Issue 26: Kelvin Corcoran

Seeing England

Driving across England out of the tunnel into the day,

a single dot flashes heading west on empty roads;

folded in green of Salisbury Plain, a calendar of stones

fixes Hardy’s vision of time passing to one end;

wind combs the fields with light, each blade of grass alive.

We swung by the pivot, recruited, bound to history,

our unseeing eyes crammed with grit,

saw the minister of speed-speak let flop on the compass.

Daisy, Ermintrude and Buttercup – hup hup my girls,

the near Neolithic algorithm will do for this lot.

They fall asleep in a country falling asleep,

surrounded by magnetic hills, the old money fretwork,

the sing-song verse from these southern downlands

proclaims they’re done with courting abroad,

will sleepwalk an imagined nation into a ditch.

Are we there yet?  Look, a land made invisible to itself

hurtling backwards to a supposed point of origin;

the princes of chartered vagrancy scour the place,

what matter Wordsworth, Shelley, Blake turned this field,

about them now the day falters in Atlantic darkness.

City Garden

As currencies crashed and markets burned

I was feeding avocado and haloumi

to the foxes at the bottom of the garden

and thick blood to the jaunty magpies.

The trees were dancing and deep in the garden

there was radium, cobalt, spiralling light.

I noticed the city was full of birdsong

and that the birds had insistent business with one another,

over the garden squares pooled in darkness

over the empty roads of the lost, blueprint town,

the overlaid sound, as if a score for the unknown,

the clouds looked fixed but drifted, the air ferrous.


After the event whenever on the street or in a market,

she would look for places to hide, to get down, covered.

This could be prompted by a plane soaring, a shout,

a door slamming – to begin the roar of ritual slaughter.

Don’t run from the first explosion into the second,

this is a design feature of such events to be refused.

In orbit – a child’s sunglasses with white stars, silence,

various body parts, hats without heads, unmatched shoes,

and the dead man alight who flew to fall on the girl.

In orbit the impossibility of encompassing the act,

the quality of the stone, the lettering on the monument;

all of this before anything can land and the light return.


Melanie is driving home through the city and its priorities,

through the seven tunnels in the moment of renaming,

the moment for the little poets and big poets at their desks

to go shopping and wash the shopping, expunge the fear juice,

scourge the wax and death from under their nails

and consider the weather, default grey, dark as a trench.

Melanie, outside the glow of dial light touching your face

floating forwards in the various world, nothing exists.

I know there’s a casting outward here, a reaching out let’s say,

implausibly beyond the writ of the poem over nothing, over

a dry river bed, the blown avenues of the financial district,

the stream of lights gliding in every form of address.

Of the Crows

Of the crows which fell into Helen’s garden

from a Brabantine blue sky that day,

one flew off and one stayed

to tackle the catflap and befriend big dog.

Two crows fell into Helen’s Garden exhausted

black Xs to rewrite corvid lore,

black wings refusing flight, beady-eyed

intelligence from flightpaths of knowing.

We know grief is locked in our bones,

we know we will fall in the same way;

loss is endless; Helen’s hand drawing

a hawk on her father’s coffin is love.

As if in a glacier or seen through opaque plastic

a crow, the image of a crow at the catflap tapping.

Feed me, the beak tattooed in crow exegesis,

– I know my Hegel, the master servant trick, try me.

Big dog and crow sat above the garden

taking the air from the green pocket of earth;

absent crow was absent but these two were at rest

on the metal steps above the submerged flora.

One day two crows fell into Helen’s garden.

Another Country

Feed me no Moly, let me not forget

above ground walking, the bright day.


Let the wind rock the house.

Where would you pitch your voice

from the North Atlantic fault

from Iceland’s black shore?

Bells ring under the waves off-key;

through the watches of the night – stand down,

you could just stand down

for the dark rotation into day.

The clouds appear anchored

but drift at ease over the moor

through the empty hymn of the air,

the uncased air, tilting to the light.


In that quarter over the sea

the sky a bowl of light

surrounding the peninsula

deep and endless blue of day.


With the day falling to the west

a murmuration swirled over our heads

rolling over the fields down to the sea,

a dancing wave folding and unfolding

fills the air with the sound of wings

and the sky breathing all around us.


The dog barking

jumps each incoming wave

in a perfect arc to land surprised

by the wetness of the sea.

Kelvin Corcoran lives in Brussels. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including New and Selected Poems, For The Greek Spring from Shearsman, and most recently Facing West, 2017, the Medicine Unboxed sponsored Not Much To Say Really, 2017, Article 50, 2018, Below This Level, 2019 and The Republic of Song, Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2020, and Orpheus Asymmetric, 2020.

The sequence ‘Helen Mania’ was a Poetry Book Society choice and the poem ‘At the Hospital Doors’ was highly commended by the Forward Prize jury 2017. His work is the subject of a study edited by Professor Andy Brown, The Writing Occurs as Song, 2013 and is discussed in The Return of Pytheas: Scenes from British and Greek Poetry in Dialogue, Paschalis Nikolaou, 2017. Kelvin has also edited an account of the poetry of Lee Harwood in Not the Full Story: Six Interviews with Lee Harwood, 2008. He is the guest editor of the Shearsman poetry magazine.

Copyright © 2021 by Kelvin Corcoran, 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.