Harry Clifton Poems


I hunker down, and see the daffodils
At eye-level, with the light coming through them.

It has happened once before.
I am being born. There is yellow light,

Indefinable, but absolutely pure,
Irradiating everything - maybe a vein or two,

My mother's or my own, the yolk of an egg
Or a streak of red in a bloodshot eyeball -

Either way, the world in its primary state
Being given. Ever afterwards

Yellow is my colour. And it multiplies
Endlessly. But nothing is the same.

The Spring comes in. Again it is making windows
Of itself, to be seen but not seen through.... more »


Open that book on any page.
Out it spills, like one dead leaf -
Yourself in middle age
On a blind date. Her disbelief,

Suspicion, as you speak
Of Harry and Hermine,
The lonely man in the boarding-house,
The hostess on the scene

In a world of smoke and mirrors
Calling time, last orders please,
Between the crush of a Dublin bar
And the bottomless sleaze

Of Weimar . . . She would like,
She says, to be Haller's daemon.
Nevertheless, there is always the clock
And how it ticks for women.

As you watch, her hair unbraids,
A snake at her back
Uncoiling, to the long white shock
Of a toothless old maid

In a fairytale. ‘Be not afraid
Of foxtrots, jazz and good-time girls.
The real world is the underworld.
There, mein lieb, we all get laid,

Intensity, ecstatic truth
Are everyone's, at little risk
But childlessness, slow death -
And anyway, the Ball is Masked

As I am now . . .'
It was that night
You saw her, for the first and last time,
Vanishing, like second sight,
Through Irish rain and German autumn,

Promising she could always find you,
Harry Haller, in the book
From which, just yesterday, there shook
A dead leaf, to remind you.... more »


for Belinda McKeon
They're all strung out, our alcoholic brethren,
On an infinite chain of early-morning drinks
In joints like this one. Little grey people
Unlike you, though - people without a future,

Dapper folk, with nothing to say for themselves,
The daily chemical hit, not ecstasy,
What they are after. Not exactly one of them
Myself, but the degree of separation

Less by the year, I can barely stay awake
As Smithfield market dawns, on a last blind date
Between night and morning, early and late -
The forklift whiz and rumble on the ramps,

The Chinese hauliers, their tailboards down
For the weight of the world. Little Britain Street,
North King Street - haunts of the underdog
Who lives off scraps, returns to his age-old vomit . . .

One last glance, before we break away
Into past and future . . . Drizzle, dark before dawn,
The lights kept low, in deference to the wishes
Of the damned, in this strobe-lit gin-palace

Afternoon whites out, when the children come
To fling themselves at ecstasy, as I did myself,
And the binges start. For your company, much thanks,
In the underworld. Slán, and don't look back.... more »

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