Mark O’Flynn began writing for the theatre after graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts. He has had seven plays professionally produced and as a playwright he has worked for numerous community theatre companies. He has also published a novella, Captain Cook (1987) and two books of poetry, The Too Bright Sun (1996) and The Good Oil (2000). His fiction, reviews, essays and poetry have been published in a wide variety of journals and magazines. A novel, Grassdogs, was published by HarperCollins in 2006. In 2007 he is due to travel to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland to work on a new novel.
for as far as the blind eye can see
the horizon has collapsed
into an alcoholic coma.
there is only outside.
cross waits for you to play
with the slobbered shell
of an eviscerated tennis ball.
In fact it rather insists.
Your persona has a strange smell.
In the great, wide, empty distance
past the Sunset Viewing Area,
that blue shadow grows
into a river where trees
are no longer mythical.
(if you happen to live there)
by the weight of the sky —
extends to the myopic horizon
level as stagnant water.
When you arrive you are compelled
to stop at the Booligal Hotel,
(which Paterson rebuked),
where they shake you ten times by the hand
before they’ll let you go to bed.
if you happen to live there
when the mountains shrink to weeds
and the aberrations of trees
remove themselves from view
you see the river’s simulacrum
tracing the road: ‘That’s my
river,’ you say at last, ‘I’m home.’
Not even rain can soften the junction
between a bruised thumb and finger
where a thousand stems have rubbed
their calluses, hardening a delicate opposition.
Picking cherries is not your average primate’s sport.
Beware the hardened flake of stem-bark in your eye.
A view revealed from the topmost branches
over Buckland Gap of paddocks yellowed under the sun’s
heavy insistence like a saucer of dried milk.
Imprint of the iron ladder hard against your shins
where balance, like flight apprehended,
is the soft pressure of a knee against steel rungs.
At the apex, stretching
to that tallest fist of Lewises or Blackboys or sweet Rons
just out of reach like a dream,
unless the ladder falls there’s view enough
to live for. Bending the elastic whips
earthward to twist each single stalk, (careful
not to strip next year’s buds). Feel
the shoulder strap’s weight as the bucket fills,
fruit warmed by day like the midnight
heat within a lover’s skin.
Tumbling red and smouldering into cases
at the orchard’s shady base.
Waxed boxes peaking with fruit
and the luscious language of cherry picking.
Every cherry swims before your gaze at night,
not quite dollar signs the size of golfballs!
but evasion, echo, the small debasement
of ambition’s seeming purpose.
The tractor growls its way along the rows
driven by a dimwitted orchardist’s son
who wants no other life than this.
He stacks cases in the trailer
each cherry molten with a scar of sunlight.
His waning transistor brings news of the outside world
like a village gathering over warnings;
dead parrots strung from unripe trees.
He shakes his fist at the omen of distant thunder,
takes personally the swollen
grapes of storm clouds. Even though rain
will crack the varnished skin like a knife wound,
split an arc around the stem’s umbilicus,
he would like to shoot the sky
for a year’s enterprise ruined in a downpour.
Rain’s malice washes dust from the serrated
leaves to put an end to picking for the day.
Ends a season; ends all modest ambition;
but does not end the luxuriant persecution
of your dreams suspended in flight.
The Stolen Book of Kells
That Gospel was found after twenty nights and two months
with its gold stolen from it, buried in the ground.
– Chronicles of the Annals of Ulster 1006-7
without a cover remains a book
with all its curlicued wisdom; whether
burrowing through farmers’ straw
into the cuds and souls of bloated cattle,
braxy sheep or other beasts.
A trough filled with God’s soft rain
transforms a holy panacea. A
book in hiding is still a book.
Perhaps the richness of the sodden text
heralds from the sixty-eight old monks
who laid their slaughtered heads on it.
Or the vision in those old incantations:
propter and exsurgent. A book
unreadable is still a book.
What divine mysteries does the book inscribe,
beneath the soil made rich with sacrifice,
bound with egg white?
the corporeal gold stripped roughly from the vellum,
from beneath the fingernails of monks, (not
the yellow arsenic sulphide used within).
A ravaged book is no less a book
a ravaged man, a man.
Gold will buy another cow, a lamb,
a sweet bog tuber filled,
brief promise of heaven on earth.
My Father’s Voice
I hear the croaky tendons of his voice
which might be static in the wires
between my buzzing cochlea
and the newfangled technology in his hand.
He tells me of the grass growing,
the neat fit of his singlets.
In his town prosperity thrives on rusty ploughs,
Clydesdales, and the memories found in mullock
holes, antique bottles and bones.
The age in his voice cracks like ice
and all the while he forgets forgets forgets,
every random change of subject gone,
as though there were not enough time
to speak all the things on his mind,
and in the pall of my own remembering,
I ask again how the grass is growing.
The rabbit my deprived children found
in the classifieds came with hutch
and enough calcium-enriched pellets
for a month. The hutch was designed
like a Harry Seidler townhouse
and I felt obliged to build at least
a chickenwire barricade around it
to expand its poor confines, token concern for its safety,
all weighed down with house bricks and tent pegs.
I had visions of selling the lawnmower,
putting my feet up for good.
For the life of me I cannot remember
the rabbit’s name.
It was grey and floppy,
Peter Rabbit with fleas and mange.
Within a day it had burrowed under
my fence, going lippity-lippity
free at last all over the mottled lawn.
I, Mr McGregor with a rake.
Within a week, despite the carrots
and calcium-enriched pellets we,
no—I—left for it, it had vanished.
I still suspect a fox,
however the genuine grief
that accompanied its loss was terrible
for a day or two.
after the painting Le Baiser by Max Ernst
The kiss is blue that might be ocean.
A random string, like a clot of hair
coiled in the bath, defines the motion
of my eye, a raptor’s shadow hovers there
or is it a cloud? Even the four human toes,
implying loss, as does the strangled face
beneath the silt, twitches in the throes
of our accidental embrace.
Our grim lips vanish while fingers dredge
through the loam. The expanse of sky
above, arbitrary as the world’s edge;
the tautology of truth’s blue lie.
To underestimate the design of chance
relinquishes a palpable significance.
What Can Be Proven, and yet reading it is like returning to familiar things that we have forgotten. O’Flynn has an elevated poetic voice, but also the capacity for revealing familiar things in a strange new light.