Стихотворения Катрины О`Рэйли (на английском языке)


Magnetic winds from the sun pour in
and send our instruments akimbo.
Nothing runs like clockwork now.
As skeletal clouds unwreathe our exposure,
panicky citizens climb ladders to hammer
their roofs on harder. A crackle of static,
and the world’s fat face is in shadow.
There are swallow nests under the eaves,
each with a staring cargo: six bronze bibs,
six black-masked, African birds. They dip
and snap the last bees up. A million Ms
foregather with a million others on the sky.
This is the shape that memory takes.
For days they practise flying, then they fly.

from The Nowhere Birds (Bloodaxe 2001), reproduced by permission of Bloodaxe


Until the feather tapers like an arrow
it’s a stem of hollow smoky glass
unsnappable from root to subtle tip.
A grounded starling could survive the loss.
This ferny plumage where the shaft begins
is made of down too delicate for flight,
unlike the finny structure of the outer wing,
fashioned for soaring. Perhaps the taut
intrinsic music of a bird comes
from the staves on its small fledged limbs.
The feather’s utmost fibres have all the colour
and congruence of shot silk. From the loud strife
and beating of wings in the sky somewhere
it fell like the notched blade of a knife.


The Curée (from A Quartet For the Falcon)

The secretive hart turns at bay,
lowers his tines to the hounds’ cry.
The sword enters the bull’s heart—
                        still he stands,
            amazed on the red sand
as the stony unbeliever might,
who has seen God. Soon now
horns will sound dedow
for the unmaking. Beaters flush
                        the grey heron
            like a coney from its warren,
the peregrine’s jet eyes flash.
They go ringing up the air,
each in its separate spiral stair
to the indigo rim of the skies,
                        then descend
            swift as a murderer’s hand
with a knife. Death’s gesture liquefies
in bringing the priestly heron down.
Her prize, the marrow from a wing-bone
in which she delights, her spurred
                        fleur-de-lys tongue
            stained gold-vermilion—
little angel in her hangman’s hood.


The Mermaid (from The Sea Cabinet)

Between the imaginary iceberg and the skeletal whale
is the stuffed and mounted mermaid in her case,
the crudely-stitched seam between skin and scale
so unlike Herbert Draper’s siren dreams, loose
on the swelling tide, part virgin and part harpy.
Her post-mortem hair and her terrible face
look more like P.T. Barnum’s Freak of Feejee,
piscene and wordless, trapped in the net of a stare.
She has the head and shrivelled tits of a monkey,
the green glass eyes of a porcelain doll, a pair
of praying-mantis hands, and fishy lips
open to reveal her sea-caved mouth, her rare
ivory mermaid-teeth. Children breathe and rap
on the glass to make her move. In her fixity
she’s as far as can be from the selkie who slips
her wet pelt on the beaches of Orkney
and walks as a woman, pupils widened in light,
discarding the stuffed sack of her body.
Without hearing, or touch, or taste, or smell, or sight
she echoes the numb roll of the whale
in a sea congealed with cold, when it was thought
no beast could be as nerveless as the whale.

The Airship Era

They’d barely emerged from the deep-green forests
of that epauletted century. Geraniums bloomed on windowsills in Heidelberg.
Student princes eyed the tavern keeper’s daughter through the blond foam
of their tankards. The future must have seemed weightless
as it came nosing through the clouds, smooth as a biblical fish
throwing its giant shadow on the sea floor, its thin gold-beater’s skin
pressed back against its ribs, cloche-hatted women in fox furs
waving through its observation windows. Composed of too much
dream stuff to be echt matériel, shoals of them congregated silently
over London in the moon’s dark phases, concealed above clouds.
Their crews were unnerved by crackling blue halos; eerie lightning
shot from frostbitten fingers as they lowered spy baskets
on trapeze wires below the cloud cover, taking careful soundings,
then dropped their antique payloads on the gaping population.
Those whom they did not kill scarcely believed in them,
improbable contraptions the parchment-yellow color of old maps,
vessels a rational traveler might have chosen, a half-century earlier,
to pursue daft, round-the-world steampunk wagers. But for them —
the gilded aerialists in their giant dirigibles — the world remained a storybook
unfolding endlessly in signs and wonders, over which they drifted
in stylish accidie; leviathan hunters, relaxed as Victorian naturalists.
And up there everything looked different:
the borders absurd, the people in their witch-fearing villages as 
as peasants in a medieval breviary. The mountains, too, seemed surpassable,
offering an alternative angle on the sublime. Occasionally there was concern:
a tear in the fabric, hooked to a typhoon’s tail above the China Sea,
or harried by storms across the Atlantic. But how lighter than air they were.
They did not understand, as they fell continually upwards,
how the nature of the element was the price of their rising:
the assiduous atom seeking an exit, thronging the fabric of their cells.
Witness was the privilege of the many: newsreels captured the death of a star
and — oh the humanity! — its last leisurely plummet in fire, its ashen armature.
This poem is from Geis, published in 2015 by Bloodaxe Books in the UK and Wake Forest University Press in the US.