“Edward O’Dwyer’s poems in Exquisite Prisons pack the quotidian with a creeping terror; motorists nervously migrate to investigate the car stalled at the lights, a father is filmed throwing his child higher and higher, a husband wonders if his wife also fantasises about killing him. These poems are savagely ironic, authoritative and delivered in an unsettling coaxing voice that occupies that same dazzling imaginative territory as Shirley Jackson in The Lottery.” Eleanor Hooker
“These are poems which explore the preciousness and unreliability of what we think of as 'the present'. They often unpick fleeting moments, but their impact is enduring. Highly recommended.” Helen Mort
“In Exquisite Prisons, Edward O’Dwyer considers the reasons people need other people: to validate, reflect, desire, resist, and mourn. These poems are surreal, sneakily funny and unashamedly sad. The images will stay with you. O’Dwyer’s poetic voice is utterly contemporary and the poems have a wittily executed lightness of touch which charms the reader.” Susan Millar DuMars & Kevin Higgins
“Edward O’Dwyer’s Exquisite Prisons is a country where anything resembling a cliché is turned back at the border. This is a brilliant, original, courageous, dramatic, often painful collection, with no simple ‘happy ever after’ endings. The dark truths shine. Many of the poems are elegiac in tone throughout. The relationship poems are tortured and intriguing. Tough poems but also so much joy – the joy is in the language, the words written in steel. Welcome to an unforgettable country.” Tim Cunningham
The Girl in the Window
She isn’t there now.
it’s just an empty window.
She was there, sitting up in bed.
Mornings, afternoons and evenings
and through all weathers,
she was sitting there.
I never saw her out here,
playing with any of the other kids.
I never saw her at school,
only there, looking out
at our games and arguments,
our small triumphs and defeats.
Kicking the ball over and over
against this wall
isn’t quite the same anymore.
Where has she gone?
I try to tell myself
she is just looking out
that she’s sick of looking at us,
and there are moments
when I believe it,
but then catch myself
looking over my shoulder
and up at that window
where she used to be.
The Matter of a Dedicated Gardener’s Death
A dedicated gardener should die in his garden,
doing the things that, all of these years,
have made him a dedicated gardener.
Not that he should plan for it, of course,
or make any kind of preparations,
but wouldn’t it be fortuitous
if it happened to be early March
and there were clots of daffodils all about?
Yellows always make a garden its most alive.
There isn’t any avoiding it, dying must be done,
but only after all the procrastination one can manage.
And dedicated gardeners must die somewhere,
and why not the garden, its best version,
the garden that’s decided that’s enough of winter,
enough of colourlessness and bare tree limbs?
The garden that’s in a happy state of resurrection,
floral faces pushing up through soft earth.
Imagine him now, the sky Kandinsky blue
as he abruptly drops a watering can or clippers
and clutches his heart and then keels over.
Don’t turn away. Look at him, sprawled out
there, sunlight settling on his face and arms.
It’s okay, allow it, and feel glad for him.
It’s not the least bit inappropriate.
Find a café where the proprietor is rude
and sighs when you politely ask her for coffee,
where you can expect to never receive a smile
and to always be given a rotten, turpentine brew.
Make it your regular place.
If she brings you the best coffee you’ve ever tasted,
and greets you in syllables that are music,
and smiles a smile that’s warmer than that coffee,
this is not the place for you.
Drink up fast, get out of there. Never return.
If you do, make no mistake, she will break your heart.
She will come to the table at every opportunity
and she will speak her extraordinary music,
and she will smile the kind of smiles
that make a reasonable man such as you
ache to get down on one knee right there where,
moments ago, she’ll have swept up some crumbs
and been tantalisingly close.
The rude proprietor who sighs won’t ever bring you
a cookie you didn’t order, saying it’s on the house,
because, quite simply, she despises you.
She will charge you and then hope you choke on it,
and you might do, because it will be a vile cookie,
but it won’t be such a bad way to go,
choking on her shit cookie in her dreary café,
sliding from your chair onto its grimy linoleum floor.
It could be so much worse, after all.
You could have been in the other café, where
you can be sure the cookie you haven’t ordered,
that she gives gratis, will be sumptuous,
without doubt the best you’ll have ever tasted,
so impossibly delectable that, as you gorge on it,
you’ll not even notice your heart is breaking,
crumbling to pieces inside her hands.
Copyright © Edward O'Dwyer, 2022