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BILLY RAMSELL

 

 

 

Billy Ramsell

Billy Ramsell was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1977 and educated at the North Monastery and UCC.  Complicated Pleasures, his debut collection, was published by the Dedalus Press, Dublin, in 2007. He has been shortlisted for a Strong Award and a Hennessy Award.  He lives in Cork, where he co-runs an educational publishing company.

 

 

 

 

__________

 

From the Unconceived

 

________

 

 

 

 

 

Lament for Esbjörn Svensson

 

 

Play me something. Though you're not really here
the rain tat-tattooing the kitchen window like a snare

and the wind, the wind, the weary wind
droning like the bass on Tuesday Wonderland,

the heating creaking in the key of A, the fridge voicing
the same two notes in perpetuity (I'm improvising

here for accompaniment; give me a break).
I'll pour us both a finger of Knob Creek

And though you're not really here play me something: a slow
progression on my flatmate's beat-up Casio

then your hands jerking like mad crabs across the key-
board. Or don't play. It's up to you. But play.

For there's no one but me here in the lamplight.
Or at least tell me what eternity is like:

if it's a never-closing-club called The Hereafter,
dead greats in the rhythm section, you tinkling like the laughter

of sixteen-year-olds on a beach in late July, table-serviced boozing.
Or if dying translates us into the condition of music;

leaves us weightless, melodious, floating bars of thought
uploaded like data into the mind of God.

Okay fine. Let's not talk of prematurity and jazz
but just listen to the silk rain fizz

upon the rain that waterfalls the steps, tests drains,
and strokes the beveled slope of River Lane

as we name the too-late, unmade albums
(Fractal Birds, Jessica's Premises, E.S. Ah Um)

your fan-club now will only hear in overhearings or in dreams.
And I won't bullshit you, in the scheme of things

your trio-intricacies, your carefully-sequenced records will endure
no longer than the muttering gap between main set and encore,

no longer than it took the final chords to flow,
like a receding wave, back into the piano

when you played late and cranky in the Opera House,
unsoundchecked, your sampler or whatever on the fritz.

That stubby bottle's empty as your glass.
I wouldn't bring this matter up unless.

Though you're not really here it's time to go.
It's easing off, I think. I'm sorry. You know

I'm sorry but it's time. That's traffic and raw light
spills through the curtain-gaps. It's easing. Thank you. And goodnight.

 

 

 

________

 

 

 

From the Unconceived

 

 

Here are the daughters you permanently exiled
that night you didn't let him pull your pants down
in your breath-hot postered bedroom,
and on those nights you stayed faithful,
and on the nights that you took the recommended precautions.

And there are the boys without whom your life is diminished,
just as hagfish are diminished for want of the sun
in their mile-deep trenches,
cruelly, unutterably,
and without the tiniest sense of diminishment.

Behind them you can see your shadow-siblings,
the kin who could have sat in your saddle
on life's swirling carousel;
the brothers you condemned to nothingness
at your own moment of conception
and your half-jealous sisters who never knew air.

They queue forever in the drizzle, here,
just the other side of possibility,
loitering in front of the uncles and aunts
who would have coddled you, who would have cosseted you,

and then come the Grands, the Grands and the Grands,
in stranger fashions,
in greyer get-ups,
the further along that line-up you look.

They are the fruit of your family’s lost branches,
that would have hung on the limbs
that never quite made it out of the trunk,
on those offshoots that were cancelled by a caught train,
or by hesitation,
or by the right word spoken at the wrong time.

This is their eternity:
their fidgety file receding
into the July twilight,
this gravel footpath in the funfair’s mingled glows.

Those near the front
can watch from behind the barrier
the bright machines go round and round

that whip, that jig, that whirligig,
that flash patterns in arrays of gaudy bulbs,
in yellows, in glinting primaries,
all slick with summer's sweet precipitation.

They pump their absurd music out:
carnival tinkling waltzes, hurdy-gurdy tunes,
two-note klaxons when they start and slow,
the passengers and engines,
the mingled shrieks and diesel sounds.

Call this waiting oblivion maybe,
but let it be said before you slip from this dream,
that it's not quite complete oblivion.

For they know you've seen them,
you Angela, you;
three-quarters dozing in first class,
Irish Tatler spread over your bottle-green sweatshirt
as your hair of auburn, murmurs and dusk
is flicked by the wind through the carriage window.

They know you've glimpsed their extending queue,
in your lap-top, in Insomnia in the Huguenot Quarter,
through those flickering electric traces
in the second before the screen goes blank,

and behind your reflection
when you clip mint from the window-box,
pucker-lipped, a tentative finger splaying the sprigs,

at the bright edges of your sleeping mask
when your eyes snap open at four

and in the momentary smudge that occurs,
all merge, all motion,
in all the fine and blended colours
when you turn away from the mirror quickly.

 

 

©2010 Billy Ramsell

 

 

 

Author Links

 

Poems and extended bio at Poetry International Web

Ramsell poem 'For the Bodiless' in Horizon magazine

Ramsell poem 'Breath' in the Stinging Fly

 

 

 

 

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