September 2012 - Vol.  62

Loch Trool, in southwest Scotland, by Mark Dean 
The Hill

poem by Sean O'Neill

At the bottom of this hill are burrows
Where blotches of the wind cry. A cold gull,
A brittle puffin, numb with hunger, dull
With lashing, bite the green waves like furrows.

The guts that strange augury used, to guess
Which way stealthy rains turn in September,
Were more easy to read and remember
Than cross words borne by the times, not less.

We are walking, sinking with the crow’s feet
Into the land. But while our bodies die,
Our eyes - the steep, stark glass before the soul -
Are opening beyond the stiff-wound sheet.
The dirt, the dung, the stones all question why
We have not brought with us our our begging bowl.

The bottom of the hill is in my head
And turns, but not for ploughshares or the dead.

I trade mountains of mean mortality,
That billow hoops round my supple stories
For a lepton’s weight of silent glories;
The healing suns wring from calamity.

In the silence of woods, where the wind sings
We can go to loot life from the dead trees
And face down the stars to the mountains knees;
Cut limbs to see what their hidden blood brings.

We will root out the secrets from the sand,
Tear out the troubled fathoms from the sea,
Catch the running visions from the plain air,
Wrap the brown, reedy shallows in a hand,
Capturing the world in a single tree
And burning canyons with a single stare.

The body, till it learn to roll its range,
Despises exile now, until it change. 

> See other poems in Living Bulwark by Sean O'Neill

[Sean O'Neill is originally from Glasgow, Scotland, and currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. He has published two books of poems and several novels.] 
With this new collection of poems Sean O’Neill explores the relationship between the child, the youth and the adult. What are the key moments that have contributed to the construction of a fully-formed human being? Here a number of poems masquerade as memoir but have a deeper message, sometimes wistful, sometimes humorous. Here, too, he draws on his Celtic upbringing and the questions of identity that it raises. Some of the nature poems are a new departure and celebrate the complexity and beauty of animals, insects and the weather. This book of poems is more playful than O’Neill’s first book “this stage of life”, and uses a more accessible idiom to convey mood, but nevertheless offers a coherent voice full of color and depth.

Book available at Amazon.

This collection of Sean O’Neill’s poems is his first. The poems cover periods when the poet lived or worked in London, England; Milan, Italy; Drummore, a small fishing village on the West Coast of Scotland; and St. Paul, USA. The subject matter of the poems therefore varies from the grittily descriptive ‘Bridges’ and ‘Sweet Thames’, which are set in London, to the pastoral ‘The Hill’ and ‘in this atlas of headland’ set in the South Rhins peninsula. The poems cover several years and a multitude of situations and yet a consistent voice emerges finding meaning in apparently insignificant details, and clothing mundane events in a tapestry of rich wordplay. Several poetic sequences are contained in this collection including the four-part ‘this stage of life’ a wry commentary on modern life and ‘Winter 2011’ which centers on the view from a window during the harsh weather conditions of that year. Some of the poems are satirical; others celebrate the joy of simple things. Some are dark while others are full of hope. Whatever the reader’s disposition he or she will find something valuable in this volume that echoes the mood of the moment or the season of life. Book available at Amazon.

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