- Fear, and: Emigration Photo, and: Negation, and: A man died in the valley today, and: November's Birds
It is a yellow, patched house with a door the colourof old blood. She has lived there all her life.It has a yard with not much in it.And a garden where hens scratch.It is hot there, in a parched dry-throated way.Inside is too dark, outside too bright.
What she does is bury it. Holes dugwherever the ground gives, wherever she thinksshe may not go. Then anywhere. Nowthe yard's used, the garden's mined,nowhere left for burying. She walks,back pressed to the house walls, afraid of footfall. [End Page 96]
- Emigration Photo
For Hughie O'Donoghue
He is the one who will leave, has already gonehas stood in the open doorhearing his thoughts like a voice—You will never see this again.
And he's stopped, and the mist has come down on his mind:He's looked at the yellow leaves in the grass,the rain lying down on the tussocky field,the cows nosing over the gate.
Stand over there—He has stood by the net of the thorn.Take off your hat—It's been thrown on the grass behind.
He's strong, his body too strongfor his jacket, his strengthis bursting its buttons, shooting its sleeves,pushing its pockets awry.
He lives warm and alive with deathbut listens, intent, inside life which will searthe skin from his hands and the flesh from his feetwhen the soles of his boots are gone.
He will weep, drink, weep, drink again,having flesh that will teachhow to live, how to die,who it is who is doing either.
And the light which made this moment of him?This light already reclaims him. [End Page 97]
On seeing a painting by Hanne Borchgrevink
The house has no windowsand there is no door.The path that leads from itfalls out of the frame.The house has no chimneyto push out thin plumes.The sky has no clouds.
The house standson a dark field.It hauntswhere the mind is numb.
Who is it who has paintedthis refugeless journey?Who is it that denies uscomfort in our deepest places? [End Page 98]
- A man died in the valley today,
I can see the house if I lean far out,throwing the window wideto the lamb's loud bleating,the birdsong, vibrating.
He had gone ongoing on dyingall winter.
I wouldn't wait and die in the springwhen the darkness lifts off the worldlike an old quilt;
wouldn't wait for this bursting light,this insistence of lambs.The new-opened door slammed shut in my face.
Perhaps he had to.Only then, finally to know,it was beyond him—
keeping up—completelybeyond him.When the death news ran we looked
at the ground where our feet were plantedthen off somewhere—between two trees,at the patched door on a stone shed,at the post van, disappearing. [End Page 99]
- November's Birds
Light naked and wet, the sky low and dark,the birch tree as frail as a head-shaved girl,pushed through a jeering crowd.The small birds are seizing the day.
They flutter and fight at the feeders,battling the damp grey air,queue on the swaying climber,like thoughts awaiting their chance.
Bullfinches rootle the pathway,they toss the dank leavesand grist their black beakson the sycamore's sodden-winged seeds.
Now there's a sound like a whipas a hen bullfinch cracks on the glass.He carries her in and she sits in my hand,too stunned to be afraid.
Mostly these days I am fractured,my body is downcast and sick,but sometimes I smack an invisible walland I knock myself out on the glass.
I come to, sitting up in the hand of God,too stunned to be afraid. [End Page 100]
"'Emigration Photo' was...