March 17, 2008

For the time being, I return

The day dawns with scent of must and rain,
Of opened soil, dark trees, dry bedroom air.
Under the fading lamp, half dressed -- my brain
Idling on some compulsive fantasy --
I towel my shaven lip and stop, and stare,
Riveted by a dark exhausted eye,
A dry downturning mouth.

It seems again that it is time to learn,
In this untiring, crumbling place of growth
To which, for the time being, I return.
Now plainly in the mirror of my soul
I read that I have looked my last on youth
And little more; for they are not made whole
That reach the age of Christ.

Below my window the awakening trees,
Hacked clean for better bearing, stand defaced
Suffering their brute necessities,
And how should the flesh not quail that span for span
Is mutilated more? In slow distaste
I fold my towel with what grace I can,
Not young and not renewable, but man.

--"Mirror in February," Thomas Kinsella

The secret of movement
Is not the secret itself
But the movement
Of there being a secret.

For example, the movement
Of an accordion which closes
On one side and opens
On the other.

Or your folding one arm
Against your pushing body
At the turn towards waking
Which is the full length

Of your dream. When
You look at me as a man
May look, it is like a break
Of real sky where one branch

Crosses its fellow, a brown leaf
Taking September into
A brown stone, or green
Under green, grass below trees.

You ask the differene
Between a green shadow
And a brown one? Here
Is a green answer.

I can only say
I feel that green shadow,
That short, morning shadow,
Through and through me,

With a sense of hair in a coil
Recoiling from the fingers
That held it, smoothing
Its darkness till it would seem

Like whatever it is furthest
From, one of those blonde
Napes velvety as leaves
With the tip pointed towards you.

By now you will have painted
The first of the sea fresh-staring
Yellow and changed its name.
So that now I always hear

The sea in the wind, though
I like a wind in which
You hear the rain, however moist
With breath its mask may be.

And after last night's rain
I actually dreamed of you,
Falling asleep for that
Wild purpose, seeing

Your face through the floor
As all the light left
On the flat of a hand.
I wish they could hear

That we lived in one room
And littered a new poetry
Long after both doors, up-
And downstairs, shut.

--"The Time Before You," Medbh McGuckian

It has been for so long a date on the calendar filled with only the glib charms and silly rituals. But this year, before the fire and with the whiskey, the memories were conjured in their cluttered, clustered constellations, the will-to-see making them flicker, uncertain but there, against oblivion: Glendaloch's "ancient" status like a lesson, the deprivation necessary for faith and existence there, in a cell of cold, wet stone, there twelve hundred years before Kierkegaard; the side streets that rise and wind off Grafton where as many mornings as possible there was coffee in the same modern cafe; the Long Hall on a summer Sunday night, the house lights not dim, with noone hidden in any shadows and the talk quiet despite the full room; the dusk walk alone, away from the others, between Ennis and the famous cliffs, with grass and stone fence, the wind carrying high into the air the voices from a small red fishing boat, next to which a big, blackish dolphin arched out of the water; Belfast seemingly empty at night and the sun seeming to hang in the air all evening; a northern seaside town with one taxi, its lone place to drink the tiny, yellow foyer of a man's house--twenty or so packed in there, glass held high under the chin to keep it out of the small of a back, tipped almost sideways; a Pauline, a Polly; sheep and space; a hotel bar in a town I will never find again, serving me a pot of coffee and a piled plate of wheat toast in the morning before they had even opened and there reading the paper as if the news of that world were wholly elsewhere. How many pricks of the remembrance can be built this way, with the effort increasing, those hollow images and taste-like sensations overlapping as shadows that, if colored, are rightly green and brown? Yes, littered poetry in the wake of having lived, and yet for all that, not at all made whole.