Issue 1 – Winter 2001 – David Wheatley

David Wheatley


The cartographer lists and draws fourteen bastions, fourteen wall-towers, fourteen main 
thoroughfares, fourteen monasteries, fourteen castles, fourteen

– Joyce, ‘The City of the Tribes’

Purity of heart is to will one thing.
A pair of Trinity squares, down for the week: 
how could that salty longing not awake
by Galway bay, our hearts gone for a song?

Under the arch, over the Corrib, pent
in a guesthouse, working it out again, the six-
es and sevens of it, the algebra of sex,
the octopus arms and legs out for the count

come ‘breakfast at nine’, at ten… Waking to
elevenses, a sleepy one on one, 
we get up to the angelus’ round of applause,

the tilly of a kiss in the street: the two
of us in the city of fourteen tribes, awash
with fourteen shades of light that colour us one.

– Galway, 1998

Three-Legged Dog

Pitching crazily earthwards with each bow
and scrape, then yanking back in crippled pride:
dogged; no getting off, no helping now
the see-saw for one his whole dog’s life he’ll ride. 


I seem to have found my level: 
flat, all is flat, from the moment 
you come off the ring road, leaving
the bridge and the estuary’s
curled lip chewing
on Lincolnshire behind you: 
nothing rises and
nothing will rise,
the few stumps of churches
and tower blocks have stood 
to regret their misjudgement; 
stealthy tenfoots and avenues
fall away under your feet
into gaps in the clay
and speluncular drains; 
             terraced hutches
inch by inch subside
             among the Bingo halls
and industrial estates,
             or if they hold on cling 
to each other for neither
warmth nor protection 
(habit is too strong a word), 
             and only a rare tabby
ventures out through a flap 
             to bask on a binlid, 
as if for collection, 
             though someone
must live here, the teenagers disappearing
down the railway embankment 
or slouched in the tattooist’s door, 
eyeing the lines of unfortunates,
the dark ones, queuing 
for coupons and stamps,
and the veteran hurrying 
back from the post office 
under their penetrating,
empty gaze; 
once all this was rubble,
he could tell you, rubble 
and death where you’re standing, 
             but the people never happier,
useless to try to explain,
the dust of sixty years slowly
settling on our eyelids 
as we blink at our good fortune,
we (they) who won after all,
pushing open the front door
we never bother to lock,
             raising one foot above the other
at the foot of the stairs and already
             standing on top of the world.


David Wheatley was born in Dublin in 1970. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Thirst (1997) and Misery Hill (2000), both published by Gallery Press. He is an editor of Metre and lives in Hull, England.