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‘The homeless must leave the church by 5 pm’

Kevin Brophy


The last shadow left quietly, flickering like a movement from a horse at the far end of a paddock caught in the corner of your eye, away under the old pine trees that ring the property, trees so old now that their limbs are tearing loose from their trunks and collapsing hundreds of feet at a time, splintering the tree itself as they fall. Above is a sky that the trees can never fill, though with all their vegetable guile they try to fill that sky with pine. The horse will come up despite all this and stand in the dusk in the paddock, like the beginning of something.

Hamlet at Brancaster, boiling skulls and winding staithes

The shoreline is a promise, shivering before them as strangely as the dog they are walking. Muddy riverbed, pink-footed geese, waddling swan and distant dunes go out to the sea and spring back into the heads of the four people and one dog walking. One of them bends down to pick up the skull of a seabird fallen at his feet, wings splayed. He holds it out. The others watch its silence there in front of them. To define true death there is nothing but death. He says he will boil it in his kitchen. They tramp across the land as if it is the palm of a giant hand offered to them. Before they can figure it out the winding staithe leads them like a fortuneteller’s joke to the end of a line in the middle of a marsh. The shoreline’s dunes and sand, its seals and towns, are kept at a distance while mud-stuck boats are suddenly buoyant on fingers of tide that urge them back to the human car they came in.  Later the moon will rise behind them, the sun will fall at their feet. Waves will end like their fathers’ lives on sodden sea walls, as small paradises of paper-wrapped cod and chips warm their laps on the pier of kiosk and playhouse, more matter than art.


Good to see a man repairing a boat today. Good to see a child drag his lunch bag along the ground by one hand while holding his father’s with the other.  Good to know that the past had no idea we were coming.

Sea, again

Travelling all day we come late, as the temperature falls and long winds take a run at us, to the sea. It slaps and moans at the foot of a wall as though somewhere out there it took a wrong turn and ended up here by dismal surprise. The waves won’t give up on wanting to have their way. We know we can leave this spectacle without reaching the end of the story.


Falling asleep he fell into a river, which closed over him. He woke and fell asleep again, falling from a bicycle onto stones then tumbling from the stones into a turbulent river, which closed over him. He woke and fell asleep again, suddenly slipping from the railing of a bridge into a harbor, which closed blue and silent over him. He woke and fell again.

No Word

He became aware of a gate banging in the wind. A merciless sound repeated at every shove of the wind. The gate needed fixing. It needed a bolt or something. He felt helpless every time it banged. He told his psychiatrist about this and the psychiatrist suggested this signified after all, what had happened to his father, his father who used to take him to the football but seemed to find there only despair. He chose the wrong football team, the man said as usual in his usual dispirited way. He would not blame the team that was responsible for so much failure then. After all, teams go through transformations, just like planets and galaxies. He told his friend, Michael, about the gate and together they climbed over the fence of the house where the gate was swinging, and they tied it up. For a little while the gate was left to its own thoughts, left to wondering why it could no longer cry out, ‘I hate you all, I hate you all,’ as a schoolgirl in the street had once called on her way past. Tonight the full moon will be hurtling above the gate, loose as a tossed coin, but nevertheless trapped in this small, deaf universe.

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