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138 x 216mm
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Hymn to the Smoke
Here the dark has texture. Here
you are given eye-sockets fitted to thumbs;
skulls which refuse to be other than skulls;
skin that is wet for the knife’s edge.
A flensed identity is etched
here in the workaday furnace
of a studio on the north side of Paris.
The plaster is gripped with hands like grief
and made to work.
Every clutch and release
renews the attack on obscurity
every smear a scouring away
of loose-weave personality,
a squeeze on the brain so the pulp runs out.
And what remains
is the core
that you can never obtain,
even if your model sat for a thousand years,
but to which you must, if you have strength,
Here is your hymn to the smoke;
hymn to the world of flesh as cloud;
hymn to the forests of taper-people
in wastelands of wrought brass,
their hands with the gravity of worlds,
almost unable to lift the feet
that have known the century’s absolute weight.
They hobble into that final display,
from the wreckage of those experiments
with Cubist lovers, surreal vases,
from the shells of those Geneva miniatures –
“the more I wanted to make them broader”
you said, “the narrower they got” –
wanting to stand in a place of ease
on those legs like spears, still bearing the bite
of so many unkind hands on their bones.
They wait, as if for the few heartbeats
where something melts; where your lover takes
your imperfect shoulders and kneads
Here is your hymn to the smoke
smudged and pinched by human hands,
hoping towards the tenderness
of where we used to touch one another
Here, on the floor of the gallery,
a statue looks at you
and is terrified.
It is so important to get the balance right
in the unspoken hotel room
where it is almost midday,
where the curtains are not quite shut
and this one slice of January light
falls warmer than it has any right
to be on me, not meditating
as I promised I would, and also on you,
sleeping off the hangover;
here in the hush it is so important
to ride the meaning’s soft swell and fall,
to say what needs to be said, without
just coming right out and saying it.
It is a matter of practise
“It is a matter of practise,”
the trees declare,
in their great exhalation,
drinking the never-identical
wrung through earth
By the very fact
their becoming attests
to this yearly business
being only a matter
To Win This Game You Have to Think Like a Ghost
It stands to reason: you’re not allowed
to reach across the void except
through sleep, and then you can’t create
a dream where it’s just you and the detective
in a blank white room where you tell him
“The Butler did it,” and he wakes up.
Instead you have to feel where the edge
of their awareness is, and tease,
without fingers, underneath it.
Learn from the glint of their eyes alone
what you can bring to life behind them
as ‘policeman’, ‘pistol’, ‘crypt’.
Intuit the ways that a winding thread
become a trapeze for a bird-headed scribe
sums up your final hours. Unlearn
the dumb literality of knights and swords
and wide green plains. Learn giant spiders
disguised as chandeliers, and send
your skinless shivers across to them
as if it were a kiss. Cast up
your images like leaves, and hope.
Hymn to the Smoke
Whether gazing into the eye of a blackbird, at the pieces of a broken glass or up at the stars, these poems dwell in the fertile space between the small events of life, letting meaning crystallise out of the silence.
‘This intricately formed collection is filled… with fleeting things. It is always moving, soaring and plunging, zooming in and out between planets and windowsills. Temporary bodies and transient states want to be captured but can’t be – the changing fabric of everything reminds the reader that the more time we spend analysing substance, the more quickly it can evaporate.’
‘Archly economical in expression, sumptuously rich in texture and detail, Kiely’s poetry zones in on moments and ideas until they catch the light anew - like brushstrokes bursting on the page.’
‘While Kiely’s poems function as powerful ruminations upon first reading, they truly resonate in the ordinary moments sometimes afterwards, when you’re drinking a coffee or waking from a nap and suddenly a poem returns, sharpened by time… an exercise in holding the poem’s gaze even after it turns away.’
His work has been published in a number of magazines and other outlets, including: Lunar Poetry; South Bank Poetry; Fly on the Wall; Under the Radar; and Magma, as well as the websites Blue of Noon; the Burning House blog; and Ink, Sweat & Tears.
He contributed to the Emma Press anthology Everything That Can Happen, and has had commended, anthologised entries in the 2019 Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry and the 2020 Verve Poetry Festival Competition.