What better way for Trasna to honor the conclusion of National Poetry Month in the United States–and celebrate the First Anniversary of Trasna–than with the current work of Daniel Wade, a rising star in the world of poetry! An award-winning playwright and a novelist as well, Wade appeared in Trasna in November, 2020, with his insightful tribute to his mentor, Dermot Healy. Daniel Wade is hitting his stride this year: Rapids, his debut volume of poetry will be published (by Finishing Line Press) in August, 2021, and his novel, A Land Without Wolves, (from Temple Dark Book) will arrive in October, 2021. The following four selections, evoking the classic and contemporary, including a sonnet, written and read by Wade, will whet your appetite for Rapids.
Daniel Wade reads from Rapids
Not sure where I am, exactly: the wind’s icy babble
around cast-iron rails, cross-city wires sputter
above an unbuilt LUAS stop as a Brazilian rickshaw
driver checks his phone
before the night gets busy. What if I call him friend,
or follower? I double-tap a thousand profiles
before seeing yours; then, and only then, do I know
that love is unavoidable.
I try teaching myself your language, the warp
of its adjectives, the way the verbs squat
on the tongue, your glossary’s proper annunciation.
Do I now have your approval?
A single glitch is all it takes for the Leap Card
to deny me any kind of entry, any kind of leave;
crushed beer cans soak a back alley fire-exit,
skips from KeyWaste brim over
with black, bloated bags at the Red Line depot.
At last call, the Stag’s Head becomes
a submarine, its radar tuned to a garbled frequency.
“Dublin’s fair city? Ask me bollix…”
Bone-hard wrists crossed tight, she waits for sleep
in a doorway, her shelter of damp cardboard
and piss-damp sleeping bag. What if I asked her
her name, at least?
Across the street, a Highway Maintenance crew
ebonises the curb, slow cell growth seepage; I still haven’t
a clue where I am. “What else are you, but a ghost?”
Diesel fumes, dizzying, curl to my gullet.
On the Shooting of Lyra McKee in Derry
After John Milton
So, do we avenge the murals and saintly bones
scattered over Creggan streets, with cold
intent of gunmetal where soldiers once patrolled,
molten sparks to scrape stop signs, traffic cones,
police Land Rovers, petrol-scorched air? Stones
to step over, keep her in mind: a reporter on hold.
No-one declared this ground as sacred, or refuelled
it for us to strike matches, hold up our phones
and record her last moments before a stray
bullet took her, as sirens, lurid ingots aglow
with sodium, cruised through the dark. Just say:y
“No, no, not this again,” and abide the sorrow
for both Celtic Tiger cub, Ceasefire baby:
freed of blood, silence, the tears of tomorrow.
The sybils didn’t bother with me
but one or two poets filled the blanks in:
an Ithakan king, vying for the sea,
conscripted men to the mast on
his flagship crossing to Troy.
Nearly his whole crew, wretched cost
of rudderless roving, would die
in some way or another. I’d outlast
my comrades, my skull a cave
for every marooned thought,
cleared by sea-winds. The waves’
aged murmur, a wine-dark clot
of spray, was my eternal clock
to flail and flare on the ebb.
I stood watch as if on my ship’s deck
and slept in a berry-shrub
at night, held my hungry peace.
He was out there, tremoring the island
with his rams, roaring without cease,
a brute, drooling shepherd, blind
in one gored eye and still raging.
Him, and a tribe of him, their fangs
gritted by quotidian corpse-chewing,
eyes rusted as mooring rings.
I’d neither the brains nor the backbone
to engineer my escape, as my pilot
had. I preferred to linger, my beard laden
with barnacles, and eye the blood-lit
skyline for rescue. Laughing gulls,
black-armoured scorpions and flame
petalled flowers thronged the hills
and shore, and the sun’s daily whim
beat too heavily for comfort. When
sleep did take me, I saw brass shields,
chariots, my old xiphos drawn,
flames tearing through Trojan fields.
I prayed for the gods to be cruelly kind
and smite me with flood or drought;
somehow I kept my presence of mind,
did not gasp my despair out.
I needed a woman, needed her touch
and kiss. I thought often of the girls
I’d loved before sailing, memories a crutch
for my mind to stoop on. Heavy scrolls
of loneliness, heat-rippled, tore at me.
I’d see none of them again, I knew,
had drunk my life’s fill of their beauty;
and lost them like my ill-starred crew.
If I am to die, may I fall by man’s
hand, not crushed or sunk or devoured.
I prayed for that much, at least: the plans
of Olympus to see me safely delivered
from his eyeball’s crimson gush,
the cave we’d made our woollen escape
from gawking at the bay, lethal hush
stirring him from sleep, the grapes
that gave him his wine burst in his palm,
his voice and footfall alike echoing
the strafed harmonic of thunder. Blessed to swim,
or condemned to sink: I’d no way of knowing
until a fresh, high glut of tide brought
the Dardanian galleys, and my first glimpse
of raised sails, bellying and white,
in an age. Mariners walked in slumps,
leaning to their oars, arid lips
panting for haven and home, beards
surf-smeared, fibrous as bullwhips.
I saw horsehair helms and blunt swords,
a fleet steered clear off the map’s edge
and held back, afraid for my life.
But these were men in the anchorage,
not beasts. Surely blood was enough
for mercy; with my thorn-fixed cloak,
what possible threat was I to them now?
Despair, weariness, terror and shock
felled me at the knee, and I howled out:
“Men of Troy, fly you far from this shore!
Where you make port is not important.
The danger you here face is too great to ignore.
Put back to sea, save yourselves this instant!
I who was your Grecian foe, now beg thee
to grant but one meagre service:
bring me with you if you will, or else kill me!
But cast off now, before the giants arise!”
I say this without shame: I wept, groveled,
kissed the barren sand before them.
The oldest of them stepped forward
to give me his hand, and I stood abeam.
Their captain, a born survivor as mine
once was, saw the giant for himself
and did not stay to fight. Jaded as his men
were, he led them back down the pebbly shelf
to the ships, with myself in their number,
and we slipped a swift course from the cove.
The one-eyed clan cursed our venture
but fathoms ran too deep for their heave,
their stride. Now seaborne and free at last,
I was ragged locus for the shoal
and river-mouth, reefs clenched like a fist
under the bare walls of the Geloan.
Yet, sun-drunk and hunger-shredded,
I saw we had a good skipper, wary
in his pilotage but alert to the dreaded
unfolding of a voyage, dogged emissary
for nomads. Yet he never claimed
to know his heading; he was as lost as I.
As gratitude, I kept my head down
and worked the mains, my new duty
to share utterly in my rescuers’ fate.
They fed me, healed me, found me a home.
And it came as no surprise of late
that a price isn’t on my head, or that no-
one even set off in search of me
or my brothers. Yet I am here, thankful
and restored, saved by an enemy
whom I greet and look to now as an idol
of my flight, no longer hunched
as the rock I saw the blind herder fling
at my receding ship. So from staunch
shores, now, may my voice once more sing.
In Virgil and Ovid, the Greek castaway Achaemenides is a member of Ulysses’ crew who is left stranded on the island of the Cyclopes after his comrades make their escape. He lives on in the hills until he is eventually rescued by Aeneas, who is seeking a new homeland following Troy’s destruction at the hands of the Greeks.
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Naturally, under the brownstones’ squat shade,
you see moss and weeds sprout up
from each thin, aged slit along an anterior patio,
dusk’s amber fume tingeing tar-black
fire escapes, neon spat through the windshield,
the sun’s molten crest left to ripple and stoke
behind Fenway Park, or the Charles unspooling
ten million pounds of sludge into the ocean
like scrubbed silver. But to see beyond these,
you remind yourself that it takes just a look
or word freighted with design, for love to begin
or end. Being stuck in 5:00 p.m. traffic on
93 North is half the experience, in your dad’s silver
Honda-Accord, amid dump trucks and 4x4s,
beyond the subway’s reach, while I ride shotgun,
my palm on your knee, the stereo tuned to “92.5
The River, Boston’s independent radio” as Nirvana’s
‘Come as You Are’ (the MTV Unplugged version),
replete with audience whoops and an extra rogue note
slipped into the main riff, starts up. We both say
nothing, our voices bottled, stilled to a cool finish,
and enjoy the drive ahead. But there are things I should
say that I’d rather you didn’t hear just yet: the ex
I kissed and re-kissed without your knowledge,
the girls I conjure up when I’m wanking, the looks, words
and fucks held in inimical reserve—all of this I need
to tell you now and only now, on the road ahead, swept clear
by headlights, while we still have the luxury of time.
Daniel Wade is a poet, playwright and fiction writer from Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. Daniel was the Hennessy New Irish Writing winner for April 2015 in The Irish Times, and his poetry and short fiction have featured in over two dozen publications since 2012. In January 2017, his play ‘The Collector” opened the 20th anniversary season of the New Theatre, Dublin. His spoken-word album “Embers and Earth”, available for download on iTunes and Spotify, launched the previous October at the National Concert Hall. A prolific performer, Daniel has featured at many festivals including Electric Picnic, Body and Soul, and the 2019 International Literature Festival (ILFD). In January 2020 his radio drama ‘Crossing the Red Line’ was broadcast on RTE Radio 1 Extra, and later won a silver award at the New York Festivals Radio Awards for Best Digital Drama, whilst November 2020 saw his screenplay ‘Strike’, co-written with filmmaker Shane Collins, nominated as a finalist in the 2020 Waterford Film Festival. His debut collection ‘Rapids’ is due to be published by Finishing Line Press in August of 2021, whilst his novel ‘A Land Without Wolves’ will be published by Temple Dark Books in October of the same year.