Poem of the week: Age and Creativity by Thomas McCarthy

Thomas McCarthy’s new collection, Prophecy, is due next spring

Thomas McCarthy

I'm not old enough to be truly aged but I can see age
Before me today at this Aosdána lunch, age in all
Its complex shuffles and hesitations, its heritage
Of folding back upon itself to compress the hard crystal

Of hours that once were loose and loosely scattered.
Life will become a field hospital of the Great War
For all of us who are lucky to survive. Our shattered
Minds will be no worse than the Verey lights and gore

Of a pointless advance through mud. Here is a poet,
Infirm as Robert Graves, who wills me to replenish
His empty water glass. The bucket where ice cubes float
Is beyond his reach. Even the cold in water seems to perish

When you are too old to move quickly. But his mind
Is sharp and quick as a Sergeant Major's, his bark
Is the command of poems published before our time.
I bring him comfort from the Moss Depot and park


My arse where I can listen and learn, his two
Baby Powers in a coffee cup, Waiters are busy as
Tunnellers behind enemy lines, wanting to shoo
Us quickly away, but I am like the captain at Arras

Who has heard a shot while reading Masefield's
Delicate poems, knowing someone has found death
In a shallow dugout, yet hesitant behind shields
Of earth and wood, unwilling to advance just yet.

  • Thomas McCarthy's last collection was Pandemonium (Carcanet). A new collection, Prophecy, is due from Carcanet next spring