Third Ballad

Joey Connolly
– two versions of ‘Ballade III’ by Christine de Pizan
And as Leander crossed that salted strait,
alive at his skin to the water, in all its 
unsettled electrolytes, all craftless and concealed,
a disappearing small packet of risk, breathing her name
into his fearful shoulder with every
fifth stroke, her home on the snatched in-breath.
And as she waited, Hero, composed of that same, dark water:
               look how love orders the lover.
Across the sound – from which
so many have shouted – our little Leander pants
for old love, unsatisfactory and noble, parcelled inside
the unfolded carnation of heat his chest holds 
against the near-freezing water. Against that passage: 
raw chance, the violence of numbers, voltage, charts
and patterns, the hubris of analysis, weather-fronts: a storm.
              Foresight. See how love orders the lover.
Look how seeing preempts the gulf.
And Leander drowned himself in it, noble
and unsatisfactory. And Hero, in all things fit-for-purpose,
lost herself to it, too, at the same time as he,
if later. As this: one cause, one effect.
See this, poor etiolated lovers, at
the seafloor of love’s furious cause:
               look at how love orders the lover. Look
and learn nothing. I beg you.
This ordering, this deluging myth-kitty; we crave it
overrule our cretin solitude: are desperate for it.
              Look at how love orders the lover.
Always a line I told myself I’d never cross,
this retelling of the Greeks, a long game
I’m utterly without feeling for. And now (no hero, no claim
to heroism) I find you handing me the literal and I fold,
craftless and concealed in the face of
you, your mind, your body. Breathing the metre of it,
Medieval French to English. Parcelling something across.
Look how love orders the lover.
This sound, these English vowels I’ve made – if anything – 
my home, I shout from them my hectors at the French.
Watch me struggle, craftless in the face of order.
Listen, Frenchy: the gap between our tongues
is just the blackest water, nothingy and unbreathable
with wordlessness, knowable at exactly and only those points at which
waves raise like scars from the skin
to catch that scattered, consonantal moonlight.
What survives the crossing? The correspondence
of two white corpses (look how love …)
pushed together by the tide of odds, these
devastated, idiolected lovers. Ten causes,
uncountable effects, a mess of want and
best guess, a sad seafloor of unthinkable love, everybody
just basically wanting to look good, everybody
just trying to write one good poem.
And to push it across, through the nasty insulation
of language, of the straight and the sound.
Don’t stop. I’m sorry. Watch
for that washed-up body, white
and spoken with love.
Page 38, 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.