Poems from...

Ground Water

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If I close my eyes I can picture him
flitting the hedgerow for splints
or a rib of wood to kindle the fire,

or reading the snow for whatever
it was that came out of the trees
and circled the house in the night;

if I listen I can hear him out
in the kitchen, scudding potatoes,
calling the cat in; if I breathe

I can smell the ghost of a fire,
a burning of leaves that would fizz
in the mizzle before snow.

There is in this house now
a stillness of cat fur and boxes,
of photographs, paperbacks, waste—

paper baskets; a lifetime
of things that I’ve come here
to winter or to burn.

There is in this world one snow fall.
Everything else is just weather.

The Fielder

for Kim Walwyn

The day is late, later than the sun.
He tastes the dusk of things and eases down,
and feels the shade set in across the yard.
He never thought there’d be so much undone,
so much in need of planing: the haugh unmown
with its fist of bracken, the splinting of the cattle bar,
the half-attended paddock wall
scribbled with blackthorn and broke-wool.

Perhaps he could have turned the plough for one last till,
be sure, or surer, of where the seeding fell.
But then it’s not the ply that counts, but the depth of furrow,
knowing the take was deep and real, knowing the change was made.
And field by field the brown hills harvest yellow.
And few of us will touch the landscape in that way.

And Let Us Say

for Emma McKiernan, on her birth, 8/9/99

That if the linen flapped too loud
The washing line was taken down

And if a shopdoor bell was rung
Its tongue was held with cotton thumbs

And if a milkfloat tattled by
It was flagged down and held aside

And should the rivers drown us out
We had them dammed at every mouth

And coughed our engines gently off
And wrapped our tyres in woollen socks

And sat awhile on silent roads
Or dawdled home in slippered shoes

And did not sound but held our tongues
And watched our watches stop, and startle on.

Bloodaxe Books, ISBN: 185224657X
Paperback, 64 pages (29 January 2004)
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