Róisín Tierney is an Irish poet whose work has appeared in many magazines including ; Poetry Ireland Review, The Sunday Tribune (New Irish Writers), Magma, Arabesque Review, Horizon Review, and The London Magazine. She was short-listed for the 2006 Strokestown Poetry Prize and won joint 2nd prize in the 2007 Brendan Kennelly Poetry Competition . Other prizes include a Poetry Lifeand a runner-up Bridport Prize in 2002 as well as an OXFAM Literature Poetry Prize in 2004. She read in Dublin as part of the Poetry Ireland Introduction Series in June 2008. Her poems are published in the following pamphlets; Gobby Deegan’s Riposte (Donut Press, 2004), Ask for it by Name (Unfold Press, 2008), The Art of Wiring (Ondt & Gracehoper, 2011) and Dream Endings (Rack Press, 2011). Dream Endings won the 2012 Michael Marks Pamphlet Award. www.roisintierney.blogspot.com
If the first rhinoceros Dürer drew
were more a beast of air than one of fact,
a worldly innocent, knew nothing of
papal intrigues, or the smell of the poor,
small wonder that he did not hesitate
to toss his plucky horn and make full trot
into a German forest, lush, replete,
with verdant oaks, leafy sycamores,
there to revel, in Pieter Coecke van Aelst’s
lowland masterpiece (along with a lobster,
a housecat, camels, an elephant),
in the damp joys of a temperate climate.
He eyeballs us with the steady gaze
and frank intentions of one who would never
shrink from adventure, shudder or falter,
be curtailed by limits, nature, history.
Over the various centuries he
has symbolised the apothecary’s art
and greatly influenced our own Darth Vader
(think heavy breathing, those armoured plates).
And here in Marbella, Puerto Banús,
our Rinocerante, although dressed in lace,
muscles in on Dalí’s great opus,
and poses, lordly, gleaming, virile.
Such poise. Such chutzpah. Now, back to the poor.
Our artist’s struggle. We know that Dürer
must have struggled to omit, paint-out
his masterpiece from the rest of his oeuvre.
Picture it. Melencolia, head in her hands,
sighs and her feathers droop a little. Rustle.
The quick thud of little feet. Nestle.
His unicorn head in her lap. Sudden smile.
Or The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
glide by, bearing our terrible fate.
Hades bares his jaws in their wake.
A horned silhouette. Screams. The End
Even Knight, Death and the Pachyderm
have nothing on (for me at least), in terms
of soul, beauty, tenderness and sheer technique,
Virgin, Child and Rhinoceros.
We will winter it out here, among the white peacocks,
the black-eyed peahens, the rare-breed geese.
We are learning their language, although still ungainly,
can tongue it along, we can scream, we can hiss,
we can hustle them back if they come too close.
We’ll lie down by the fountain in the dead heart of winter,
grow our own feathers, feel them prick through our skin.
When the stubble has shrouded our faces to white,
making us birdlike (though still strangely human),
we will mouth at each other our wordless babble,
cast a cockeyed glance at the strange v-formation
over our heads, a gigantic compass,
and, heavy with yearning, lift off for the skies.
We will crawl towards the sun, by the time of the thaw
we will be elsewhere, otherwise, different.
Bowing to strangers and to each other,
we will floor-drag our wings and rattle our fan-tails,
be fully ensconced in our pigeon-courtship,
our hurried, unlikely, consummation,
have nothing to fear but a sudden moult.