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By Derek Mahon

What night-rule now about this haunted grove?

The spirits have dispersed, the woods

faded to grey from midnight blue

leaving a powdery residue,

night music fainter, frivolous gods

withdrawing, cries of yin and yang,

discords of the bionic young;

cobweb and insects, hares and deer,

wild strawberries and eglantine,

dawn silence of the biosphere,

amid the branches a torn wing

— what is this enchanted place?

Not the strict groves of academe

but an old thicket of lost time

too cool for school, recovered space

where the brain yields to nose and ear,

folk remedy and herbal cure,

old narratives of heart and hand,

and a dazed donkey, starry eyed,

with pearls and honeysuckle crowned,

beside her naked nibs is laid.

Wild viruses, Elysian fields —

our own planet lit by the fire

of molten substance, constant flux,

hot ice and acrobatic sex,

the electric moth-touch of desire

and a new vision, a new regime

where the white blaze of physics yields

to yellow moonlight, dance and dream

induced by what mind-altering drug

or rough-cast magic realism;

till morning bright with ant and bug

shines in a mist of glistening gism,

shifting identities, mutant forms,

angels evolved from snails and worms.


Derek Mahon, "The Dream Play" from . Copyright ©  by Derek Mahon.  Reprinted by permission of The Gallery Press.

Source: Collected Poems (The Gallery Press, 2008)

  • Mythology & Folklore

Poet Bio

Derek Mahon
Affiliated with the generation of young poets from Northern Ireland who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, Mahon is best known for illuminating the ordinary aspects of daily life through his skillfully crafted verse. Often working in received forms, his lucid, sculpted lines incorporate both classical allusion and contemporary life. A voluntary exile from his native Belfast, Mahon explores themes of isolation, loneliness, and alienation in his poetry. See More By This Poet

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