Tim MacGabhann ~ Three Poems


His sightline snaggled with marl
Ulíses woke from his out-cold

somersault through salt buffets,
head pillowed on wavemelt,

his old nets matted about him
in a nylon kilt. An hour of raw,

hollered vowels over having to
unpick that oakum before

he set his nails to the task,
wore their edges dull and blunt,

worked the ropes in two loose plaits.

Ocean’s labials, plosives.
The iamb roar beat him into peace.

Ulíses saw spars he’d known
gather in the drifts. Laptop.

Tripod. His telephoto lens.
Ulíses laid aluminium ribs,

a spine, snapped his material
into shape. The hillside wind

turbines were bleached oars
sunk to mark all journeys’ end.

In his fist was a bolus of twine.

Ulíses combed the frayed nets
out around the new skeleton.

Sank an unbroken fishing rod
in gravel to act as a mast.

Unspooled black and white
rigging down the graphite stem.

Knotted prow to stern. A lighter
craft rose from the nets, aimed

at another shore. He turned
inland. Called her Nausicaa.


Scars give nothing away. Veterans pitch up here
daily, driftwood twists for limbs, hair cooked off.

No: they knew me by the print on one heel
where a ghost brother pressed his thumb for luck.

I was the first one born, of course, but one
before me didn’t make it. Whorls and grooves

blur one with time, but that full stop stays.
Live for two, starts his next, unsaid sentence.

This port’s the god’s last known whereabouts.
Surf cannons. Dirt billows. Big thooms.

The sea took him. Now a rust-holed page
from Isaiah 62 sheds script into the salt air.

The heron must nest in trash – even here,
in this shard language. Hotel Jiltón,

MayPole cigarettes. Sour leather breath,
toxin burn, that sense of lung glar.

Eight dollars gets you filleted Xeroxes,
fake translations, stolen poems.

I buy these to hear the owner’s dactyl
scuff across the floor: heel, sole, toe.

My manuscripts’ ash is not so heatless
that they can’t keep eggs warm.

Swallows streel out long lines: all vowels.
You needn’t ask if it’s good to be home.

Home Islands

Everything that I knew I lost.
The rest hardens in forgetting,

same as leather in salt water holds
to the creases etched by wear.

Look, here: my old jacket.
A chalk silt climbs the folds.

Of the war? Little to say. Pain
where the liver budged a salt cargo

of night-before-the-shots shots.
The brain’s hot sore shunt in the skull

like a pound of mince. Just one cigarette
could quicken you past alert to on the alert.

You could put flashgun headaches
down to hangover. Wince. Be wry.

Think how if hit you’d leak no thoughts
worth having: pulped memory frames

of bad nights in even worse bars.
No waste where nothing’s worthwhile.

Your head became a pacified zone.

Poets are far too hard on islands.
A life without glory – that’s my plan.

Glory is when a retch kicks
like a horse in your guts

and you don’t hit your own boots.
I have no homesickness for that.

I like the taper in the word isthmus.
Shaped on a map ours ends in a dash

or a basalt ellipsis, zoom depending.
Either fate’s doable. A breath taken in

with no uptake expected: death as wait.
Or else the slow climb down molar steps

into fog, a hail of ions, and nothing else.

© Tim MacGabhann

Tim MacGabhann is a journalist living in Mexico City. His work has appeared in Squawk Back, Entropy, gorse, The Stinging Fly, and is forthcoming in The Lighthouse. He is a regular contributor to Vice, and edits the press and journal Mexico City Lit. // @TimMacGabhann