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Three poems by Karl O’Hanlon.

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A Collapsed Catholic Petitions His Grace the Archbishop of Paris for the Canonization of Jacques and Raïssa.

Stroll slower; these are jungles
for northern imaginations.

The mad lion in its sty
waits to take sour bread,

horse-gentle, that the shtetl girl
brings. Who now remembers

the undergrowth whistling
first live, then philosophize?

as she and he, their sad footsteps
paced de Fleury’s glasshouse

in the holy height clashing
dragon trees and mimosas

like cymbals of scented fire.

barbed rule

Luisa to D’Annunzio, from Her Balcony.

Come with a thought, delicate Ariel;
the flowers at your feet glow yellow
and white, as in some faded picture
of the Annunciation. Dear Zan Zan
and Krissa are curled near your heart,
their fur shivering like Austrian guns.

The water’s skin twitches, there must
be clouds blackening Italia’s brow,
fires, the squeal of marching boots.
But far, far from our bawdy cloister.
Tonight, I leave a rose in the keyhole.
The lake air is immaculate with heresies.

barbed rule

Maxims from the Dean.

Weaving incredible habits, blind
as worms, we purchase in trust
for some tyrant our unravelling.

An image leaps out of nature:
a buzzard, its despot bosom
dripping eel guts, vexed by gulls.

With little art, great industry,
rogues enfranchise goblin words
to scare up their bony majority;

stockjobbers, busboys, retailers
of fraud rigging a pert address
dressed up as the nation’s sense.

I thought of the sea rage of Swift,
if even its crests had salt enough
to scourge these gorse-dry spirits.


Karl O’Hanlon is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Leeds. His poetry has appeared in Agenda, Poetry, PN Review, and Stand. His debut pamphlet, And Now They Range, was published by Guillemot Press in 2016 and reviewed here by Peter Riley.

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