Friday, August 30, 2013

501. Recollections

We were snoozing happily in our hammocks
when, with a surfeit of roaring soaring sound,
the invasion arrived around teatime
and from waters, rushing in a writhing ring,
a feeble hand arose from the waves
absent Excalibur.

The smothered fish lay along the shore,
and the mountains sank into the sea.

This is not good, I remember thinking,
as I raced to the palace of the Queen,
the heady heave and clash of arms behind me,
but her bloated face was a bawdy green
and a cloud of flies were buzzing around:
‘ I perceive, milady, the realm is sinking’.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

496. Wild Geese

On the rain-sodden field at Fontenoy
there is nothing to be seen or remembered
but a misty view of Belgium, formerly France,
just outside the town of Tournai.
And here are no ghosts,
no galloping horses,
no spirits moaning in the air.

I return to the waiting car,
settle into its lingering warmth,
and turn my mind to the evening:
back to Brussels or on to Paris?
There, there are many ghosts,
perhaps no galloping horses,
but lighter spirits in the air.

That year of Bonnie Prince Charlie
when the butcher Duke of Cumberland,
who won the slaughter at Culloden,
was soundly defeated here,
is rarely recalled. So many
wretched, reeling years
have sadly intervened.

And it was my young clansman Liam,
sweet Liam Óg Ó Laighin,
a harpist of darling promise,
who, following his father and grandfather,
grew to military age in France
and happily joined the regiment
whose flag you see below.

1745: Banner of the Irish Brigade
(Invalides Military Museum, Paris)

Young Liam, Liam, ochóne,
you did not survive the battering day
although the hard-fought field was won.
And you were carried to your father’s home
by six young sorrowful comrades,
and sadly laid to rest. The weathered stone
lies broken under a grove of elms.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

495. Souvenir

In a mist-filled snow 
cast in grey shadows 
sat an old green bench 
with flaking paint; 
it had a beady-eyed crow at its end 
who crossly flew away 
when we approached. 

I don’t really know, you said, 
what I’ll do; and I said, 
I know, darling, but I’m sure 
it will be all right. And then 
I brushed the snowflakes 
away from your eyes 
and kissed you. 

That was in Istanbul
where old green steamers went lurching across the Horn
softly, silently puffing …

I have grown old 
and resent each bedridden day 
spent thinking; I particularly 
despise the night, each 
sleepless night and deep 
where ancient memories 
softly creep.

494. Emigration

I’ll be going down to New York town 
to meet my love, my sweet young man, 
who has worked so hard to make our home 
away across the broad Atlantic. I must 
take a step away from friends, from relations, 
from my weeping mother, who will never 
see me again. My father spits silently in the fire 
and I know how he feels. 

I am sorry (I am not sorry) for I wish to get away 
and live a life away from Ireland, for Ireland 
beautiful and grand as it is, truly, crushes 
the hearts of its downtrodden women. And I am not 
and never will be a downtrodden woman. 
I read books, some of which I understand, 
and some of which I don’t, but never mind, 
I am a proud and nervous nationalist. 

Ireland looms out of the darkness. 
It sits there, balefully, in the wide Atlantic Sea. 
Aviators say, thanks, Christ God, land at last, 
a place we can crash or land upon. As did 
Alcock and Brown in Clifden in 1919 
long before Lucky Lindbergh. It’s there. 
Land at last, the farmhouses and the fields, 
waiting to welcome or kill you. 

Ireland is a place we all want to leave 
or stay in forever. 

I will take this ship called Titanic.