The Tall Lighthouse
Adam O'Riordan

Adam O'Riordan Adam O'Riordan was born in Manchester. He read English

at Oxford University and studied poetry under Michael Donaghy. Later, he won a scholarship to study under Andrew Motion at the University of London where he was awarded the inaugural Peters Fraser and Dunlop poetry prize. In 2006 he received an Arts Council England writer's award.He is curently writer in residence at The Wordsworth Trust.

queen of the cotton cities

Like Marvell seeing the universe in a drop of dew, O'Riordan's poetry pays full attention to the intricate patterns and coincidences of the world, and so makes us see it anew
                                                                                                                   Clare Pollard

Manchester from queen of the cotton cities

Queen of the cotton cities,

nightly I piece you back into existence: 

the frayed bridal train your chimneys lay

and the warped applause-track of Victorian rain.  

You’re the blackened lung whose depths I plumb,

the million windows and the smoke-occluded sun.  

A girl steps from a door, her cotton flecked shawl

is the first snow on a turf-plot back in Mayo. 

You’re the globing of the world, a litany of cities;

Osaka, Orizaba, Gabrovo: cast in your image. 

Your warehouses bloated by curious needs:

butter, shellfish, clog blocks, bleach. 

Your little merchants, hawking Lucifers and besoms

to set a small flame guttering in a wet-brick basement: 

in the straw and wood shavings a mother’s lullabies

bear their freight of love and typhus.  

In the small hours I remake you and remake you,

until you grow faint as a footfall on a fever ward 

and I wake from my imagination’s gas-lit parlour

and whatever I seek to have or hold or harbour 

is pure curio - a wreath of feathers, seashells

or human hair, a taxidermist’s diorama.

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