Ellen Dillon

If in danger run to the woods

            after Niedecker


Fearing neighbours’ eyes more than rain

            I walk Lorine to the woods to do her business;

                        she’s quick, slick whippet, and goes just far enough


to keep it off the path, a worn path not a made one;

            her rib-cage hollowed out of bird-bone arches, unsure

                        whether to fly away or keep her breath in: both are possible,

but a sequence of small acts makes condensing tricky.


The cuckoo, not a pretty bird, reiterates his raucous grating call

            through afternoon’s cloying greyness. Its agitating blatter

                        speeds the blood up; tachycardic drumming at the pulses pulls


the breath up short; heart, simple organ for the canine phrasal,

            races off; cuculus canorum means to sing us to a standstill, keel us

                        over like a pipit’s egg from the nest that used to be our own. His mate’s

dull bluster conceals nothing of this occupation in progress.


Lorine, how would your pre-greyhound self have squared away such

            ornithological imperialism? And how to slow the rhythms of the body’s

                        dog and bird-brained pump, in the face of such indignifying oppression?


Your path was writ in so much water that the sun has overwritten it,

            evaporating and re-condensing every drop; does a channel still funnel run-

                        off rain to the lake, and can the low-velocity laminar flow of that water-

path clear the densities of questions we may have come to clog it with?




Re: Ducks

‘Words are stuff,’ Derek

mallard took the po-faced


claims re. the materiality of

the signifier to mean, signifying


stuffing. Sausage-meat caused

heartburn, so he turned instead


to breadcrumbs (species-suitably)

butter-burnished, larded with allusions to


early Yeats and Hopkins. Dense and satisfying,

with a slightly cloying aftertaste to cut


with the pungent plum of an 80s shoe-gaze

lyric; gauzy stuff, diaphanous in texture, verging


on vaseliney in its claggy mouth-seizing, needing

fizz, quantum or carbonated: soda’d do for either.


The ether seized, if such a wispy nothing could grab,

the day, its day-books and allotted span of moments;


material, too, for monumentally wrought (in Goldilocks

measures: neither over- nor under-) chains

of instances of surface-tensed attention.

Ellen Dillon is working on a PhD project on dynamic abstraction at the School of English in DCU, Dublin. She has completed poems for the pamphlets Potential Space and Sonnets to Malkmus, some of which have appeared or are forthcoming in Zarf and Datableed.