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Volume 3 – Issue 2 – New Poems – Donny O’Rourke – Scottish Review of Books
by Donny O’Rourke

Volume 3 – Issue 2 – New Poems – Donny O’Rourke

October 26, 2009 | by Donny O’Rourke

 Great Is the Cause of My Sorrow

(from a Gaelic fragment and to the traditional air from it)

For Eddie McGuire

Great is the cause of my sorrow
Weary the weight of my woe
Will we never be done with despairing
Of what winter has brought to Glencoe? The king and his Campbells have curdled The milk in the dead widow’s breast
Clan Donald’s orphaned bairns butchered Their ghosts and our grievance won’t rest!

Wild as the wind is our mourning Empty our hearts as the glen
Gone like the last light of summer
All murdered, MacDonald’s brave men Great is the cause of my sorrow
I watched my whole family die
Yet love’s the only true vengeance ‘Peace’, the best battle cry

Great is the cause of my sorrow
Greater the need to forgive
In each steading razed without mercy Justice is all that will live
Can nothing be learned from our losses Sorrow and sadness so deep?

Wars will be waged without pity
Til our leaders are taught how to weep

Warmongers forever forgetting What mothers eternally know Iraq. The Lebanon. Afghanistan The whole world one Glencoe Grief is the cause of my sorrow The piper’s lament will not cease While every child’s a MacDonald Bombed in the name of peace

Marriages turned into funerals
In the Highlands or Iraq
Knives in the night
Or stealth bombers
Innocence under attack
Great is the cause of my sorrow
Weary the weight of my woe
Will we never be done despairing
Of what winter has brought to Glencoe?

And One Light Burning

Up by the park
No lit landmark
Park Circus has lost its clown
His sorrows didn’t drown
The curtains have all come down

But one light burning

The west end’s hues
Are navy blues
I’m all at sea and in the dark A sad and songless lark
An old Zippo that won’t spark

Just one light burning

A futile vigil at the shrine
Of all that once was mine
In the howffs of Gibson Street Where my love and I would meet The curfew’s long complete

Yet one light burning

Oh how well I know the glow

Of that lone lit lamp below Fresh light shed
On books in bed
By a boy instead

And one light burning

Until the crack of dawn
When blue and black are gone Gold will spill
From her Woodlands window sill On me missing in the chill

One light burning

Showtime Is No Time (To Be Alone)

Up goes the curtain
Up strikes the band
Down goes my luck
Like the drink in my hand
No co-star to kiss me
Or chorus to miss me
For all the curtain calls I’ve known No audience to care
That I’m no longer there Showtime
Is no time
To be alone

Just before eight
Is the moment I hate When old troupers moan Showtime
Is no time
To be alone

I’ve no fans to speak of
Memories recede
For eclipsed leading men
Life’s tiresome to lead
Who cares that my phrasing
Was once thought trail blazing
Back when the bigshots would phone The booze helps me bear
All that’s left there
Like a cracked LP spinning
At last I’m beginning
To try out my tenebrous tone

Showtime Is no time To be alone


You think that the spotlight won’t fade That life will be one long encore
At the matinee you’ve still got it made By nightfall…no more


Is woe-time
Oh, never, no time To be alone

Where the Heart Stores Such Things

How’d the dime fall?

Did she call?
…Did she ever?

No…as in…Never!

Like that girl on the train You don’t see again Don’t say a word to

Whose ‘my station’ smile Every once in a while Still gets referred to
As the torch singer sings

Where the heart stores such things

When her call failed to come through Did I maybe say ‘Phew’

My heart’s little black book
Is off the hook
I mistook
A swallow for a summer
In love a newcomer
No I can honestly say
It wasn’t that way
I miss her still
Always will
A little more each day…

In the reliquary there
With the dolour and despair
Of another doomed affair
Where the heart stores such things With a skelf from the True Cross
A man must venerate his loss Embellish and emboss
The song he sings
Where the heart hoards such things Where the heart holds such things

Where the heart stores such things

The Gods Pay No Heed

Writing songs
Isn’t righting wrongs
The gods pay no heed
When you pen a lyric
The victory is Pyhrric Inconsequence indeed
What a show-tune means
Is a hill of beans
No! Make that a mountain! Think St Paul’s without a dome Better yet, remember Rome Without three coins in a fountain

But what’s preferred if it’s not the sound Of Hart or Mercer
The more expansive the terser
Porter, droll Cole
Or his successor, Vienna’s Ol’

Frank Loesser
The lyric and its air
Well that needs Irving Berlin’s flair
Or Sondheim’s, Steve’s up there
With his elegant despair
Yet the gods don’t care

I’m not claiming Tin Pan Alley Can beat a sweet Socratic sally Or that a hoofer’s knowledge Nixes Harvard College
Agape doesn’t come
With every hit you hum
At full throttle
Is a half empty bottle
As is Duns Scotus
Love’s proven on the pulse
Of a ditty deftly dulse
The Gershwins wrote us

From this Issue

Best Laid Plans

by Pat Kane

Bridge Builder

by Douglas Gifford

Serious Characters

by Alan Riach

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