Peter O’Neill – Telemachus Cycle

Peter O'Neill LE Poetry & Writing August 2018

Download PDF Here

Telemachus Cycle,  poems by Peter O’Neill

Peter O’Neill is the author of several books, most recently More Micks Than Dicks, a hybrid Beckettian novella in 3 genres currently out of print, and The Dublin Trilogy: Poems & Transversions 1992-2017, a singular engagement with a 19th century French Master; launched in Paris in November last year to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Baudelaire’s death. He recently presented je la dis comme elle vient– The Appearance of the Homeric Muse in Beckett’s Comment c’est/How It Is at the How It Is Symposium organised by Gare Saint Lazare Players Ireland at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. He teaches EFL and resides in Dublin. His writing (be it poetry, translation, critical reviews or academic presentation) has been published widely, being translated into French, Italian and German. O’Neill has also edited two anthologies of poetry; And Agamemnon Dead ( mgv2>publishing, 2015) and The Gladstone Readings ( Famous Seamus, 2017). He set up Donkey Shots, an avant -garde literary festival, in his hometown of Skerries, North County Dublin, and currently hosts The Gladstone

The Martello

For Liam on his birthday

Rotund bastion of granite castling
Above the rocks alongside of the cove,
Mediterranean in origin;
Napoleonic sentinels of power

And observation far flung by Joyce
Into Ithaca and Torre des Corsari…
Telemachus lathered in the foamy spray,
His vigil all pater familias

As if staged by Freud, the phallic
Tower spumes up into the interzone,
Its robust bulwark breaking the dead.

And the son, lonely at his solitary
Station, waits beside his mother
Whom all this time seeks her own liberation.


Pallas Athena

For Laura

The original Glamazon, in gold-laced sandals,
Superb limbs rising skyward like columns,
She habit-crowned by the peaks of mountain
And whose same feet are sand, sea and sun-kissed

By two score decades and some years more.
Brought up beside the shores of Crete,
She has such a natural sense of human drama,
Being all too familiar with Attic backdrops.

Her head held high, her eyes limitless and clear,
So used to ascertaining quickly the possible
Merits or demerits in all passing phenomenon.

Knowing only too well when to dispatch,
And in a mere look, the life of any worthless creature,
Or to raise right up through the ranks the standards of a man

Plaxias, South-Western Crete

For Michael Corrigan

The gentle roar of thousands of pulverised pebbles
Upon the sandy shores, its eternal rhythm
And washing, brings immediate relief
To poor exhausted white-skinned city-

Workers like me and who come to the shores
Of Mediterranean islands in search of some
Comfort and solace, dreaming perhaps also
Of Homer’s partly forgotten goddesses and heroes

Half imagining old Poseidon appearing to them
From among the rock and cliff faces
With the rich Aegean spread out before them

Its rich array of azure blue cobalt diamond
Waves rising and falling in an hallucinatory
Cadence upon which float the flotillas of the Achaeans.


“No Odysseus are you!” you think, looking down
Upon your skinny white body, all fifty years of it.
“Did you ever think that you would make it here?”
You ask yourself, slumped in the reclining chair.

On the island of Crete with an aperitif, history
Book, and the fresh after- taste of olives on your
Tongue. And from the swimming pool resound
The voices of your wife and daughter. Summer

Voices to drown out the symphony of crickets
Rehearsing in the wings for the next onslaught
Of the summer winds…is that Sinatra playing

In the distance? With thoughts of mortality
You have another sip of ouzo, breath deep,
And think of the Chinese phrase… these are the golden years!

Standing before the Achaeans, spear in hand

Standing before the Achaeans, spear in hand,
Athena charged so that the gathered assembly
No longer sees a mere boy, the son of a hero,
But a young man fashioned by a Goddess.

Standing before the assembled Achaeans,
The morning after her parting, his every limb
Noteworthy in their presence, sure in his way
Because her divinity passed through him.

So that his feet encased in the leather thongs
Feel nimble; where they his or hers? he wondered,
Sure only that she had passed through him.

Her divine words uttered into his ears alone
Entering his spirit stiffening his resolve,   
Empowering him before the suitors.

In the Idiom of the Gods

Godhead was so assured that when Telemachus
Returned to his room, after slipping out of his robe
Standing there like that in but his sandals
Feeling the Goddess, Pallas Athena,

Entering him, symbolised by the spear,
It was as if she was urging him to embrace
His newly found manhood, which in part
By her visiting him she had helped to create.

And so, standing there in his bedroom
Feeling her presence enter him again,
He held his virile member like a spear

Or so it throbbed, thinking now only of her.
And so Telemachus fell to his knees offering up to her
The sweetest devotions, thereby spilling his wine.

© Peter O’Neill