Issue 26: Karl O'Hanlon

The Co-ordinates of Fear


The Visitor

Out here, fox wails strangle the dark in spring.

A warm March day means a cold March night;

moths tender their flesh to lurking bats

in the gate lamp’s glare, a winter’s hunger

in each sonic twist and swoop to kill.

We’ve watched too many Westerns of late,

their thresholds painted on my eyelids:

the savage Republican camp of Ethan

Edwards, glowering in the doorway out

of the dark into the big blue murder

of open prairie; those stunted Weimar trees

and gleaming picket fences staking the line

between love and hate where Lilian Gish

croons a hymn, and cradles close her shotgun.

On Tuesday, in the middle of the night,

a rapping like coal on the cottage door,

the dog wild with shouting at our window.

I opened the door on a thin young man;

remembering, blood thins to the temperature

of the moon, an image of a weasel’s hairpin

turn needling me. He waited in darkness

after we turned him away, and I said aloud

lines from Yeats, ‘Augusta Gregory seated

at her great ormolu table’, curtains undrawn

as dusk fanned through the seven woods of Coole.


The Decade Ahead Roars like a Wounded Animal

A dead sheep’s left to fester

in the bottom field, and gulls

gather in troops to pester

the raven at its entrails.

Out of the weak, something sweet.

Our barricades are made of hair,

a year or more like anchorites;

we’re governed in a bloody square,

gallows, pit and bullfights.

Out of the weak, something sweet.

Angels with horns writhe over us

now, mortar worth more than flesh,

worth more than the breath of us

expiring in the human crush.

Out of the weak, something sweet.


The Personal Wound

Those stripped-carcass decades, the torchlights and dogs,

granite conversations in rented rooms: it all rumbles

in the background of things, a skin on stagnant water.

We stagger into a silence we knew intimately once

when the serpent and stars beheld the other in wonder.



Dawn musters. On the brow of the hill

run young gods: stud horses that tremble

the earth to a storm, at first polemical,

then lyrical, their withers of marble.

They rub sides, toss manes in secret

fraternity. As purses of silver light spill

from blackthorn and may, the sleekit

song resumes, coal-tit query, blackbird trill.

In the lengthening coming evening

midges appear balletic, almost golden,

the air itself wine, and the breathing

earth aromatic with mint and dandelion.

Karl O'Hanlon lives in Maynooth, Ireland. His work has appeared in Agenda, Poetry, Hopkins Review, PN Review, and elsewhere. His pamphlet And Now They Range was published by Guillemot Press in 2016.

Copyright © 2021 by Karl O'Hanlon, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.