Old Croghan Man, and: In the Bode-Museum, and: Ta Prohm, and: Lapwings, and: Adoration
Old Croghan Man
art, portrait, sculptor, father, identity
temple, worship, god, death, belief
farm, stars, quiet, loss, shadows
love, desire, fruit, Berlin, worship
Old Croghan Man
… their nipples were cut, thus rendering them ineligible for kingship … the suckling of a king's nipples was an important gesture of submission.—Eamonn P. Kelly, "An Archaeological Interpretation of Irish Iron Age Bog Bodies"
Only a torso now, the headlong severed from the neck, pelvistwisted off like a stubborn root.
Remember the worn jacketof his body pressedin the bog; above, the galaxies
of cotton grass turnedinside out, like little soulsamong the eyebrights,
the stitchwort. No placeto leave a man alone.And under each nipple
a deep incision, blade width.Even then, they needed boyslike me—to leave power
in our wake, to dip our headsand take to the softpink mound. I would have felt,
then, the making of a king;known God, through my lips,entering the body. [End Page 103]
In the Bode-Museum
On a narrow plinth in the cornerof the gallery, a stone portrait:a man, his mouth unlipped
by fire, marble of the facepeeled off in the blaze. But the clotheswere spared somehow, as though
above the neck he was hungon a noose of flame. And stillone unburnt eye, looking up
over the broken shoulderto where his sculptor stood.But hush. No one is coming.
We are handed our livesby a fierce work. Onto whichblank space will I lock my gaze
when my fatheris gone? How am I to wearhis love's burning mantle? [End Page 104]
A stifling heat—the air heavy—and all around the loud, wet forestknotting the gaps in its own sound.
A peace long earned, then broken;and you, far off in the hospice bed.Silk cotton, strangler fig
fastened here on the templeas though it grew down from heaven,was sent to hold in place
all this human work. And later,through the house of fire, the fallengalleries, I climbed in blue smoke
to where the god satringed with incense. And yes,I knelt to her. And yes, I prayed
through unbelief. Perhaps now,father, only something oldand impossible can save us. [End Page 105]
A March sky pinned with stars—purple, almost, and a blue mist in the wheat stubble.Under the laburnum, we waited—the chains of leaf, its cascades of gold flowergone, and the whole tree droopinglike an open hand, loose at the wrist.And in the far field—what?The dun mare wickering, shiftingher weight; the trough half-frostedand glittering. This might be
the last year, we thought, before the landwas sold; the nests with their four-pointed eggsin the scrape, the square plot peaked,all those mothers, and who knows what elsebefore the year was out?What losses? Until, near the tracks, a spark—a dark firework lit in a flickering noteand us hushed to hear it, to follow the jetof its firing, its leap upand then the tumbling
fall: black sparks, the showerof embers gashed and the Catherine wheelflourish as the sound was dropped,caught, then dashed to earth.And what of it?All beyond night's blind—hardly even a shadow, but the airjust then, picked up, shaken to static—cheee-o-wit of something like life whipping upwardand the dying nerve shot along the bright rod of the spine. [End Page 106]
St. Stephen's Day: home unsettled,a rupture, and here the ruchedbranch has turned itself outward,
its soft, bright innards held upalong the path. At first, a goldenlobe on the oak, leaking
in the mist—fungus, "yellowtremble," translucent and half-aglowwith its own light; then more
appearing as I walk. A strange thingbeing birthed alone out hereon the edges of the town,
the slow year becoming fleshin amniotic color; its soft fruithung along the corridor of gorse,
and all the while a constantsystole and diastole in the fogas though the whole wrecked world
were a heart, beating. I stand herefor a while, staring at this half-bornlife oozing in the cold, come unstuck,
brought out too soon. Weeks ago,in the concrete subzero of Berlin,we huddled on the scrubland
by Ostbahnhof, watched the sun dip,the light shifting blue, all the streets sinking.Then, a reprieve—into the club, [End Page 107]
its vaulted columns, the steel barsand long-stemmed lilies, and the heatscouring our skin. The building
was organ-warm, pulsing.Inside, long passages of people,deep sound rippling outward,
and somewhere near the corea room of masks, apparatus of leather,a censer of white menthol swung
and resting at eye level.In the cubicle, a white pill held up,broken—the heart fluttering,
and then the music, a congregationundoing their bodies overand over into beaming shapes.
We found a hidden place, turnedourselves outward in the humid cell—bloom and spirit unspooling.
Back here on the heath, runninglast summer until our facesburned, we stopped for breath
in the gorse tunnel—how eerieit was at dusk, some dimensionwe'd slipped into by chance.
I sprinted off into the darkand you bolted to catch me,held a blackberry to my mouth— [End Page 108]
the sudden tang of it—pluckedtoo soon. My body wincedand smarted into color, the day
distilled then taken gloriouslyinside—host of the world—and then a kiss—something
soft and secret and unseen. I knowI would kneel to you—blood, yes,spine, lips. Leave me always
in these waste spaces, wheremy head is tilted up to Godand I am a wild thing, glowing. [End Page 109]
Seán Hewitt is the winner of an Eric Gregory Award (2019), the Resurgence Poetry Prize (2017), and a Northern Writers' Award (2016). His pamphlet, Lantern (Offord Road Books, 2019), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. His debut collection is Tongues of Fire (Jonathan Cape, 2020). He lives in Dublin.