Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Derek Mahon

Lapis Lazuli

Lapis Lazuli

Lapis Lazuli

A whole night-sky that serves as a paperweight,
this azure block blown in from the universe
sits on my desk here, a still shimmering piece
of planet rock speckled with gold and white,
coarse-grained and knobbly as a meteorite
though recognized as a ‘gem’ in its own right.
The willow-pattern wisdom is still unknown,
the twinkling sages and the branchy house;
for this is the real thing in its natural state,
the raw material from which art is born.

Growth night-formed in sun-struck Afghanistan,
this complex chunk of sulphurous silicates 
— a royal blue loved since the earth began
because, like the swirling sea, it never dates –
blinks authenticity through mysterious days
of slowly moving cloud and watery haze,
days of silence, watching as paint dries
while Buddha and a Yeat-head supervise.
Dim in the half-light of conventional rain,
we start at the squeal of Berkeley’s telephone.

Slow fires still glowing in our cindery grates
even while the white, meridional sun vibrates
on sandy shelves where life first crept ashore,
we need the glitter of those secret depths
like the loved women of our private myths.
On dark dawns that look for that subtle gleam
and blinking noons obtuse to its dark dream
when slow thought replaces the money-shower,
we want the key to that impervious heart:
with ultramarine what need have we of art?

Heat lightning photographs the astonished sea.
Am I in Bermuda or in cold Sakhalin? Either
this new century with its bewildering weather
will work wonders for the sea-angling industry
or bring wolves dancing down the mooring ropes
of vast tankers and patronizing warships
to spill the bins and skate on the ice floes.
Do we die laughing or are we among those
for whom a spectre, some discredited ghost
still haunts the misty windows of old hopes?

While planes that consume deserts of gasoline
darken the sun in another rapacious war
a young woman reads alone in a lighted train,
scratches her scalp and shoves specs in her hair,
skipping the obvious for the rich and rare.
Hope lies with her as it always does really
and the twinkling sages in the Deux Magots
first glimpsed by a student forty years ago
on a continent like a plain of lapis lazuli;
and the Eurostar glides into the Gare du Nord.
Close

Lapis Lazuli

A whole night-sky that serves as a paperweight,
this azure block blown in from the universe
sits on my desk here, a still shimmering piece
of planet rock speckled with gold and white,
coarse-grained and knobbly as a meteorite
though recognized as a ‘gem’ in its own right.
The willow-pattern wisdom is still unknown,
the twinkling sages and the branchy house;
for this is the real thing in its natural state,
the raw material from which art is born.

Growth night-formed in sun-struck Afghanistan,
this complex chunk of sulphurous silicates 
— a royal blue loved since the earth began
because, like the swirling sea, it never dates –
blinks authenticity through mysterious days
of slowly moving cloud and watery haze,
days of silence, watching as paint dries
while Buddha and a Yeat-head supervise.
Dim in the half-light of conventional rain,
we start at the squeal of Berkeley’s telephone.

Slow fires still glowing in our cindery grates
even while the white, meridional sun vibrates
on sandy shelves where life first crept ashore,
we need the glitter of those secret depths
like the loved women of our private myths.
On dark dawns that look for that subtle gleam
and blinking noons obtuse to its dark dream
when slow thought replaces the money-shower,
we want the key to that impervious heart:
with ultramarine what need have we of art?

Heat lightning photographs the astonished sea.
Am I in Bermuda or in cold Sakhalin? Either
this new century with its bewildering weather
will work wonders for the sea-angling industry
or bring wolves dancing down the mooring ropes
of vast tankers and patronizing warships
to spill the bins and skate on the ice floes.
Do we die laughing or are we among those
for whom a spectre, some discredited ghost
still haunts the misty windows of old hopes?

While planes that consume deserts of gasoline
darken the sun in another rapacious war
a young woman reads alone in a lighted train,
scratches her scalp and shoves specs in her hair,
skipping the obvious for the rich and rare.
Hope lies with her as it always does really
and the twinkling sages in the Deux Magots
first glimpsed by a student forty years ago
on a continent like a plain of lapis lazuli;
and the Eurostar glides into the Gare du Nord.

Lapis Lazuli

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère