The Cold

Michael Symmons Roberts
Despite this blizzard, or because of it,
the dog wants letting out. In summer she was white,
but now she can’t compete. Instead,
she starts to eat it off what was the road,
as if by this brute method she can free us. 
Outgunned, outnumbered, she looks up at the geese
in their greater-than formation cutting low over
the roofs, and I, at this half-opened door
– dressed for an inner life, facing an outer –
know neither one thing nor the other. 
Sky is blank, and endless blank, but that was never
the place to find a cure for this cold fever.
If prayers are heard, as I believe they are,
then they are heard here without fear or favour,
and the answers must be here too, solid and sure. 
Across the road, swaddled, my neighbour 
the retired accountant scrapes and shovels
out beyond his drive into the street, and still it falls.
I try to reckon up if I should go to him,
if the rate of two digging could win us this game, 
or if we should give in to it, wait for the melt.
God of the snows, I know this is my fault,
I have kept your voice too distant, hard to pick out
from the freight trains, cold calls, backchat, 
when I should feel your breath against my cheek,
words so clear that I could not mistake
your answers for my own. So here, a prayer
for the frostbitten feet of Captain Oates, whose Terra Nova
ended in a walk off the edge of the earth,
for the hands of Francis Bacon, who met death
while trying to stuff a fowl with ice, 
for the deep sounded lungs of Louis MacNeice,
who caught his in a cave recording echoes,
for the kicked-out, street-sleepers, hawkers and strays,
for the eyes of a driver hunched over his wheel,
for the hearts, lungs, lights that make us real,
I stare into the beautiful nil, winter’s empyrean, 
then scrap that prayer and start again. 
Page 26, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 120
Issue 120

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 120:

Edited by Vona Groarke

Vona Groarke's final issue as editor is packed with new poems from leading contemporary poets, including Simon Armitage, Sinéad Morrissey, Colette Bryce, Paul Muldoon, Sean O'Brien and Caitríona O'Reilly. Books reviewed include new work from Derek Mahon, Bernard O'Donoghue, Rita Ann Higgins, Martina Evans, Denise Riley and the 2016 Forward Prize winner Vahni Capildeo. The centrepiece of the issue is an interview with Paul Muldoon in which the Armagh maestro shares his thoughts on subjects as diverse as public surveillance, the economic down-turn, and the exclamation mark. The cover image is by photographer Justyna Kielbowicz, and the issue also contains award-winning artwork from Sven Sandberg, Aoife Dunne, Jane Rainey, and Michelle Hall. Instead of an editorial, Vona herself answers the questionnaire she put to the contributors of Poetry Ireland Review Issue 118: The Rising Generation.