Death at Teatime
when everything stopped at four o’clock
the houses suddenly looked old as fossils
cold in the rigid sunlight transfixed from prehistoric time.
raved up in spate from College Green,
released from utterance
for there was now no more to be said:
released from laughter
for there would be no more quips.
Faces were floating
blind facades shuttered upon nothingness,
sense and spirit having slipped apart for ever;
and the dreaming trams went reeling by me
fleeing to their last termini,
for now there would be no going and returning,
no returning at evening with flowers from the mountains,
for all the ragged streamers of roads from Dublin
were blowing out upon a wind of death
But the cyclists in College Green kept up their mesmeric cycling
moved by a tic of to and fro called living.
And through all that heaving, maggot-seething
superfluous spume of a city,
young women in telephone booths were ringing up their lovers
not knowing that from four o’clock that afternoon
love had been discontinued.
from The New British Poets, edited by Denys Val Baker
London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1945
Available on the Internet Archive: Link.
This is one of a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.
K. Arnold Price was an Irish writer who only published two books: New Perspectives (1980) and The Captain’s Paramours (1987). When invited to name his favorite neglected book by The Guardian back in 2007, Colm Toibin wrote of New Perspectives,
This is a short Irish novel which deals entirely with private life; it is a middle-aged woman’s most subtle and sensuous and intelligent study of her relationship with her husband. I found it haunting at the time and I am still haunted by its stillness and rich cadences and powerful distinctions between levels of feeling, but I have only ever met two other people who have read it and they are both writers. It does not read like a first novel and has some of the hallmarks of a Bergman movie. The author, I later learnt, was 84 when it was published. She published only one other novel.
Toibin inspired several bloggers to locate the book, and you can find their assessments here: The Mookse and the Gripse; Just William’s Luck; and Pechorin’s Journal. Price published poems and short stories in English and Irish literary magazines from the 1940s through the 1980s, but seems never to have gained much recognition aside from an entry in an encyclopedia of Irish literature.