The Outsiders

Micheal O’Siadhail is a poet. His latest collections of poetry are Our Double Time (Bloodaxe Books, 1998) and Poems 1975-1995 : Hail! Madam Jazz and A Fragile City. His poem cycles The Naked Flame, Summerfest, Crosslight and Earlsfort Suite were commissioned and set to music for performance and broadcasting. He has read and broadcast his poetry widely in Ireland, Britain, Europe and North America. Awarded an Irish American Cultural Institute prize for poetry in 1981 and the Marten Toonder Prize for Literature in 1998, he has been a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and a Professor at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. He was a member of the Arts Council of the Republic of Ireland (1988-93), of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations (1989 -97) and the board of The Dublin International Writers Festival. He is a former editor of Poetry Ireland Review. He is a member of Aosdana (Irish Academy of Distinguished Artists) and was the founding chairman of ILE (Ireland Literature Exchange).

“Artists seem to be more in touch with the feelings of outsiders in our world. And poet Micheal O’Siadhail, a long time friend of TRUST, certainly challenges us to think in his poem Outsider. Micheal was also Chairman of our Board of Adjudicators for our Essay Competition.”

Alice Leahy, Director & Co-Founder of TRUST

OUTSIDER, By Micheal O’Siadhail

A sheltered arch or where underground
kitchen of an inn sent
through grids of pavement grating
the warmth of the ass’s breath –
Where did last night’s Christ lie down?

Every morning for months I watched
a man I might have been
about my age and bearded too,
his face blotched crimson
with cheap wine and sleeping rough.

He walked the far side of the street
always hurrying somewhere;
a father who couldn’t praise, I wondered,
or what had blurred his star?
For months our eyes never met

though the street between us was narrow,
until that eve he crossed.
‘Some help,’ he said, but it must have been
my double’s eyes that asked
where would He lie down tomorrow?

An old outsider within me winced,
shook him off and fled;
that street between us was so narrow –
I chose the Inn and was afraid.
I’m sure I’ve never seen him since –

but tomorrow where carafes go round
a lone presence will pass
tremors through our frail togetherness;
again those eyes will ask
Where did last night’s Christ lie down?

Outside is from ‘A Fragile City’,
Micheal O’Siadhail (Bloodaxe Books 1995)

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