Offcourse Literary Journal

Two Prose Poems by Martin Burke.

Between A and O

Walking between two sea-side villages we arbitrary named Alpha and Omega (do you ever reach the destination which carries such names?) we watched as the light narrowed and faded along the rim of fantastic clouds calling to mind both Shelley's description and that image from the space telescope known as the pillars of creation. Believe me when I say that it was beautiful. Believe me when I say that even the darkness had a luminosity which thrilled us. It could'have been the world's end or beginning. We could have been the first or last to walk there as two ferries moved out from Oostende and Zeebrugge to a night upon the sea. (Impossible to say such things without thinking of and invoking Robert Lowell and the dead of Nantucket, though that is not my purpose.) How easy to imagine we were upon them, how easy to speculate on their cargo and destination — as if all the old sea routes of the world were still open to traffic, as if the tides still bore the possibility of mysteries and open-ended conclusions. Yet we had done this before and did not feel afraid, as if in repetition lay the safety of the self in a changing situation; as if in doing what we had done before we were affirming the underlying premise of fidelity and attachment to a theme in music never strayed from no matter what variations were carried out there, no matter what scales were ripped up and reformed! Out of these we composed the parameters of our lives at that moment knowing that they were conditioned by that mutability in which the world wavered yet held firm and spoke of destinations between Alpha and Omega. And I thought — it is here that the world begins and takes root; it is here that the mysteries are; it is here that the ends are endless, open ended, and unknown; it is here that I step into the flow of the water and the world regardless of whatever names I give it.




The journey yielded nothing. We had driven through Les Pays du nord but the landscape offered nothing to subscribe to. Then we came to Trouville and walked the beach where a father and son grappled with a kite in an erratic wind which drove it down and crossed its lines. These they undid with patience and skill and sent it once more into air as if the truth of the day lay in the act, as if surfing the rough currents hinted a measured defiance of the wind they rode with some success.


Martin Burke is an Irish poet living in Belgium. Recent work of his has appeared or is due to be published in Poetry, Tryst, Terrain, The Drunken Boat and in magazines in Ireland, England, and Austria. This is his first appearance in Offcourse.

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