An image of The Potato Eaters
we hunched over steaming bowls,
awash in the glow of our efforts,
stirring root vegetables and
crunching on salt. Listening
To the slow tick of the clock,
to the soft brush of socks,
to the gentle wailing of the sea.
Neither of us understands
why the broth tastes of mussels.
My wisdom teeth are coming through
and I feel inclined to say something wise.
Something like “What art needs is an acceptance
of what’s muddled and confused in us.
What’s broken by our lives and by living.”
But that’s not what I said.
I leaf through a furiously annotated copy
of Eliot’s Selected Poems. As expected,
The Waste Land got it worst.
You tell me your uncle was an English teacher
who drank himself to death.
In Ars Poetica Horace refers to
the death of Empedocles,
who threw himself into a volcano,
and admits poets the right
to destroy themselves.
When I first read The Waste Land
I wanted to throw myself into a volcano.
My wisdom teeth form as
new pearls in the diadem
of my jaw. Quite soon
Our conversation reveals
that four chin hairs between us
do not equate to wisdom’s beard.
Outside the sea continues her song
while our un-tuned ears wait
I strain to read the riddles of the sand –
letters on the shore’s cerebrum.
Josh McCune is a writer from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He holds an BA in English and Philosophy from QUB and an MSC in Literature & Modernity from the University of Edinburgh. His influences include (but are in no way limited to) Frank Ormsby, Michael Longley, Gail McConnell, Wallace Stevens, Edwin Morgan, and Mary Ruefle. He is almost entirely edible and loves a good pair of trousers. This is his first publication.