Harvey O’Leary was born in Cork, Ireland. Since graduating from University College Cork, he has lived in London, working as a teacher and educational manager. He has published articles and poetry, and a play, Closing Time, which he co-authored, was staged at the Battersea Arts Centre, London. He published his first novel Nidiya and The Children of The Revolution in 2010.
T h e B i r t h o f t h e S k u l l E g g
I SKULL EFFIGY
The frozen seas, the petrified waves,
Gave birth to me amongst watery graves.
I am Skull Egg. I am carcass and rock,
The mineral bone and the fleshy sock.
I hang suspended. I am the hanger
To hold and stretch a piece of leather.
I am the glove that will slip from the hand.
I am the flesh that will slip from the bone.
I am the uncountable grains of sand.
I am the unbreakable, matchless stone.
I wear the colours of yellow and white
To ruffle the blue and ward off the night,
To say, I am no one, in all but name.
I am the blood that is banged in the brain.
The moon is no mouth; the sun is no eye.
I am the bruise that discolours the sky.
I am the cries from the mouth when the skin
Is picked and pierced and peeled away.
I am the grimace, the face on display,
As the fingers press and are pushed within.
Commemorate me with a bust of bone:
So difficult to render flesh in stone.
II THE HOUSE OF SKULL EGG
The doors are locked
But if you were to enter my house
You would find six unfurnished rooms.
The doors to these rooms can only be unlocked
With one of three keys
Made of glass, of ivory, of stone.
In the first room
There is nothing
But light cords of various length
Dangling from the ceiling,
And, propped against the wall, a ladder
In the shape of a staircase.
In the second, an electric fan
Lying on its back, blades a-whirring,
Which is surprising
For though the cord
Reaches to the wall
It isn’t plugged in.
In the third, a kind of aviary
Of different species, rare delicacies,
All of them strangely indolent
As though the desire for flight, for singing
And squawking, had long since
In the fourth room hang
My coats of leather
From hooks in the shape of bent fingers.
They soak and drip
And basins on the floor
Collect the weeping.
In the fifth room, nailed to the walls,
Bright gleaming shapes of steel,
Pointed and serrated
While, in a corner, leaning together,
Hoe and rake, pick and spade,
And the other tools of my trade.
In the sixth and final room
There is everything but
A white-draped pedestal
On which a telephone rests
And is ringing eternally.
III THE COUNSEL OF SKULL EGG
A song, a song, I am singing.
O do not fear, my friend,
For death is not the beginning.
Death is merely the end.
A race, a race, I am running.
My friend, no need to run,
Standing on the finishing line,
Holding the starter’s gun.
A life, a life, I am living
(A truth to tell a lie).
My friend, the only way to live
Is to prepare to die.
IV THE RIDDLE OF SKULL EGG
Do you wish to speak to me,
Stranger? For I can be
A good friend
An even better enemy.
Can you give me an answer
To the old familiar
You will leave me none the wiser.
V THE BOUNTY OF SKULL EGG
Come, join my company of one.
Take this gift of a loaded gun.
Make a wish; then blow out the sun.
Together alone we will dare
Prick a balloon and free the air.
You have everything to declare.
Now, look beyond what you can see,
Beyond the limits they decree:
Your target is eternity.
To what do you most aspire?
Point the gun a little higher:
Cross-hairs in the line of fire.
Careful, an invisible race
Do battle in the air for space.
(A second death may grant them grace.)
Care because a single blast
May well turn out to be your last,
And you will join that wretched cast.
VI NEST EGG
The first-born nestling hatched:
A clutch of eggs dispatched.
The air thick with the seed
Of the indignant weed.
Moth and butterfly snub
The long forgotten grub.
Flocks journey to the house
Abandoned by a mouse.
Enmity of the rat
Breeds in the sullen cat.
A snake maintains a grin,
Shedding its second skin.
Eyes of the floating fly
Multiply… multiply... multiply.
Soft walls of the red flower
Slowly close to devour.
To win and lose at snap
In the carnivore’s trap.
©2014 Harvey O'Leary