The HyperTexts

Martin Mc Carthy

Martin Mc Carthy is a contributing editor to the American poetry journal The HyperTexts. He lives in Cork City, Ireland, and studied English at UCC, where he was awarded the H. Dip. in Education. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including: Poems from My 5k, Drawn to the Light, Seventh Quarry Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, The Road Not Taken, The Lyric, The Orchards, WestWard Quarterly, Lighten Up Online, Better Than Starbucks, The Madrigal, The Chained Muse, New Lyre, The HyperTexts, Southward and The Cathal Buí Anthology of Poetry. He has published two poetry collections: Lockdown Diary (2020) and Lockdown (2021), and a third collection, titled The Book of Desire, is currently awaiting publication. He was shortlisted for the Red Line Poetry Prize, and is a nominee for the 2023 Pushcart Prize. He has a website at mccarthypoet.com.

The Perfect Voice is an epic thirteen-page poem that tracks Bob Dylan's long songwriting career from 1962 to the present, and shows how he was, as Liam Clancy asserted, "always the perfect voice for an imperfect world." A recording of The Perfect Voice, recited by the author, can be heard here. A limited signed and numbered special print edition, or a PDF copy, can be purchased in the Store at mccarthypoet.com.

"In something of the same way that Dylan himself gave us his 'Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie', this has the feel of an unmercifully great river flow, carrying us through the many and varied versions of who and what Dylan really is – and to the crux of him, the rare and mighty spirit. A beautifully crafted paean that in accumulation elevates to something more and greater than its parts, tapping into 'otherness', revealing a precious, teasing glimpse of that state, out where the black winds blow, where inspiration – or better yet, understanding – dwells." – Billy O’Callaghan, bestselling author of The Paper Man



Extract from “The Perfect Voice”
for Bob Dylan

What can I say about Bob Dylan?

That some strange, authentic light
passed into him from blind bluesmen
on corners, singing their stories
of trains and chains and hope;
blind bluesmen, miles from any college
or guitar academy, with the wind
at their backs, or their backs
against some wall in East Texas,
playing sublime bottleneck guitar
with the necks of broken bottles.

That he was light-hearted and free
and only twenty,
when he first took to the road,
with ten dollars, a harmonica,
and his guitar;
that he saw Woody Guthrie
signposting the way to go …
and went, with little inclination
to look back on old Duluth,
dying in the moonlight.

That he enrolled early in that authentic,
beaming and screaming college
of real life, and never left it,
because all he needed – all the diverse,
sounds and colours of that authenticity –
met him there and filled his spirit;
that his America was always a place
in which unwanted migrants moved
across railway tracks and truck yards,
seeking somewhere to remain.

That he was young when he left home –
young and ready to change the world forever,
if only he could elude
the Rising Sun’s beckoning sirens;
that he could look north to where the wind
was blasting against the borderline,
yet pluck from his heart
the gentlest of chords …
or walk, arm in arm, with his girl
down the boulevard of broken dreams.

That he understood the essential
difference between someone who sings
and a real singer … how a song
must possess him and keep him close
to the trembling, naked world
which summons songs into being;
that the unfiltered sounds
of all things flowed through him –
all the discordant, muddy voices
of the river that bore the slaves.

That he recounted in fearless detail
the sad tale of Emmett Till: how he was
butchered by a ghostly cohort
of the white-robed Ku Klux Klan;
that he thought long and hard about them,
and about the senseless slaying of Hattie Carroll:
how justice favours those who rule,
rather than those whose small, arduous lives
are shackled to their masters’ tables,
until they die there – violently or otherwise.

That he saw death up close and chose to be
the lonesome traveller whose life task
was to unmask the truth,
in a world where the truth kept dancing ahead,
like some elusive tambourine player;
that he sang in his own way,
with a force that moved the world
and asked big questions about being a man …
what it means … and how to make each choice,
and did it all so earnestly in that perfect voice.

Author’s Note: The Perfect Voice is thirteen pages long and can be read in full here, or on my website at mccarthypoet.com.

Editor's Note: We have published the full version of The Perfect Voice, an epic-length tribute poem for Bob Dylan written by Martin Mc Carthy, and I've just been informed that a copy of The Perfect Voice in chapbook form has been placed on permanent display as part of the Bob Dylan Archive at the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, thanks to its director, Steve Jenkins. — Michael R. Burch, editor-in-chief, The HyperTexts



Angel of Mariupol
by Martin Mc Carthy

for Finbar Cafferkey

The world I knew exploded,
then disintegrated,
and I thought there was no one left;
I thought I was alone in Mariupol’s
maze of crows and craters.

But, no – there was another there:
someone I did not recognise –
for I had not seen, for miles
and days, how the carnage
had conjured an angel to cover me.

Author's note: Finbar Cafferkey, to whom this poem is dedicated, was an Irishman who was killed in action while fighting for the freedom of others in eastern Ukraine. In these lines, I imagine him as an angel among the ruins and carnage of some obliterated city like Mariupol, watching over another soldier (a partisan) who is attempting to withstand the relentless tyranny of the depot, Vladamir Putin. 'Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.' - John 15:13



Revelation

You were slender, new and naked …
a forest throbbing with God;
and when I entered you, I experienced
nanoseconds encoded with eternity.

Then I saw how seeing and loving
go together … how they intersect perfectly
to reveal
the concealed light of earth's first paradise.



Erato

White word-sheets are being filled,
like mirrors of the muse,
as a woman is reflected
in leg-revealing dresses.

Sometimes I desire her,
sometimes she eludes me,
but mostly – we climb stone stairs
together, to gently clasp the stars.



Life Task

for Mike

The best we can do, the best we can hope for,
is to have woven some dazzling tapestry
from the fabric of our lives before our time runs out.



Sappho's Prayer

While these frenzied hands
draw music
from an ancient but still-willing lyre,
I beseech you, Aphrodite:
compel our amorous enchantress
to discard
her alluring garments very slowly ...
leaving nothing
but those star-touched sandals ...



Sappho's Secret

Because I'm clever, Anaktoria,
you remain unaware of my eyes
ogling your body ... observing intently
how your flowing white dress
plummets from your breasts
like a waterfall ... then spreads
in raw-silk rapids
over the inverted crescent of your hips,
caressing every sunlit curve and line
all the way down
to your naked ankles ...
which have set my lascivious lyre aquiver!



Unlocking Me

for Sarah

If I wake up early,
beneath the gridded windowpane,
before the sky turns pearly,
I wake because I’m in pain.

If I wake up before the dawn,
when the sun has not yet risen,
and no one shares my yawn,
I wake because I’m in prison.

If I wake up in the dark,
without a glimmer of light
to light the treeless park,
I wake because my mind’s not right.

If I wake up to what’s real,
and the day is whatever the day
decides, regardless of how I feel,
I wake because I’ll be okay.

If I wake up after a while,
with nothing much to see,
except an image of a child who smiles,
I wake because I’m unlocking me.



Little Thrush

for a slain child

When your songs no longer flow,
little thrush;

when gunfire lays you low,
little thrush;

where does your spirit go,
little thrush?

What happens to all you know,
little thrush?



Sunset and Flowers

As the sultry sun slips from view,
let us do what gardeners do:
bearing water to the flowers,
let us tenderly tend this love of ours.



Cold Front

A clouded harvest moon:
two lovers observe
Each, alone.



Haiku Sequence
(with Michael R. Burch)

Seeing Red

The red light,
one interdiction:
her angrily-flung shoe, another.

Escalation

Pitched voices.
The light strobes: Halt!
She pitches her second shoe.

Interlude

The light returns to amber.
Impasse or truce?
Jaywalkers dare the crosswalk.

Cold Front

A clouded harvest moon:
two lovers observe –
Each, alone.

This haiku sequence was written in collaboration with my friend, Michael R. Burch. Thank you for your input, Mike.



Battery Poets

for Prof. P.M.

You were one of the first to venture
forth from your own land,
(your green, free-range world)
in order to create these vast
classrooms of battery poets
hatching pale-egg poems
and songs that bear no music,
and no real sense of being lived in;
but are certain to get, at least,
a capital A for being academic
and maybe, in due course, a Pulitzer
and a steady factory job, like yours.



Song of the Raven

The raven speaks of the night’s
great mistress
of pain and pleasure,
and of her clear voice among
the shades in Chorister’s Hall.

The raven speaks of the cathedral
that was visible from her room
on Cemetery Street,
and of her high-booted legs
among the long vaults of the dead.

The raven speaks of the grace
that flowed
in the folds of her dress,
and of the wind-god
who tried once to unzip it.

The raven speaks of her laughing
dismissal of clerics,
and how her awe of the night-star
offered the least-guarded
path to her heart.

The raven speaks of the night’s
great mistress
of pain and pleasure,
and of her clear voice among
the shades in Chorister’s Hall.



No Matter

You sleep here always in my bed,
Your soul is never far from me,
No matter what the gods have said.

Long ago, you packed and fled,
But how can you be happy?
You sleep here always in my bed.

To another, you are safely wed,
Yet ever restless like the sea,
No matter what the gods have said.

The sky around you glows bright red,
But there’s no fire to embody.
You sleep here always in my bed.

My passion for you won’t stay dead,
And you know this to some degree,
No matter what the gods have said.

So what tomorrow lies ahead?
What lovers do we dare to be?
You sleep here always in my bed,
No matter what the gods have said.



The Night is Long

The night is long,
and your empty wineglass speaks
of the immense darkness
enshrouding
the vine of the victor.
Oh, the night is long!

The night is long,
and you are years beyond
your wedding waltz,
and dancing only
on the bored edges of extinction.
Oh, the night is long!

The night is long,
and your limbs are restless,
as if they crave something
more harmonious than the wind’s
torrid union with the rain.
Oh, the night is long!

The night is long,
and seems to hold worse terrors
than the gleaming teeth
of the silver snare
you have no wish to escape from.
Oh, the night is long!

The night is long,
and you are living only
for the thrill
of instantaneous pleasures
that are instantly forgotten.
Oh, the night is long!

The night is long,
and a painted screen
entombs
a life of fire,
and everything is on course forever.
Oh, the night is long!



Someday

Someday you will come to me,
someday you will bring me a seashell.

Then I will take your hand and tell you
how much I wanted you through all the days
when you were wedded to your
little bay of familiar birds and boats,
and through all the nights
when you were faithful, chaste and pure.
I will tell you how I ached to hear
the lingering way the evening holds your laughter,
and how I ached to touch the soft fire
of your red lips in the rain,
in this hilltop haven of skylarks.

Someday you will come to me;
someday I will give you a sprig of myrtle.



Going to Bluebay

Oh, I'm going now to Bluebay!

Going
as soon as the day breaks
and my bags
are packed and ready.

Going
where Hazel is, and where,
year by year, I see
desire undressing behind her eyes.

Going
before the world
that is her world becomes
shrouded in emptiness.

Going
before her dreams
are sealed forever
by some invincible signet ring.

Going
where the bustling sounds
of a busy market are balanced
by a silent hill of tombed visions.

Going
in search of some infinity
that may exist beyond
the summit of her black stockings.

Going
to uncover the awesomeness
that hides so often
within the leaves of the ordinary.

Going
to rekindle the embers
of an autumnal bonfire that can set
the skin of a larch alight.

Going
to feel the joy
of another day
in the eternal streets of now.

Going
to meet her by the sea-wall
where she will feed me
bread and olives.

Going
where she stood
once,
with salt drops in her hair.

Going
where she stood and sighed,
as the waves around us gasped
and clasped each other.

Going
where Hazel is,
and where
years of missing her

will add weight
and mystery to the hand
she'll hold
towards me in the mist.

Oh, I'm going now to Bluebay!



Ebb Tide

Here,
is where I am,
and where I’ve come to see you,
while the light remains,
and there is time enough
to embrace it;

here,
where the ebb tide leaves
its mark on the breathless
face of passion,
and the day lays bare
the trembling world before us;

here,
where a blue wave burns
its fingers on the shingle of a shore
it can’t hold onto,
and where you walk alone
in December’s dark light;

here,
where you ponder
the graceful dexterity of limbs
no longer clinging to the rainy edges
of a mountain, and where the glow
of youth has faded from your hair;

here,
where you are mulling over
the marvel of your marvelous body
and its slow descent from heaven
to this gold labyrinth
that has stolen all your dreams;

here,
where you live a life
of rigid self-control, and are less
dismissive now
of those dizzying desires
driving fireflies to their doom;

here,
where you fear the spectre
of some dark unending nothing,
and where you strive sometimes
to unfreeze that flowing world
beneath your veil of ice;

here,
where you are sitting
among the rocks
in your blue robe, and only
two small buttons away
from baring all;

here,
where my heart is a wind
wrapping itself around the dead
heat from your marriage bed,
and where everything will happen
if you only give the word;

for here
is where I am,
and where I’ve come to meet you,
while the light remains,
and you are ready now
to enflame it.

The HyperTexts