The Man With No Name as Vital Principle: A Ghazal


by Caitríona O’Reilly

Eastwood as No-Name in A Fistful of Dollars.
The town called Apricots is built of whitewashed adobe.

Behind the walls are widows, staring their tragic arias. Nothing here flowers or fruits.
There is the ringer of the dead-bell, the sprightly coffin-maker.

Something looks through the Stranger’s eyes, looking. It is a secret.
It is life in this town of death. The Stranger does not speak it.

Things solidify from their names. Where the empty sky was, there is smoke,
and from this comes the figure of the Stranger whose name is smoke.

Eastwood contrapposto. He understands the exact gesture
is a pattern of immortality, and that evil has an element of smirk.

He is a hat, a cheroot, a serape with strange signs.
He is the Son of Man, bowler-hatted, an apple where his face should be.

After the beating, after his high-hipped, sidewinder crawl through the dirt,
he is not ashamed to go in the guise of death. Pride is a part of what he has left behind.

On the third day he emerges from the mineshaft. The stone rolled back…
His body folds, like a spider’s, under each attack.

Still he comes. Under the drunken parabola of the sun he watches himself turn,
reflected in the eye of his enemy, from a speck of dust into a man.

About the Author:

Caitríona O’Reilly was born in Dublin. She earned a B.A. and Ph.D. at Trinity College Dublin, and held the Harper-Wood Studentship at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Geis, her third collection, follows The Nowhere Birds, winner of the Rooney Prize, and The Sea Cabinet, shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. “The Man with No Name as Vital Principle: A Ghazal” was first published in Ploughshares.