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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Poem of the Week — “The Lap of Plenty” by Harry Clifton

This week’s Poem of the Week comes from Harry Clifton’s upcoming collection, The Holding Centre.  Available in December, The Holding Centre features a fantastic selection of Harry’s previously published work, but also includes a section with new, unpublished poems.  As a sneak peek, this week we give you “The Lap of Plenty”.

THE LAP OF PLENTY

Leave to poets a moment of happiness

Or your world will perish
CZESLAW MILOSZ

Slowly, under rain, the land is turning green,

Our land of cockaigne, of fullcorn bread

And apple wine for the asking. Cattle-sheds

Pour cattle into the fields

Of Lower Saxony. Their bellowings

Celebrate freedom, and the promise of rich yields.

 

A stream of yellow stale…. A horse harrumphs           

In the middle distance, tears

At a cartwheel of fodder. And the last guns

Of the hunting season

Die away, as fashion parades of pheasants,

Gorgeous in mating dress, tails like electric wires,

 

Sashay out of hiding…. Eden before the Word!

To look is to eat, theologies

Hover in abeyance. Only this mesh of birdsong

Settling, invisibly,

Deadening thought. Let the grained wood

Of our bedroom ceiling, the patterns ecstasy wrought,

 

The knots, the grains of wood, be enough for once.

Let the stillness of afternoons

Lie lightly upon us. Soon we lose our place

In the scheme of ignorance,

Breughel’s barnyard, paradise of fools.

The best the earth can offer, on any given day,

 

Is slipping away. The letter, the telephone

Wait in the hallway.

Military trains, as they roar through the dark

Of northern Germany, bring on Kingdom Come.

Adam’s curse, the need for work,

Banishes us, adaptable pair, from what was never home.


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