When you were seven you wrote your first poem,
A child given to word and image
By the necessity of your parents’ work, alone
In the world of nature from a young age,
But without the coldness of the abandoned,
For you felt yourself beloved of every creature,
Of the woods and of the snow, and your absent
Parents loved you too, and your poems procured
The services of the mountain and the river
As foster parents, the protective shadow
Of Urey as your father, and the gentle song of the Etto, giver-
Of-life, as your mother. The will to borrow
Such parents was a blessing, and you knew a bliss
In early years, although your poems could sing a common sadness:
“The snow falls ponderously in the valley
Around the fruitless evergreens
In the great shadowcoat of the Urey
Where the soft Etto is first seen
To rise magically out of rock,
Ages before the oar and dock;
It wonders “What can they mean,
These unfalling things that strive any way
But down?”, and drifts with snowslow wings
Upon their movements and their tracks,
Whitening the land, papering cracks,
And having no more knowledge than a day.”
You spent your youth in that wild neighbourhood,
Observing the tragedy of insect life
And the romance of snow falling on the woods
In the Etto Valley. The blunt knife
Of the sun above the Urey never showed
Itself a force of heat, only of light,
And it helped the frozen blank blanket of snow
To pervade your natural wanderings with the sight
Only of eternal waste and coldness.
But the Etto and its woodlands would break
The influence of the sky and brush the wilderness
With moving colour—“a water-snake
On ice will writhe and hiss
Until it melts the whiteness with its kiss.”
Before the end, the music’s pitch unpeaking, pianoing from forte,
I’d like to claim a moment for your face, curve of your chin,
The mole on pink sunset-sunned snow, reactionary cheeks, exploding lips,
Outward from heaven your eyes Luciferous descension,
Pulsing energetic visage of a god, fallen, into glory, godheaded angel,
Outward all beckoning inward, stellar attraction, spherical tones
Chiming within your skin, soft, soft now, soft
Pianoing from forte, down the sound and down and down
Your eyes and lips and cheeks and down and down
Your visage, night, night no longer star-full, only night
Come down upon you and darkening darkness to a pitch
Unseen, unheard, unseeable, unhearable, and bearable only because unbearable,
The loss of you
After all this time I dreamed of you tonight.
We walked and talked through alleys of my mind.
And now that I’m awake again I find
The love I had still burning just as bright.
Oh, if only this old world were kind
And love and one stray dream could set things right.
We were together again at long last—
Intoxicating wine after a fast—
Walking the streets of Galway and Belfast…
Ah, my first love, if only dreams could last.
Alas, more years are gone than are to come,
Our once bright future lies in mist behind.
And oh, the things I would have done
If I had not been blind.
How many years, how many miles between us?
And yet you are as close as a dream, so close
You are inside me, my Alcestis, my Hermione—
Except you won’t come back.
I can only dream you into my life.
You live, but time and distance make
You as good as dead to me.
You haunt me, living ghost,
Rattling your chains across my soul.
People in love are horrific.
They mince and they prance and they preen.
If you asked them they’d say it’s terrific.
But it’s (rationally speaking) obscene.
And what’s worse is it happens so often.
(Though it never will happen to me).
You see them, from cradle to coffin.
Congregating so damn cheerily.
Whether natured or nurtured this illness.
Has no cure and they’ll love all their lives.
They’ll love all their colouring pencils.
Then they’ll grow up and love all their wives.
Oh I never will love, I swear it.
I’ll avoid it, creep by like a crab.
For whenever I am disappointed.
I point it and stab stab stab stab.
under me, over me, underground streams—
intestines, veins—murmur, purr as i pour
my love in, inch by inch; freckles, star-
like, beneath my back-bound fingers braille their beams
from shifting constellations, skies in waves
reflecting choppily and swallowed; all
vessels greeted greedily, rise and fall,
lungs life-sucked on entry and only grave
and ragged gills surviving, and snapped gulls
in surf awaiting surfacing fish, and
fishermen, awoken by the sun, man-
ing aching boats—naked, skin-thin hulls
putting out upon moon-chastened seas,
rising and falling; bodies, bodies, bodies