Mark O'Flynn began his writing career in the theatre. He has had
seven plays professionally produced, including Paterson's Curse,
published in 1988. As a playwright he has worked for numerous
community theatre companies in Australia. 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. His most recent play Eleanor & Eve was produced at
Railway Street Theatre in 2003. A novel, Grassdogs, was published
by HarperCollins in 2006. In 2007 he is due to travel to the Tyrone
Guthrie Centre in Ireland. A new collection of poems What Can Be
Proven will be published by Interactive Press this year. Mark lives
in the Blue Mountains, Australia.
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.
"And when the lines of cars converge
only their windscreens perhaps
capture infinity." - Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II
And when the sun glints
from the blinded windows
of the funeral cortege, the flashing
yellow lights bring caution to a halt.
Peak hour travelling into the centre
of the heartless city
where smog stains the glass walls golden
and the skyscrapers appear to want to fall.
And when in Rome a sleeping
beggar's cup overflows with alms
designed to ease a practiced guilt,
the notes are caught
by a numinous breeze
and flutter down the cobblestones
towards the dungeons of St Angelo,
preserved on camera like autumn.
And when the half full glass
shatters, a tiny pile of ice
will lodge in the gutter of my memory
like hope and never melt.
The conscience of my hard drive
is a grain of guilty quartz
preserving electricity, spam, sloth, shame -
these things infinite as stone.
And when the dark interior
of the gridlocked ambulance
promises resurrection, the blackened
windows confine the proverbial mysteries.
Sirens and stasis,
these red lights of anguish
amber lights of hope
green for faith and love.
Egaz Moniz, Portugese neurologist, won a Nobel Prize for his work on
the frontal lobotomy. He was shot my one of his lobotomized patients.
Beneath the ivy-sacked crenelations of Castelo Pena
the madmen salivate at the birds
who since the banning of the birdbaths
have nowhere to bathe.
Plenty of target practice for the urchins
with their Portuguese shanghais,
or the enterprising beggars with open palms
of "hasheesh, hasheesh," and "I have five babies."
I rack my brains, held together with ivy
and guano, for a way to keep the dead quiet.
The whole cobblestoned city seems mad
in another language.
The attention they pay to the inanimate.
The great Christ atop Lisbon's famous plinth
scans the ocean for ships that did not return.
Awaits the next earthquake buried in my fists
my pure, weeping fists,
full of my hair, and the grey solution
to your problem.
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