Animal Life, poems by Brian Kirk
Brian Kirk is an award winning poet and short story writer from Dublin. He was twice shortlisted for Hennessy Awards for fiction and his stories and poetry have been widely published in journals and anthologies. His novel for 9 – 12 year olds The Rising Son was published in December 2015. He was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2013 and was commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2014 and 2015. His first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in November 2017. He blogs at www.briankirkwriter.com.
Snagged on the dream beast’s claw on the morning train,
trapped in a stupor of fruitless inertia, I have time to appraise,
to recall battles I never fought.
The human animal I am will not survive much longer.
The hybrid species has no will to live out its life; its days
are numbered, surrendering has become the only answer.
A dullard fox caught in a trap gnawed at its leg until free.
Bleeding for miles through the scrub, it lay in a hole
licking the wound till it healed. That fox lived a very long life.
A boy in a classroom of peers said nothing when words were needed,
already afraid of the truth as he saw it; put in a boot among others
when his face was concealed.
And a man – we shall call him that – went to work every day
of his tedious life to the last. He was buried days later
on the side of a hill: all mourners spoke well of him.
I walk the fields beyond the dunes alone
and let the tide go out with my thoughts,
but you are there in the riotous chatter
of larks overhead. I’ve started to distrust
abstraction and spend my time among the natural
world where subtle changes can be gauged.
I know that when we measure love we cannot be exact;
only a foolish lover would attempt approximation.
How high does the skylark fly on these mornings?
Who knows? Estimating height while its wings beat
and shrill notes peal above my head is useless;
only when it lands, silenced, drawn to its secret nest
on open ground can I pretend an answer. I clamber
over banks of marram grass, careless of peril, but cannot
find the thing I seek, tangible, intangible.
How did we get here, knowing what we are
and what we need to live?
This place we call home
offers us nothing but still we remain,
scavenging and cowering by turns
among hostile hosts.
They call us vermin, rabid plague-ridden curs,
and would have us slaughtered,
where once they named us noble,
cunning, wily, even sly.
Now we are foreign to our natures, delirious,
fearful to the last,
as the sun bleeds the night
so the birds break the silence at dawn
as the rain taps the glass
so the wind makes the trees speak a name
as the eye feeds the mind
so the heart moves the blood to a hand
as the night brings a death
so the morning eternal rebirth
© Brian Kirk