Falling through the aspen-grove
and ushering itself along the gutters, night rain
speaks a language you have never understood.
Where is the glossary that could admit
the drowning air and lustrous blackness
or the roaring? All this time
you have confused the subject with the method,
when the thing done is the thing itself
and not for keeping. The storm intensifies.
The dark is light enough to see the slick rain
shining on the slates like an effect
designed by God and yet no more designed
than all the nothingness your training
leads you to infer. Unsayable,
sipping at the rims of manhole covers
and revolving anti-clockwise
down a drainpipe for a laugh,
it runs off at the mouth, it drinks itself
and with its throat wide open
swallows, tasting nothing, neither noun
nor tense, insensibly particular,
oracular yet empty, pouring from the dark
into the dark, and still, for all his animated talk,
indifferently bearing Orpheus' head away.
It Says Here, Sean O’Brien’s tenth collection of poems, was published by Picador in 2020. His Collected Poems appeared in 2012. His work has received awards including the T.S. Eliot and Forward Prizes, the Somerset Maugham, Cholmondeley and E.M. Forster Awards. His novel Once Again Assembled Here was published in 2016 and his collection of short stories Quartier Perdu in 2018. He is also a translator of works including The Birds (2001), Inferno (2006), Spanish Golden Age plays by Tirso de Molina and Lope de Vega, and the complete poems of Abai Qunanbaiuly (2020). In 2017 he was Weidenfeld Professor in Comparative European Literature at St. Anne’s College Oxford. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.