Dead of Night, a new poem by Derek Mahon
Taken from his new collection, ‘Rising Late’
Derek Mahon addresses guests after receiving The Irish Times DLR Poetry Now award from its poetry editor Gerry Smyth in 2009. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
Arc lamps so bright tonight the thrushes sing
as though at daybreak or the start of spring
thinking it’s sunrise, and in fun or fright
pursue their thing at dead of night
in light of or in spite of it –
a pop group piping in the branches, one
clear blackbird noticeable above the din,
not like McCartney’s learning how to fly
with broken wing and sunken eye,
but loud in its anxiety.
He’d rather be presaging lousy weather –
a downpour or a storm, one or the other;
but the blaze gets him going, the gold beak
wide open with a frightened shriek
in a far corner of the park.
Not for the lying light and not for us
he sings, distinctive in the midnight chorus,
but for the living shadows whited out,
his fierce song an indignant shout
in the bright piercing dead of light.
Taken from Rising Late by Derek Mahon (Gallery Press, 2017)