Poetry: The Chair by Harry Clifton

Illustration: Dearbhla Kelly

Illustration: Dearbhla Kelly


The Chair

for Mary Clayton

That commonest of objects, a chair –
I relax into it, gradually,
After a lifetime. The dream upholsters itself,
The peace, the thousand-yard stare.
The room is nothing, a box
Full of silence, with an empty shelf
For books, a tangle of flex,
A metal desk and a plastic telephone.
Everything else I bring in here
Is totally my own –
Exhaustion, memory, habit, desire.
As for the young, they have more to do
Than knock on my door. And what advice
If any, could I give them? O deep deep chintz, passivity
At last . . . I close my eyes,
I am on a flight, there is nowhere to go,
And yet, I am in mid-air
Suspended, possessionless,
Undeserving, somehow in first class –
They have given me the chair.

Harry Clifton’s latest collection is The Holding Centre: Selected Poems 1974-2004 (Bloodaxe). His lectures as Ireland professor of poetry in the Poet’s Chair series, Ireland and Its Elsewheres (UCD Press), is published this month