Poems by Seán Lysaght
Sitting in the shade of a Bedouin house
Two days later, I study mats
Of palm and grass, and loops of twine
To bind them all, like an unknown cursive,
Signatures of thrift and making do
Before oil revenues changed the Emirates.
This house is just what Thesiger found
At Abu Dhabi when he had crossed
The Empty Quarter with his Bedouin:
Flimsy huts of palm and reed near Zaayid’s fort.
He wrote, If anyone goes there now looking for
The life I led they will not find it.
I leave an adopted past to view the bay:
Dhows in the heat, with platforms of shadow,
A man-made shore with white SUVs
In promenade, under cliffs of glass and steel.
A thundering of builders’ trucks at Saadiyat
Defies the midday heat, and condensation
Clouds the lens when I take my camera out,
Such is the humidity. A straggling line
Of palms across the entrance to the building
Casts a thin Beckettian shadow,
And a canopied path to a car park
Brings me to singing birds.
The plumage of unknown bulbuls for a while,
Then go back to the cool air of the gallery
To view models of big new schemes:
The shallow dome of a Louvre, the cones
And cylinders of a Guggenheim,
And a third, shaped from the feathers of a falcon
To tell the story of a desert nation,
Nothing bolder than this wager in dust
Copied from the civilisation that made us.
Seán Lysaght has published six volumes of poems, including The Clare Island Survey (1991), Scarecrow (1998), The Mouth of a River (2007) and Carnival Masks (2014), all from Gallery Press. He has also published a translation of Goethe’s Venetian Epigrams (Gallery, 2008), and a verse narrative of the life of Edmund Spenser under his own imprint in 2011. He won the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award in 2007 and his Selected Poems appeared from Gallery in 2010. He lives in Westport, County Mayo.