Richard Murphy’s Collected Poems were published in 2001.

Rite of Passage

When he steals into my body’s old temple My subversive lover stands For a minute of silence Before his dance of death begins With the beating of drums Followed by the stillness of a lotus on a pond And the sound of a woodpecker …

The Afterlife

Two swans take off from the wind-ruffled Water of a pond below my hexagon And a heron glides down to poise on a rock In a clump of reeds and waterlilies. With his long grey neck stretched out he sees All the eyes in …

Sri Lanka

Being nearly heart-shaped made me seem a ham    On early spice trade navigators’ charts    Tinctured with cinnamon, peppered with forts, To be eaten up under a strong brand name Like Taprobane, Serendib, Tenarisim—    Copper-palmed lotus island slave resorts—    And I succumbed to lordly polished …

Letterfrack Industrial School

Bog-brown glens, mica schist rocks, waterfalls Gulching down screes, a rain-logged mountain slope With scrawny pine-trees twisted by mad gales, They see from my ball-yard, and abandon hope. Wild boys my workshops chasten and subdue Learn here the force of craft. Few can escape …

Last Exit to Nature

Ted Hughes is surviving. Four volumes of his poetry, and three critical studies of his work,[^*] have been published in the last three years. His New Selected Poems has recently appeared. Including all of Selected Poems 1957-1967, and a few good surprises, it draws from seven subsequent volumes, taking more …

Fierce Games

There are six full garbage bags at his feet, beside a burned-out barbecue and an empty case of Coca-Cola. Over a black T-shirt and jeans, a sleeveless leather jacket shows a panther tattooed on his right forearm. An incomplete growth of beard suggests he might be auditioning for the part …

Tony White

   Growing, he saw his friends increase    Their incomes, houses, families,    And saw this growth as a disease Nothing but unpossessive love could cure. Possessing nothing, he was not possessed    By things or people, as we are.    His granite chimney breast Warmed friend or …

Care

Kidded in April above Glencolumbkille On a treeless hill backing north, she throve Sucking milk off heather and rock, until I came with children to buy her. We drove South, passing Drumcliff. Restless in the car, Bleating, she gulped at plastic teats we’d shove …

Poetry and Terror

Visitors to Ireland have often remarked that we seem to live in the past. They note our strong attachment to beliefs which were held in the Dark Ages and our inability to end a conflict which goes back to the religious wars of the seventeenth century. Our moist green landscape …

The Art of Debunkery

A glass case in a room called “The English Tradition” is where some people, Americans especially, think that Philip Larkin’s poetry belongs: they imagine he is a kind of old-fashioned taxidermist who fluffs up the wings of dead ducks, like the iambic pentameter and the rhymed quatrain, for a public …

Traveller’s Palm

You take off your new blancoed shoes at the temple door. She wraps them in tissue paper, Humming her favorite bar of Pomp and Circumstance. Lightly your feet slip, feeling the cool marble floor. “Stop showing off! Remember where you are!” Flambeaux, tom-toms, flageolets, incense.

The Glass Dump Road

A candle was burning in the caravan Parked where three roads forked beside a mound Of broken bottles near a market town. A woman was tottering home With a bundle of children’s clothes and a loaf of bread After closing time. A camp-fire in …

Seals at High Island

For Emily The calamity of seals begins with jaws. Born in caverns that reverberate With endless malice of the sea’s tongue Clacking on shingle, they learn to bark back In fear and sadness and celebration. The ocean’s mouth opens forty feet wide And closes …

Firebug

He’s tired of winding up the gramophone Half way through “Three Little Maids,” And waiting for a rickshaw to return from the bazaar. The monsoon teems on the compound. A coolie, splitting coconuts on an iron spike, Stoops to wring the rain out of his …

The Reading Lesson

Fourteen years old, learning the alphabet, He finds letters harder to catch than hares Without a greyhound. Can’t I give him a dog To track them down, or put them in a cage? He’s caught in a trap, until I let him go, Pinioned by …