Issue 1 – Winter 2001 – Peter Sirr

Peter Sirr

Dublin Unbuilt

On my wall a print
of St Werburgh’s church,
white stone, solid spire
– too solid, as it happened,

too near the castle
for comfort, and so proscribed.
Nearby, a dreamed of street
comes out to play,

a giant cathedral
dips its toes in the river.
Monuments in every drawer,
the winged horses, the swords,

the upraised hands infinitely
persuading. Trams glitter among the trees,
their lacy, longed for shelters
adorn the quays

and near the harbour,
in pavement cafés, their eyes shining,
the architects stay up all night
marching cities across a table.

In basement archives, patiently
the future carves its name,
the perfect avenues bide their time
just as, round every corner,

our own better lives catch fire.
Every now and then 
we stumble on the plans
and marvel…Meanwhile, though,

there’s this
dirt, mess, handsomeness,
the crooked streets persisting,
the sawn off churches

keeping their peace, a grittiness
in the air like the breath
of the imagined, our
unfinished hearts

still building….


Here is Everything

Here is everything
and you can’t lose it
here the early morning sunlight archive
numbered, itemised, set down
the laundry rampant in its basket
here is the museum of bending down
here the breakfast gallery
halal grocer and rained pavement annals
bus ticket trove, the chronicle of standing
of the inhalation of perfume, of headlines
urgencies of the mobile phone
eternally held, no thought erased
breath unexamined, no hair unturned, bone
unpicked. Labyrinths of the least machine
here it is
the Museum of Soviet Calculators
website of undead code, whitecoated
loving curators: take care
nothing dies, escapes that blade of grass
that particle
visitors file past them
past this very moment, this line
stored in a bright case, a forest of eyes
around it



Hands blistered from his labour

Dublin Corporation
parks department, digging out stones

unsuited, untied, for uniform
an old shirt, a different paper

he comes home hot and angry,
sits down to dinner like someone
from the wrong life

the cutlery
lifted and weighed

where did I this I
come from? 

He curses the work, eats with his new hands.

I thought of him today as I cycled
head down through the fruit and vegetable market,
swerving to avoid trucks, the hoists
laden and scurrying like bumper cars
still chewing a segment of radio news
the clever young supervisor
come to work with a box of Pampers
to shame his workers from the toilet

the genius
of it

and later
forkful of peas in my mouth, hurrying
from paper to book, avid for news.
The canteen lives in a permanent dark
of unbelief, everything except the food
has fallen off the planet. The teachers
are condemned, the train drivers
in their seventh week, the toll-booth operators
making noises. How difficult can it be
to take money from drivers? the newsman asks.
I push back the plate

transferred to the passenger seat
of a grey Ford Transit van my father is driving
through a seventies winter, the issue
still unresolved. The toys he delivered
persist in dreams..Some time later
he’ll return to his suit and tie, his Irish Times,
to the mystery of his office in the city

the cutlery will return, and the family faces
one by one

there will be 
such clarity

but whenever I see him working

he’s on strike, like now,
concentrating on the road and saying little,
painting lines or lugging stones
or forking hay in an ancient August

silent and thorough, as if this
is what he was born to do:
standing in the dusk in the heat of accomplishment

I lift my head
from the dim meal, from the twentieth page
of the funding application,
longing for hay, for a train to drive
or not to drive, longing to shrug,
down tools, make a placard and wave it
at myself

This labour persists
and if memory works its current of unrest
to bring out the dead
in protest, making him
come now through the gates
to stand in the day
with a list
of unreadable demands,
his clothes roughened
in preparation

the journey from my eye
to any one
of the papers on my desk
is all it takes to make him sway,
this thought, this second
is already the closing arbitration
that settles the issue, saves the industry,
sends him back through the gate
in his suit and tie, to his endless day.


Peter Sirr has published five collections of poems with Gallery Press: Marginal Zones (1984) Talk, Talk (1987) Ways of Falling (1991) , The Ledger of Fruitful Exchange (1995) and Bring Everything (2000). He lived for a number of years in Italy and Holland. He lives in Dublin, where is he is Director of the Irish Writers Centre.