The Light Fantastic (Mark O’Flynn)


Stuck fast 
the grasshopper in Van Gogh’s painting 
Olive Grove has achieved some immortality, 
at least so far as it goes for grasshoppers. 
Like Pharaohs eviscerated, or thylacines embalmed 
with formaldehyde there’s something 
to be said for a modest tilt at eternity. 
Disguised in impasto the grasshopper 
has become a stroke of genius 
on the path through the olive grove 
towards the asylum, a sunny day 
casting purple shadows on the ground, 
the canvas itself smelling of the soil 
as a good landscape should. 
One daub of paint, no less lumpy 
than the next, as was his style, 
buried within the camouflage of olives. 
Perhaps it speaks of the painter’s frenzy 
that he didn’t stop to pick it from the scene 
this mire of brush strokes 
but forged ahead into the vision’s depths, 
its exquisite mummification.

The Light Fantastic

Like sparks erupting from the camp fire
when a new log of logic is thrown 
on, a small galaxy, dense as frogspawn, 
spirals up toward a smoky 
corner of the universe. 
Stop. No. The universe – really? Ex- 
trapolated from a camp fire?

We sit around the perimeter 
of the narrative toasting our Americanisms, 
skipping to the end before the miasma 
of night creeps upon us, 
along with everything else 
that lurks in the swamp. 
Soon we will be roasting our children.

Staring into the embers we are blinded 
by the possibilities of light,   
eyes put out by over confidence 
in our own abilities. 
The shadow-puppets of flames 
predicting civilisation and its downfall. 
It only takes one errant star’s decision

not to follow the crowd and all human 
intellect jumps into action. 
Explain these dark dreams, I dare you. 
Why is difference so fearful? 
Why does light attract and truth appal? 
Ethereal flames rise through the sky 
incinerating all our good intentions,

while my blood’s earth 
falls in love with its own weight. 
Without darkness there is no light.
Without anvils there are no feathers. 
Light confounds as much as it exalts. 
One foot half on the ground 
the other one half up in smoke.


Mark O’Flynn has published six collections of poetry as well as four novels. His latest book is a collection of short stories Dental Tourism, published by Puncher & Wattmann in 2020.