and ivied.

Glass gathers dark round faded brocade.
Maps, discreetly lit, are cheerful, almost cartoonlike
in their passing over violence. In the wall above,
unplugged black vacuumed sockets, floor unrestored,
its fireplace low and cold as though for ghosts of servants.

Beyond the clumsy arms, no sign. No word. We make,
as tourists must, a retrospective present,
a minute-snatched, heard-elsewhere dream
on cold stone and discomfort; imagining
for an undisturbed instant

light gone, gable drawn to wind-banning drapes;
and failing as we must, to people those boxed generations,
their chiselled charms no more alive
than children’s drawings locked somewhere – in a forgotten
drawer, maybe, or under years’ unposted cards.

And beneath, beyond it all, the world
we can’t conjure. Where we belong. Not with the crowd
buoyed with the curiosity of journeying,
nor with the placid few who, having made, are sated.
We glimpse ourselves through glassed defensive slits.

Ted Mc Carthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, ‘November Wedding’, and ‘Beverly Downs’.

His work can be found on