Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Volume Two, December 2020.
Selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions in 2016, his poems have featured in a significant number of journals, both in Ireland and internationally. He was a featured poet at the Poets in Transylvania Festival in 2015 and a guest speaker at the John Berryman Centenary Conference in both Dublin and Minneapolis. His poems have been nominated for Pushcart, Forward and Best of the Net prizes and his Pushcart-nominated poem, ‘The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work’, was the title poem of an anthology published by Hibernian Writers in 2015. He is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site and has recently published his debut collection, ‘Growing Up in Colour’, with Doire Press. https://www.doirepress.com/writers/m_z/maurice_devitt/
A Rehearsal for Winter
Maybe we are slipped an Indian Summer,
two weeks in September when we forget
the natural order of things, as t-shirts
and shorts make a brief re-appearance,
until a first autumn shower, timed to
maximum effect, catches us too far gone
to go back, our destination foreshortening
as we quicken our step. Students sloughing
through the indecisive light, remind us that
the confident wash of summer will soon be gone,
and a neighbour, just back from three months
at the coast, wonders if, in his absence, anything
has changed, waves gingerly as he retrieves
his bin, and feels the first cut of winter
chasing down the side-passage, as though
someone, somewhere, has left a door open.
When I arrive,
I notice you standing in a corner
of the carpark,
cigarette pinched like a pencil
between your fingertips,
shoe lazily working a pattern
in the still wet gravel.
I hesitate for a minute,
unsure whether you are wrangling
with a seamy problem
from your business day,
the chord progression
of a song you’ve never played.
Inside every stone
there is a story, and so it is for this mossy chock
of granite that has held the gate open for years,
its face a thousand little mirrors. No one knows
how it got there, perhaps kicked up from some
underground disturbance and abandoned
in what was then an open field above the village,
view unobstructed to the sea. In time the house
was built as a bolthole for a gentleman in the city
and someone, frustrated with the wilful swing
of the gate, retrieved the stone from a redundant pile
and nudged it into place against the crunch of gravel,
its eyes set to watch everyone who would come and go,
its ears growing used to the swelling cacophony
of their brickbat lives, on what was once a silent street.
But be careful if you wish to discover the hidden tale,
for rashly splitting the stone may lose the thread – it may
be better to wait for a stonemason with the hands of Bernini,
who could chip away patiently at any needless preamble,
taking time to reveal the story fossilised within.
What Colour are Oranges?
The oranges have waited in the bowl
for almost a week now, a sunny
counterpoint to the dark presence
of the dining-room table. You say
they soften and sweeten before they turn,
and that the ripest fruit is heavy for its size.
I lift one to test its weight, cup my hand
like the dish on a scales, roll the sphere
up my arm, then pop my elbow
to send it arcing back into my hand
(a trick I learnt at school that has gone
criminally unused). I press and circle it
with my palm on the table, like shaping
plasticine, sense the pith pulling from skin,
ligament from bone. I open at the heart
and tear downwards, taking care to undress it
as one seamless garment,
hoping that it’s been worth the wait.
© Maurice Devitt