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Matthew Duggan

Ithaca

 

Trojan bronze and coin

embedded in Ionian turquoise blue;

Where metal black crows span above a man spraying spittle

over weaved baskets in strips of long bamboo - skinned.

 

I suckled on Tzatziki and lamb Kleftiko

consumed a carafe of Grecian wine;

saw the stars of Ithaca dance with mountain songs

bells chimed like the after-dinner shrill from deranged sirens.

 

Gazed like the God’s at amber and crystal blue boxes

jarred along a shark bitten tail shaped bay

prickled fruit – decaying pomegranate

peeling red flesh inside the opened draining of day. 

 

I travelled on the navy blue albatross

wooden fin splicing through Hellenic water; Triangles in translucent green

reflections from the feverish and mad -

the faces of those who had come before me.

 

Half sunken Byzantium shaped ships

moulded into yellow cliff - Crescendo of beach crickets surfing

on the sound buckles of Poseidon wrists,

I swam in the strong currents – mangled in storms

 

Tumbling through rotten ship masts

lined with dead pine trees; My lungs filled with salt

while white snappers nibbled at my blue flesh,

my limp body awakened and dragged to the surface of a unfamiliar sea.

 

A beautiful woman with olive skin and tarantula coloured hair held me

I peered down into the depths of clear ocean,

noticing she had dolphin heads as human feet

her complexion and breasts as smooth as soft whale skin

 

In an ancient tongue she pointed to the rise of sun

a pink centre of valley -  shining marble from the caves of the nymph;

as I swam closer I saw the chipped face of Odyssey shaped in the marbled mountain

in green cypress print – Inside the cave Penelope weaved her twenty first shroud.

 Zombie Land

 

Diachrome bloodstream – bar code wrapped with pulsing veins

          square box replaced our modern fane

tramline vision fixated like choreographed sunbeams;

         our muted and exploited constellation

                  a circle we repeatedly spin,

mirroring our appearance – through doctored magazines.

                        Identity and blood

             lay at the alter of visual castration!

                           Cutting flesh

                  moulding our uncertain self

   creating a cloned detachment of celebrity asphyxiation.

     Destiny enshrined in western addiction

                        – the want!

                       the admiration!

          the pressure to be on that popular shelf.

          A smiling tanned jester - Brilliant white teeth

                 – square jaw – sucked botox

               Everyone will want to be YOU!!

 You the popular – the imitator – the regurgitated walking CLICHE

                    for the true and humbled self;

                       is vacant -  lost – stewed.

The Missing Quarter- Jacks

 

On the edge of Corn street I stood

as a child like Southey before me; Awaiting the clocks final tick

eyes like a tourist

staring at the quarter jacks - Transfixed!

 

On the hour they moved

in beetle red - luminous yellow - marching towards the clock-face

seconds chimed from golden hammers

on Broad Street; delivering the sound of time.

 

Today the Quarter Jacks are missing

lost in dust-bins of boxed antiquities –

Waiting on a slashed council budget to unclamp

their rustic uniforms; with stone pages etched in ancient cuneiform.

On the centenary of the Great War

 

When Armistice day came to end

King’s letter - blood ink from sea,

‘rejoice my friend’  is what Tommy had once said to me.

Mesopotamia – the black bog of Ottoman

remember those on the banks of velvet Tigris,

Kaiser led a slew in Jihad the desert rape of Solomon

Oil mouths of burning hydrous nightmares from iron beds in rehab.

 

On the Centenary of the Great War do we not hear youth?

could we not see what we were fighting for?

Returning to the same gates where Tommy had already warned us

Yet, the battle suits before and now still continue; posting death onto Persian shores

where our boys fell - shrapnel cuts - gas with sliced skin of mildew

circulating into poisoned pours.

 

Tommy saw posters protect our King now we see  rolling news posts

to fight and defend our Queen - Nothing great about war and it’s ghost.

When we see what Tommy had already observed

boots walk in ancestral blood - joining them in brave battle-song,

protect the Anglo-Persian oil reserve 

desert of red and rose - clipped mud- How do we justify war and its abhorrent wrongs!

 

*Written for Thomas Duggan my grandfather -Who fought and survived the Battle at Kut-al-Amara, in Mesopotamia (Iraq) during the Great War, and received a medal for bravery and a letter from the King.

Winnaitch

 

Follow my eye said the young boy

see where the cloud hangs like a floating noose,

above the spare and dirty cold waves

that is where Rottnest Island stands!

 

Hoarding bones of our elders

where rich sun seekers now lay unknowingly

on the foundations of unmarked graves.

 

Bronze footsteps stood above our ghosts on straw beds

a hessian fence broken with the dried flesh of quokka

knots of wire with red clothe; Tanned and fresh tourists

seeking rites of passage where our ancestors were imprisoned,

 

Starved     

                              Hung                                            Banished

 

This is the island of spirit people

Winnaitch – The Forbidden Isle!

Now close your eyes said the young boy

as you may hear the manacles of my forefathers,

No number sixteen on that island

one for executioner and six for the noose.

 

*Winnaitch – Is Aboriginal for A Forbidden Place. 

Matthew Duggan was born in Bristol United Kingdom. He is the winner of the erbacce prize for poetry 2015. Dugan´s poems have appeared in Poetry Qrt, Yellow Chair Review, The Dawntreader, Sarasvati, The Seventh Quarry, The New Ulster, Ygdrasil, Cobalt Review, Illumen, Lunar Poetry Magazine, and many more.