A poem from Michael Feeney Callan’s 2013 collection An Argument for Sin

23 Miles from Dublin


We were 23 miles from Dublin under the larch trees

with a bluebird ahead of the bonnet navigating us

and an apple on the road orange by the green

conversant in the ancient language of laughter

we talked about of all but us and the moment when

our hands touched was a lifetime.


Everything we know is wrong, the world is wrong

and the laughing light in your eyes announced

that even Einstein’s wrong:

there is something faster than light; it’s called thought

and when your thought lay on mine, stranger, fear fell

and the bluebird took us off tarmac and into the mystic.


The buckwheat on the beech mast, the crimson seed

the furry-stemmed poppy raving in the meadowy noon

the grandmother boulder by the stream cream-crowned by

the silver-beaded bouncing gurgling damsel tresses of

drinking water; I would drink you, I said, deranged

like the sleeping cows 23 miles from Dublin.


But our time will be up, I said, and we’ll face the city again

the great remove of bricks and illness, our depths

where lollies adorn just graves, where neglected children weep

and the old are forgotten; the stones of war, the hospital kings,

the subatomic horrors of the summer on a stopwatch,

those things that live in our terrible unconscious world.


You took the map and drew an egg or so I thought

an egg round Dublin and we were here, our highest selves

atop the egg, another laugh, or is it graph with a stated aim?

we’ll break this egg? we’ll look this egg? we’ll scramble egg? –

to make nutritious the delight of our shared great day?

No, you said. This egg’s the map of now and her, our life.


You held Dublin between your forefinger and thumb,

a funny imagining on your lap, with the wind off the field 

it was time, you said, to go back, but back neologism,

not to the home or heart but to the start and find the happy turning so

I turned the car to take on history, where words go to school

to pay their way, measuring what lives between her thumb and forefinger.


Copyright © MFCallan 2013