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  • Filíocht Nua: New Poetry
  • Catherine Phil MacCarthy


Father and son tidied up the yard, made all about the house clean, mowed the lawn. All the young men in the family joined in, prepared the place—in that way— for her going, called rake and wheelbarrow into commission, the afternoon acrid with a scent of diesel and cut grass. They worked late and came in that evening, like men long ago home from the meadow, an air about them of appetite and completion, so preparations would be echoed in heaven— here, a wife and mother leaving, there, a daughter welcome. [End Page 52]


(. . . a future forbidden to no one.) Derek Mahon

This afternoon I wish you were still here to see from our study window

how the dark lavender maelstrom of cloud loading the skies over Dublin is

shot with light, so that whatever appeared threatening in it an hour ago—

widespread flash floods across the city even hailstones—has settled into

something less than weather and more shy of attention, a painter’s slate

lit with burnt umber and old rose, densities lifted and electified now

across the whole dimension of air with untold possibilties. [End Page 53]

Turning Right

The road swerves and dips, slants south-east, straight as a compass for miles between two ditches alive with finches, fields on both sides of lambs and flowering gorse, (sweet musk, pollen-breath of summer)

and straddling the end of that line on the horizon as if it were designed, the Blackstairs, a pyramid, only green, edging off the windscreen as the road wound a slow descent

towards the river. That afternoon as we strolled along, it was all sheer sunlit glitter and fish jumping where we came to the din of the weir, a lone heron stalked, keeled neck fully outstretched,

mimed such a motionless procession that we stood there, listening to the rush of streams, happy water weaving over stones, the ascending chorus of plain chant, a wordless uplift,

as if time stopped and we were open to pure being, indivisible from loved ones’ gone, in the same place maybe as the gates of heaven, so when the breeze

lifted sally leaves in small bursts in the ancient woods of oak behind us and let them drop, we fancied we might hear the voice of God. [End Page 54]


A week before Christmas we fled the city’s labyrinth, traffic jams, tailbacks, endless lights en route to the airport

for a village in the high Alps where the sky burned with stars and in the morning, snowfields opened out above the pines,

decorated with discrete tracks that vanished in unfettered whiteness, as if the creature became air, marmot, rabbit, ibex, deer.

Facing the Rising Sun

for my mother

After your death in the small hours— the sun came up, clouds rent and parted, all the night-lying fog dispersed, so light drenched fields and trees

shimmered with a rainy greenness, the incessant song of small birds and shifting cobalt veils crosslit the sky, a sense of first breath on the earth, of birth. [End Page 55]


Dust thou art and into dust . . . Words of the sermon on Sunday morning

in a world that knew nothing of cocaine. This was mud on Sunday afternoon banked

by the fresh-water pool at Ringmoylan, our first swimming lessons in the open air,

chill water creeping to the waist,murky, green smelt of the loamy river instead of the sea.

Rough-cast walls and floor inimical to four-year-old feet. Children paddled

or clung to concrete edges, stared at a shoreline of wet mounds gleaming

in the sun like melted chocolate, seeming to breathe tiny rivulets.

A psychedelic dream? Silt at low tide, the underbelly of the Shannon exposed like

a shame, complete in its own isolation. Where was the thundering sea that looked

towards America, clear water lapping at our heels, sand fine-grained, clean?

Ballybunion, Salthill, Kilkee? Why were we here? This silent riverbed

led nowhere like some forgotten reverie, due soon to disappear, a tidal swamp

divulging random debris, the wheel-less frame of a bicycle, a rusty axle ridged deep,

some doll...


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