Question & Answer 5 – Niall Bourke

Question 5

Every lane from my house leads to the city,
and they all carry a sign that reads:
……..Quiet Lane.
Quiet Lane – and I’ve always firmly believed
in an interconnected anthill network
of Cornish back roads all named:
……..Quiet Lane.
As if one singular lane has stretched itself
like dough, long enough to carry all the tourists
and dogwalkers in this idiotically blue county.
……..Quiet Lane.
Do I remain hushed, Niall? Or do I speak up
and hope this lane turns red like the ford again?

– Aaron Kent

Answer 5

1666 – conflagration
terriblus devours London town.
poor Saint Paul’s – incineration.
13,000 homes burn down.
Monument, a tall memorial
to passers-by, a tutorial
that in Pudding Lane a baker
razed it all to ash and crater.
62 metres high. She attacks
the 311
spiralling steps like seven
accountants saving Starbucks tax.
The top. Stops. Drinks in the bends*
and pewtered passings of the Thames.
……………………………………Gulls that swoop and dive and stukka
……………………….……………………….……………………….between pillars of Tower Bridge
……………………….……………………….……………………….and see, circling, the feluccas,
……………………….……………………….……………………….trawlers, tugs that zig like midges
……………………….……………………….……………………….down below between catamarans
……………………….……………………….……………………….and passenger boats, understand
……………………….……………………….……………………….that from such advantaged eye
……………………….……………………….……………………….the city is of course alive:
……………………….……………………….……………………….roads are clogged up arteries,
……………………….……………………….……………………….the river is a crooked spine,
……………………….……………………….……………………….iron skeleton railway lines
……………………….……………………….……………………….supporting concrete capillaries
……………………….……………………….……………………….that transport the sustaining swells
……………………….……………………….……………………….of biogenic human cells.

– Niall Bourke

*    Here she too from this lofty eerie/ sees anew a liquid vein/pulsing life underneath the dreary/ cloud, and recalls with sticky pain/ words that surface from below in/ gulps – a chartered Thames flowing/ constrained, forced to defray/ the cities ostentations like a stray/ king’s toxic urethra, muscling/ out rippled knolls and silent folds, / lapping up against shoals/ of lunch-hour folk and bustling/ tourists, who both caw and coo/ as happy folk are wont to do.

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Question & Answer 4 – Niall Bourke

Question 4

I drew my thoughts all over her walls,
like a child with a crayon,
screaming for somebody
to appreciate the straight lines
and attention to detail
in how we communicate.
Do we always need

to talk?
I scribbled messages of hope and fatigue,
exhaustion and desire
and all the while, I couldn’t help but to consider her
beautiful,
and lost,
and stronger than I could ever hope to be.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 4

They walked not knowing what to say.
Where shall we go? What shall we do?
I don’t know. Up to you.

Perhaps, if either can now recall it,
down the back of some quiet lane,
there was a low-slung red-bricked wall
with faded yellow mortar lines,
buried deep behind a privet hedge
(or maybe it was some evergreens).
They squeezed in-between, wading ankle-deep
through the faded wrappers of crisps and sweets.

He sat down, unslung his bag.
She smoothed her dark-green skirt
then threw away her cigarette
and stumbled in among his legs.
they kissed. Her mouth was wet, his eyes were open.
The empty packets spoke in rustles round their feet
and the evening died, staked out between the leaves.
(The pines? The hedge? The trees?)

Do they still remember now
how all that ever mattered hung, just then,
taught upon two straining tongues
as twenty teenage fingers swum
through that stucklimbed well of silence?

– Niall Bourke

Question & Answer 3 – Niall Bourke

Question 3

What’s your vice, Niall?
Where are your excuses?
Coffee was always my father’s excuse:
……..to miss a birth,
…………….to miss dinner,
……………………to miss the target,
even though
he
never
drank
the
damn
stuff.

When we sat upright at the
t
……..a
…………….b
……………………l
…………………………..e
we spoke downright
bull
……..shit.

And now I drink too much coffee.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 3

I’ve woken in the hallway
with a carpet in my mouth,
I hear my housemates ranting
I can tell they are put out,

I feel the beer-angst spiders
spindle slowly up my spine,
booze-guilt blue amnesia
after the second skin of wine.

I told my girl I loved her,
though I’ve known her just a week,
and I think I fought a copper
and he knocked out half my teeth,

I verbally massaged a cabbie
with amazing shafts of wit
but in the light of morning
A spoonerism seems more fit.

I spent a solid fortune,
I lost my bloody phone
I ate my fecking wallet
I left my keys at home

So I had to wake my flat mate
by throwing pebbles up to knock
upon his bedroom window.
But the pebble was a rock.

And when the door was opened
he was further unimpressed,
as I lay there, stripped half bare
and pissing down the steps.

I staggered to my bedroom –
but I never reached my bed
because I fell over on the landing
and cracked my frigging head.

Now I’ve woken in the hallway,
I’m due in work by ten,
there’s a cunty carpet in my mouth
and I’ll never drink again.

– Niall Bourke

Question & Answer 2 – Niall Bourke

Question 2

When I am forced to recall my childhood – on Thursdays
amongst the pandas begging for rain [or eating shoots
or something, I forget my own poetry sometime] – I
try to recall a cowbird planting me in that broken
nest. At least brood parasitism would give me an
excuse to start plucking hairs and thrusting them in
front of scientists. I mean, they can’t be mine, right?
How can I fit into this weird, cultish mould? They never
abandoned that hunting ground, just pushed me
from the bark at an early age. I can’t say I flew, maybe
just hit the ground a little harder than expected.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 2

Someone is chopping up my father.
Bough by bough, limb by limb, knot
by knot, reducing him to kindling.
Someone is chopping up my father.

These days, I often hear some scything
woodsman’s thwacking, his relentless
whacking as his cowl and cape creep near,
and if I could find him I would kill him
but I cannot. So instead I watch my father rot.

I think my father was once a mighty wood.
Hard to see it now, but he must have spread
out a huge canopy of leaves overhead,
filtering the light in just the right amount
until, through his expanse of branches, I climbed out.

Now, he’s been all but hacked right back
by some hour-glass wielding lumberjack.
Maybe there was a mighty forest once. So, yes
I’ll attest, that as this forest I knew him best.

– Niall Bourke

Question & Answer 1 – Niall Bourke

Question 1

I spent a childhood in the clutches of
the Flammarion engraving, a conspiracy
held together by twine and my mother’s
refusal to look through the firmament.

There were no tales of terrestrial spheres
spread along the brekafast table, alongside
the darling black coffee, the toast, the broken
eyelids. Lucretius ran supreme, even as

the weight of our bodies dragged us to infinite,
to the centre of hypocrisy. I followed Magellan
into the street, sat cross-legged amongst
the car crashes on the triangle. I had found

the sphere and rode it out, but how can you
escape the clutches of memory? The broken clock
in the corner of the room? I am lost again
but this time I have chosen no directions.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 1

He got the scars, the story went,
when his mother (not paid the rent)
went out drinking for the night
and forgot she left the hob alight.

His milk, simmering in the pan,
abseiled upward, overran the edge.
John-Joe, hearing blackening hisses,
totters in. Reaches. Misses.

Reaches up again. The milk rains down
in spears, melting off both his ears.
After lunch we’d pick our sticks,
thick, hard, and then chase John-Joe

round the yard, singing (thicker, harder still)
John-Joe, John-Joe, Mam’s Dis-Grace
with just one arm
                                  and half your face.

– Niall Bourke