Astonishment & Dublin Canals

Richard W. Halperin


To which the acute and judicious proposer
answers: “Not. . . . .’ William Molyneux, 1689,

I do not think, he wrote, that a person
Blind from birth who suddenly can see
Can distinguish visually
Objects known prior only by touch.
I do not think, he wrote, that seeing
A globe or a cube would have any relation
To the globe or the cube known prior by the hand.

Not. . . . [He] has not yet attained the experience.

This night, for me,
Molyneux is a cleansing.

That perception starts from zero each time,
And is experience,
Not hypothesis.

Certain sights, certain music,
Certain scents, certain stories,
Certain embraces, my heart recognises.

As real.
Life cannot be theoretical.
It is recognition.

As when Strauss’s Elektra recognises
Her disguised brother, and sings
Near inaudibly: Orest. Orest.

Molyneux. Irish, is he?

All Plato is a footnote to Molyneux.
My mother isn’t.

Dublin Canals

A bird smashed against a windowpane
in Howth. What a way to go.

In memoriam is present tense.
Those who have passed over never say it.
Water flows. Water is always present tense.

When I travel from Paris to Dublin
And open my mind to think a little,
I am not in Paris, I am not in Dublin,

I am in a third place. There is no I
From which to look out. Only to be.
I do not think – excuse me –

That there ever was Adam and Eve.
Only to be. A cataclysmic relief, that.
Water flows. It is to be. It is soft notes

And departures, as in the title of
Clare Sawtell’s poetry collection
With its silhouettes of horses and of words.

Dublin canals. Dragonflies cling
To them. Water flows along them.
Up and down go the locks, not to adjust

Water, nothing can do that, but to work
With water. During each rise and
Fall, the locks existed; exist.

I had a friend who once a year
Would speak on a bank of one of
The canals. A poet speaking of

Another poet. I pass the spot
Where he used to speak. I want to
Pause, in memoriam, but I cannot.

Sometimes when he spoke, locks
Would go up and down I do not know
About the poet whom my friend honoured.

I know about my friend. He never tried
To adjust the water, he worked with it.
Speaking on that spot, he existed; exists.

Richard W. Halperin 's work is part of University College Dublin's Irish Poetry Reading Archive. He has published four collections via salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher, with a fifth listed for 2020; and eleven shorter collections via Lapwing, Belfast, with a twelfth listed for 2020.

Richard W. Halperin

Richard W. Halperin's work is published by Salmon Poetry/Cliffs of Moher (four collections since 2010) and Lapwing Publications/Belfast (16 shorter collections since 2014). In 2024 Salmon will bring out a Selected and New Poems volume drawing upon all twenty collections.

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