A Rainbow in the Drawing Room
Shutters closed, except one
Left slightly ajar, a thin beam
Of light permitted, aimed
At a prism, a white light
That produced colours,
Seven colours from one,
Colours that solved a mystery
And proved a human point.
Electricity in a Leyden Jar
What is lightning?
He built a kite from strips of cedar
And silk cloth, attached wire,
A key and string, then launched
It towards the storm clouds,
Waiting for rain to soak the line
And lightning to sprint towards
The jar – excitement felt and captured.
A Flintlock Flash and a Pistol Crack
As far away as possible but still within sight,
The assistant prepared the pistol. The scientist,
Telescope to eye, dropped a handkerchief.
A flash followed by a sharp crack, timed
One to the other, the speed of sound calculated,
Eye, ear, stopwatch coordination rehearsed
For this moment of revelation that time
And distance are all we have.
Lighting Up a Page
Saints sit enthroned, emblazoned
In vermillion, gold leaf and azure blue,
And ringed by a giant capital letter.
Entwined garlands of briar roses
And meadow flowers climb the margins.
Armoured knights pursue outlandish dragons
And serpents across the foot of the page.
Delicacy, colour and imagination,
Dry text infused, illuminated.
A Charcoal Drawing
A blurry dome not unlike St. Paul’s Cathedral
Or Belfast City Hall, or a thousand other domoids.
No matter, the drawing begs you to think,
Make up your own mind, let your eyes do the work
On the softened lines, the rubs, the smudges,
The expressive and subtle darkness relieved
By daubs of whiteness, of lightness. No matter.
Three-quarters of what you see ahead is black.
A Man, a Cat and an Upstairs Light
Doorways in the dark draw me in,
Shadows of something or imagined catch
My attention but there is nothing there,
Almost always, there is nothing there.
One day, walking at night, I might hear
A cat’s miaow, a slight shuffle of hard shoes,
And, briefly, lit up by a bedroom light:
Is that the man who used to be my father?
Portraits of Dukes
There they are, preserved as wall-hangings,
Ramrod-straight in pose, frozen expressions,
Noblemen in noblemen’s uniforms,
Hair long and curled, beards trimmed,
Aristocratic hippies, dedicated followers
Of traditions and family expectations,
Painted in awkward light and shade, and I admit
A failure to be moved by grandeur.