“A team of physicists announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s theory.”

New York Times, 11 February 2016


In the firefighter’s dawn, a waking jolt
Shook a scientist’s needle in its bracket.

Our storm-flensed heaven made no sign of rain.
We went about our business, unaware

Of what would come of that discovery
While somewhere unnoticed, a faithful eye

Tracked our orbit: an errant planet caught
Mid-push and pull, the struggle out of sight

From us, who were its blest inhabitants.
Quietly, we left the ageless distance

To our best instruments. But this morning
Was different. I heard it too, the song

From out beyond the rim of all we were
Where one absence languished for another.



The Passenger


“In the months after the tsunami, taxi drivers in the coastal town of Ishinomaki reported picking up ghost passengers who asked to be brought to their destination and then disappeared, leaving their fare unpaid.”

Inquisitor, 4 February 2016


This, then, is the afterlife. A bend, a
Shout, a breath of diesel, sunlight’s murmur

Bleaching the kerb a shade of persimmons.
A solitary confinement. No-one

Else in line, birds passing like vehicles
And this way from Sendai, Charon’s vessel

An old Corolla pulling up close. In
Our stories, the dead follow the whirlwind

Of a river’s course underground, until
It comes up for air. The earth is a bell

That chimes only in the water’s fingers
Or when struck with an unnatural force,

As when Izanami drew a fire from
His whalebone comb, and saw in the loam

His beloved, Izanagi, asleep
At the foot of the well. How the god wept,

Afraid! Then turned, and, bashful of his fear,
Sealed death’s throat with a stone. So here we are

Without refuge. Out from the silent town
To the highway’s shoulder, fog-lights, the sounds

Of brakes, front tyres catching earth, chassis,
An open window. Lock, both doors. Release.




Road Cutting at Glanmire

‘Gleann Maghair’: the valley of ploughed land


They learned the hard way to a city’s heart
was to drive a road into the mountain
like a river, lost between its own dry banks

with gravelled walls holding the earth in place
and fast-growing trees, for the wet topsoil.
A bypass. When it was finished they came

to see the cut that had been named after them,
mounting the ridge above its strange traffic
while their own valley of ploughed land rose

a stone’s throw behind the black backbone
of the new highway. Far as I could tell
from the bus’s window, these days the village

has a changed air, full of primary schools
and real estate. We passed a lovely church
near the auctioneer’s, but without stopping

went on into Cork, taking the road which,
we were told, had been built at great cost
to shorten the journey into the city.


Theophilus Kwek

Theophilus Kwek

Theophilus Kwek is the author of three collections of poetry, They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue (2011), Circle Line (2013), and Giving Ground (2016). He won the Martin Starkie Prize in 2014 and the Jane Martin Prize in 2015, and is President of the Oxford University Poetry Society.