Blackbox Manifold

Issue 12: Karl O'Hanlon

On the Eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (2012)

Fête des Lumières, Lyon

Rhône-red, the city fits in strobe

Light, shaking sky’s pressured snow globe.

       Snite-stung night fell,

Trains slattering Mary’s mordell:

Vézelay, Beaune. Shunned farmhouses

Flicker, each a votive cierge

             Whose smoke rouses

       Our summed Vierge.

The mufti-seminarist prays

(Office opened, unread): ‘Dark, blaze

       Your expressive

Silent score. Night-glare – oppressive

Cocoon of light – smother our wants.’

Irenic town Waldo’s pauper

       Maquis fled flaunts

       Its showstopper,

Gobsmacker splurge, spree of treacled

Bulbs. Feting your never equalled

       Matritude cost

Less than they owed you, ocelot

-Eyed Lady without spots. And still

The city burghers milk your feast,

       Clochards stoop-swill

       The gobs of waste.


Oy, vey! Ray, Gina, Che: low rum!

Big Sligo lad slaps every bum

       Note, Herod’s out

Music’s sleek innocence; devout

Brothers in Belfast say compline

As Harry Clarke’s eldritch stained glass

       Disordains tin

       Gods, bulls of brass. 

Was he a wonder, holy show

-Man? Summoned to a French pow-wow

         On B.V.M.

‘They’ll mitre you,’ (his bros). He them:

 ‘Rusticissimus sum,’ demurred.

      Stilted mantids flash through the foule.

             Gaulish wormwood

       Froths on his soul:

Resigned ambition, hamstrung lust.

A crowd face – a girl, her high-trussed

       Crown of sorrel

Hair parting light. There’s no quarrel

Here moved against themes the dogma

Molly-coddles, nonsenses sin.

       Look, my old Ma!

       Your fry spews in

-candescent: ‘Is that it? Quel blague!’

‘I’ve not seen as bad since the plague.’

        ‘Sac’bleu, don’t throw

Up that andouille!’ The great rondeau

Of Alps, extra-terrene, dorsal,

School to where he won’t follow: Rome,

       God’s own borstal,

       Mystery’s home.  


For Daniel and Clara


It seemed as though Murugan’s peacock screamed,

a comet trailing its tail somewhere

unseen leaving a few broken quills

in the grass, mad-eyed, fern-fronded.

Bats parabolised in the cypresses;

your Gold Flake smoke curled

into the tensile brawn of the silent many-armed night.


Sunflash momentarily stunning

on the kepi of the Pondi bobby,

sixty strokes of midnight passed

and not just strokes: innumerable

moves pulled, palms oiled, Reds

tape-strangled, businesses mined

by the Goonda Raj. Also marks

great Mary, how she bangled up

to Heaven accompanied by filmi

softly redubbing Apirāmi Antāti,

backdropped by the Jesuit baroque.

The Haussmannite boulevards empty

but for wild dogs, loping afraid of sun,

shoulders like tentpoles; a bigwig convoy

closing the road either late or an airy fiction

of the moustachios waxed to horsefly green,

his lathi-lollipop escort through the accelerant

dust to the other side only when he glimpsed

I was of that victim race, that verdant blood

that ran in Dane, MacDonnell and O’Dwyer.


Chisels denting Time, the long game,

the undeterred march of the elephants

to that royal appointment gyres keep.

Apprentices hawk their stone trinkets,

descendents of brown-eyed Chalukyas

Mahendravarman, the art-maven king,

lured across the parallel. Each Ganesh,

each bald egg of stone eye finished near

-perfect, but by beauty’s love or fear?


Keep en pointe,

Blessed Arjun, your

mind on wars as your

pink granite skin

silvers over.

The starveling heaven

rumbles at such displays, though gossip

rags tut-tut-yum-yum at your anorexic

legs. At your feet

a tabby brindled

with scutellae

 of mosses

mocks your

pose, pas de

chats, archimime

of holy saddos.

I hate and am like

this cat, his charivari

hoping to










will tumble

into your grammar.

Karl O'Hanlon was born in Belfast and educated at Queen's University. He completed his MA as a Fulbright scholar at Georgetown University, Washington DC, before starting a PhD at York. He is co-editor of Eborakon, a poetry magazine based at the University of York.