Michael Loughran

Response to a Painting in the Ulster Museum

Michael Loughran

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Response to a Painting in the Ulster Museum

I notice how yer man's fading into the landscape
like how those in worship dissolve into a space
that seems to be between our world and another,
but really it's all chemical, a comfort thing,
like the mind warming the body of a drowning man;
maybe yer man found comfort in nature.
I think he's going to jump off a bridge & the title changes
meaning: I thought he was on a hike, like Gilgamesh
or Forrest Gump. I notice a hat tucked under his arm,
& think perhaps it's like not wearing a hat in church
& he has taken it off so whatever god can see.
(I never understood why omnipotent gods had dress codes,
or why they took such an interest in masturbation.)
I think of masturbation. There is no one around
but it's risky, besides the only portraits are of lords
in fields holding guns like standard-bearers, and their horses
grazing in pastures with coats shining like chalices,
or they're all rigid and inert in stuffy old drawing rooms
with pianos & porcelain wives & cherubic children
staring up at their men in reverence or fear.
I look at yer man with his long brown coat & think
perhaps he was on the lam after masturbating
in a public place. Did a spiritual penance seem optional
to a more worldly one? Was he seeking penance at all?
I imagine the lords shouting at him at night,
calling him a disgrace & a heathen & a maverick
while they wave their guns/cocks about, & I see him,
standing there, back turned, smiling though none see.

(on seeing the Jack Yeats painting 'On through the Silent Lands')


Michael Loughran


Michael Loughran was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He spends much of his time battling with untrustworthy pens & studying. His work has been published in Crannóg, inksweat&tears, The Poetry Bus and A New Ulster, among others.