Cian Murphy

Polar Bears in the School Hall & Hero

Cian Murphy

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Polar Bears in the School Hall

The boy can’t be more than four feet tall: in short grey

trousers and shirt, blue rims on glasses he’ll outgrow,

gloves on his hands - are they gardeners or goalkeepers? -

he leans on an open fire door with his back to the sun.

She has drawn him in with a poem about polar bears.

Does he see the tundra, can he hear the Artic wind roar,

or is it the music of her tone and her gentle inflection

that offers him a salve from the heat in the schoolyard?

Dust cascades around him in a shaft of midday light and

she tells her tale of the North Pole, its bears, and ice.


An image in an East End print shop:

a boy with a makeshift cape casts

a cubist shadow - reds and blues -

against the wall.

It sends me back to a Christmas,

or maybe a birthday, when on the

stairs at Liam Healy Road he

asked to try the costume.

I hid my reluctance behind concern:

it’s six and up - are you old enough?

He was. I had to yield the cape.

It fits him just as well and he

leaps from the third step bold as any Man of Steel.

Now he’s by the Lee, rod at his side,

his ageing and ageless form crafted

by his brother’s hands from a

single block of wood - an

oaken memorial of a fishing trip

cut short. They had to pull him

out at Thomas Davis Bridge -

no cape to billow when he fell.

Cian Murphy

Cian Murphy was born and raised in Cork and now lives between London and Bristol where he teaches at university. His poetry and review writing is published by Envoi and Ink, Sweat and Tears.