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Martin Burke

Martin Burke
Martin Burke
was born in Limerick, Ireland and was active there in poetry circles in the mid 70's. He then moved to Belgium and poetry all but ceased. It is only in the past three years that it has 'returned' and since then Martin has published two collections of poems: The Other Life and The Weave That Binds Us, and a Play: Six Scene from a War. And more are forthcoming.


and the dream of it
so tantalizingly near
like smoke from wet wood
or words approaching the core
of the Tao-

that sort of thing

near misses
the almost approaching the articulate
but not making it

no matter
this is where the poetry is
where it always has been
in the articulation
in the flow towards the core
-no matter that it misses-
in the words falling into one another
and the silence in between

so say it again
go on, repeat what has been said
do so anew
make it clean for the mouth to hold
and the heart to find refuge in

the way it always has
the way it always will

the 'something' approaching articulation
the near-miss deflected towards the heart
of the target

until, that is, the next failure comes around
and you start all over again

On the Whetstone of His Name
*Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995).

Winter in its ice & rain -now
Too far from the sun for warmth, too near the dark & gloom,
sharpen these words on the whetstone of his name
I in whose memory these lines are written:

Justice the beautiful thing
Freedom the necessary, as air or water
Freedom that seeks the proper modulations of the heart
Justice beyond a politician's ability to twist to lie
Anger guides the heart to love & love offers calm
No, no calm here--the duty of love & justice will not allow it
Now in this time, here in this place
Sharpening these words to the diamond language of love
Shaping all songs accordingly
We are too far from the sun-even so, even so
It is winter & there seems no end to it-even so, even so
& language the only weapon I can hold
Sing beauty, sing love, sing justice in this twilight time
Walking these streets, walking these woods
A beautiful thought taking shape in the mind
One I am reluctant to speak lest it should fly away, away
Holding to that--this is also justice & love--& all he had to say
& said a legacy I draw on at this moment
It is winter but the winter cannot destroy the memory of love
His & mine
Now and then, here & in that place
& justice the cry that rises in/from the heart
Yes, I have loved; so have you
Yes, I have given it many names but it always was love & still is
Denying nothing, neither of myself--though I have been faithless--
nor what I draw from the oil on the whetstone
Here in this time, here in this place, & whatever will follow
Calling for justice & calling for love
In his name & mine
Now & whenever I will speak those words I draw from the stone
of his name
& I have dreamt of all the beauty of the world
Have dreamt and loved all things accordingly
Greece holds my heart as Africa held yours
but in truth, what is the difference between them?
Images of a splendid landscape & light rise to the mind's eye
-it is a splendid instrument- & the heart acts accordingly
Yes, landscape as language, cartography of the heart
Greece/Africa & wherever you may be even though it is winter &
we are far from the sun
Greece/Africa, what difference between them when a mind can
draw splendid images from both?
These are the hearts' homeland where all images rise from and
ultimately bow down to
Yes, even in winter, even in the injustice of the world, I have
dreamt the beauty of the world
And did you not also?
Where you not also that voice?
Listen, now listen, the wind carries your name from Africa to
Greece and to Flanders my homeland
Vowels move through the trees, verbs stir the waters of this lake as
violent men--to cite Yeats again--move through the shadows with
cold intentions
Still the heart must forgive even these & not merely mirror the ills of
this time
To sing in affirmation,
to speak of the splendid light on an ancient landscape,
to forgive all crimes
it is with this that all must begin & must begin now
& the heart faithful to all that walks or crawls on this the splendid
Yes, the heart must forgive--& does
Splendid in its loving, open & embracing all
Yes, to dream the world anew is the core of the poem
-this is the common purpose of verse-
All languages, all landscapes & the ravishing light active on the
To sing for this & nothing less
even now in this winter,
even among the naked trees
To sing for this & nothing less
Now in this time, here in this place where your name rings, Africa
Homeland of the heart & mind's delight
& language reaching for it
Yes, first the winter then the spring
First the silence then the word

May Africa hear the children singing in its heart
May poetry extol their gracious growing

*A Nigerian writer and environmental activist, executed by hanging in November 1995.

At The Frontier

Light was hurrying down a low hung sky
as the dead, or their likeness, moved toward
that pier. It seemed a gathering point for those

who had nowhere else to gather and no purpose
apart from departure from that place Light was hurrying
but it was not enough the break the greyness in which

all was covered like a thin film of dust, a film
that could have been played backward and it would
have showed the same image over and over. And so

they gathered there and waited for some release
or destination that would name them. Immigrants,
emigrants, homeless and lost, the dispossessed among

the shambles of an evening from which they sough release
or compensation but found none. The pier was full
and there were not enough boats nor captains willing to take

them to where their hopes lay across that stretch of water
they could find no way over to the refuge that like a promise
glittered and shone but would not welcome them.

Contents: Jun-Aug. 05


Simon Maslin
Joseph's Pyramid

Zdravka Evtimova
The Magazine

Matthew Fries
Buddha Lamp

Alexandra Kitty
The Birthday Boy of Bingford

David Jordan

Michael Hulme


Michael Spring

Moez Surani

Martin Burke


Wole Soyinka Society
A Good African Critic

Kate Baggott
The Assumption Chord


Lee Dunne

FRANkly Speaking!

Fran Cartoon

Book Reviews

The Master
Colm Toibin
The Master

Christine Dwyer Hickey

Havoc, in It's Third Year
Ronan Bennett
Havoc, in It's Third Year

Swallowing The Sun
David Park
Swallowing The Sun

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