You wrote from New York. My fingers feel blistered
where people rub through them,
but no one here touches
your arm as they speak.
I sit with that letter.
There’s a rat in the tangle
of orange nasturtiums,
the late bees bump
on the glass of the window,
pale light stripes the bark of the pear.
Forget, forget, forget.
Sometimes I think that forgetting’s the same as remembering:
the same liquid feeling
lodged in the gut;
the same dazed weakness
of not understanding
where then ends,
where now begins.
is simply homelessness
nowhere inside to congregate
when the out-breath’s emptied
and before the in-breath fills
For no reason at all
I woke thinking about your mother
that last holiday in Galway
when she was going off
and we were growing afraid.
It was the shop I was remembering,
the evening we went to buy ice cream.
She wanted five family blocks
though she didn’t like ice cream and neither did I
and the holiday house had no freezer.
One block was more than enough, I said.
Five of us in the house, she said.
So one at a time, he brought out five blocks,
and then starting wrapping them, hiding his doubt,
block after block, in yesterday’s paper,
while sea-light poured in through the window,
and lay across postcards and blackening bananas
and she kept insisting and I kept saying no,
till I gave up, gave in, and started to laugh –
and she’s laughing too, and he’s laughing with us,
and filling my arms with ice cream and we stumble
out of the door and into the street smells
– the seagulls, the salt air, fish frying, the evening –
and I woke today, smiling, all down the years,
my arms full of melting vanilla.
For thirty years
we have walked around
inside each other’s lives.
We pay bills, hang out the wash,
comfort children who wake.
Sometimes we bury our dead.
This is the room we inhabit,
fragile as glass,
the light passing through.
In your stricken country the Old King is sick.
At the fork in the road, the raven waits, silent.
Youngest sons are sent off to some war.
The princess stays locked in the tower.
And the fish is never cut open.
And the golden ring’s never found –
11 It’s a small tree,
12 Letters from the Dead
15 How She Disposes of Fear
17 Into Light
18 Last Swim
19 Too Late for Sorry Now
20 Talking to My Stepson
21 Shasta Daisies
23 Losing It
25 Taking the Weight
26 He talks to me about field trials
27 Time Passing
28 Real Estate
29 Day Lilies
30 Poem in a Circle
32 July Drought
34 Rhyme for a Rhino
36 The Inadequacy of Letters of Condolence
37 Mondrian Dream, Somewhere in Russia
38 On Reading Michael Longley’s Snow Water
39 Bolt the Shutter
41 American Pastoral
43 Civil War Aftermath
44 ‘Peace is the root of all wars’
48 Tide-turn on the Brittany Coast
49 The Stone at the Heart of a Pear
50 There’s More Than One of Us in Here
55 On Revisiting Gallarus Oratory
56 ...what I call god
57 Sky Station, Skellig Michael
59 All Saints
60 All Soul’s Day, November the 2nd
61 Winter Solstice
62 Salt, Flame
63 Bird Talk
64 ‘and all shall be well’
67 The Emigrant’s Letter
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