Three Signatures by Daniel Mulcahy
Beneath a pair of silver plum trees in a burnished field
a man in burnt blue dungarees fills a wooden bench.
One leg splayed under the squat round table top,
the other stood on a stack of papers.
Head half-swallowed by a beard, bushy, red as the foliage,
a brown and low-slung farmer’s cap blots out his eyes.
In quiet study en plein air, he wants for nothing.
Books and sheet music spread before him – straining,
you can just make out a work by Heinrich Mann,
the score to a German folk song.
Untouched for some time, the bottle of red
with its glass half-filled.
Butts long cold lie nested in the ashtray
below the hand which holds the latest.
All about is lined and scratched except the soft-brushed autumn leaves.
Every surface amber-stained: the very air looks singed.
Her signature levitates, a thread of hair, charred and thin as exhalation.
out of utter black
an owl emerges
filling the frame
built of soft chalk
shades of faded orange
gaps speckle forehead
a dappled throat ruff
gown of front-furled wings
eyebrows cleft from socket to skull
grey strands wizen each feather
beak a silver thorn above
a feather moustache
the tilt of swollen lemon eyes
with solid pupils
guarded and glinting
wedged in a corner
a talon or branch
To the camera’s eye, grass blurs to a backdrop –
the focal point: a bloated orange spider.
This close, it is alien. It might appear an acorn
or spiny sea urchin if not picked out
so crisply by the clinical lens:
legs almost transparent, banded in beige,
spineshod and bristling with fine white hair;
carapace contoured in brown and yellow
that paints a staircase up its underside;
an abstract pattern puts me in mind of
some faceless Willem Janssen angel
or the forest spirits in Mononoke.
‘Sky Road’ hangs pencilled in the space between frame and photo.
The spider sits patiently, indifferent to metaphor.
In the far corner, unobtrusive,
a fresh fly.