This poem is one that I regard as being one of my finest pieces.
The Masquerade, 2019
Eugene and the masquerade have gone.
Alone, I face the desolate whiteness of my empty sheets
and think back to the night when faces shone
as voices bubbled thoughts over dancing feet.
Now, these black lines resurrect the memories
of faces and masks of the night
spiralling in a room to the rhythms of delight.
A chance meeting with an Irish youth
who spoke of poetry and love
his mind hidden behind the mask of a beautiful face.
It was a dance of actors as they played their parts
in the drama of their mutable lives.
I see you Eugene: your sun-freckled face,
your Connemara clothes,
you speaking love of poetry
for its own sake.
Now I sit alone, facing the desolation
of my empty sheets, as thinkers must,
confronting the chilling challenge
of pauperous paper
‘alone, important and wise.’
Now returned, fired by an exultant dance,
fuelled by the frenzies in my mind,
confronting experience with my pen,
capturing, before it dies, the fleeting chance.
Facing my ghosts and demons in the dark
by wielding my nibbed rhyme
to slay the shibboleth of beauty
knowing it was but a moment
in the long conflict of time.
Beauty is made from dust, Eugene,
and to dust your face must return.
Into these sheets, your memory, I wind
the decaying remains of the passing day.
Your youthful words were noble in the mind,
brief poetry blown, by the wind of time, away.
Your face now wrinkled, grey, like mine,
that moment turned to ashes of inevitable decay.
I left the dance, where strangers spoke
of poetry, behind their masks,
like actors in a play
acting out their momentary parts
recorded now by a writer with a pen,
imprisoning in words,
a chance occurrence captured
and unravelled on the sheets
the record of a youth long dead
resurrected and turned to stone
as I carve your alabastrine shrine.
Why do we love beauty?
The soul is seen beneath
the masked realities of life.
We must be heroes to grasp
the fleeting glimpses of a face
before it’s blown away by slow decay.
The image of a beautiful face –
is that worth pulling from the graves of change?
Can the pen cheat death?
Bring back one moment from the lime
the death-dark, grave-grey sepulchre of time?
I battle with the demons of my past
severing the Gorgon’s head with my pen.
I resurrect the dancers from the dead
bring back to life the moment when
a youth spoke of his love of poetry
for its own sake.
You, I have immortalised, Eugene,
carved with my pen your monument,
honouring the moment when
I chanced upon your life
and loved the beauty of your words and face.
But soft! I think I scent the morning air
as the white sheets spiral towards an end.
I can be as cold and passionate as the dawn.
Eugene is asleep now
in the arms of his beautiful friend
his eyes closed, as in the sleep of death.
The dancers have departed,
their masks discarded,
but I alone continue with the dance,
here with my isolated shrouds,
laying to rest the monuments of death,
immortalising one poetic man
chiselling out the features of a face
to represent the stature of a mind
of a youth who existed once
who spoke of poetry with grace
a youth who was but a dream
a youth with a hidden face.
Now I am old, I inter into these lines
an image as cold and passionate as the dawn.