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What is poetry?
What is poetry?

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5.4 Tercets

The following poem is written in tercets.

There’s no one here at the moment

It happens once, in his absence.

The bright hall rings, rings and, mid-ring,

clicks back over into silence.

It leaves two isolated sighs,

hers, momentarily frozen

before an ocean of blank space

that by nightfall he’ll come across

and save against the backdrop of

a Friday evening office;

give up on; rewind to and play

more times than makes sense; tomorrow,

or the day after, wipe away.

(Conor O’Callaghan)

Activity 15

Now write a poem with the same title – ‘There’s no one here at the moment’ – consisting of two tercets, rhymed or unrhymed.

Think about what happens between the first and second stanza. This may comprise the point or heart of your poem.

The following poem is in tercets with a rogue line at the end.

Spilt milk

Two soluble aspirins spore in this glass, their mycelia

fruiting the water, which I twist into milkiness.

The whole world seems to slide into the drain by my window.

It has rained and rained since you left, the streets black

and muscled with water. Out of pain and exhaustion you came

into my mouth, covering my tongue with your good and bitter milk.

Now I find you have cashed that cheque. I imagine you

slipping the paper under steel and glass. I sit here in a circle

of lamplight, studying women of nine hundred years past.

My hand moves into darkness as I write, The adulterous woman

lost her nose and ears; the man was fined. I drain the glass.

I still want to return to that hotel room by the station

to hear all night the goods trains coming and leaving.

(Sarah Maguire)

The chosen stanza form is appropriate to the theme of an erotic triangle, with a third party suggested by the ‘women of nine hundred years past’, not to mention the disparity between the punishments for women and for men involved in adultery.