What Language Did
The evening was the same as any other.
I came out and stood on the step.
The suburb was closed in the weather
of an early spring and the shallow tips
of washed-out yellows of narcissi
resisted dusk. And crocuses and snowdrops.
I stood there and felt the melancholy
of growing older n such a season,
when all I could be certain of was simply
in this time of fragrance and refrain,
whatever else might flower before the fruit,
and be renewed, I would not. Not again.
A car splashed by in the twilight.
Peat smoke stayed in the windless
air overhead and I might have missed :
a presence. Suddenly. In the very place
where I would stand in other dusks, and
to pick out my child from the distance,
was a shepherdess, her smile cracked,
her arm injured from the mantelpieces
and pastorals where she posed with her crook.
Then I turned and saw in the spaces
of the night sky constellations appear,
one by one, over roof-tops and houses,
and Cassiopeia trapped: stabbed where
her thigh met her groin and her hand
her glittering wrist, with the pin-point
of a star.
And by the road where rain made standing
pools of water underneath cherry trees,
and blossoms swam on their images,
was a mermaid with invented tresses,
her breasts printed with the salt of it
the desolation of the North Sea in her face.
I went nearer. They were disappearing.
Dusk had turned to night but in the air
did I imagine it? - a voice was saying:
This is what language did to us. Here
is the wound, the silence, the wretchedness
of tides and hillsides and stars where
we languish in a grammar of sighs,
in the high-minded search for euphony,
in the midnight rhetoric of poesie.
We cannot sweat here. Our skin is icy.
We cannot breed here. Our wombs are empty.
Help us to escape youth and beauty.
Write us out of the poem. Make us human
in cadences of change and mortal pain
and words we can grow old and die in.
At the Glass Factory in Cavan Town
Today it is a swan:
The guide tells us
these are in demand.
The glass is made
of red lead and potash
and the smashed bits
of crystal sinews
and decanter stoppers
crated over there
she points and shattered
on the stone wheel
rimmed with emery.
Aromas of stone and
fire. Deranged singing
from the grindstone.
And behind that
a mirror my
daughters' heads turned
away in it garnering
grindstone and fire.
The glass blower goes
to the furnace.
He takes a pole
from the earth's
core: the earth's core
is remembered in
the molten globe at
the end of it.
He shakes the pole
carefully to and fro.
He blows once. Twice.
His cheeks puff and
puff up: he is
a cherub at the very
edge of a cornice with
a mouthful of zephyrs
sweet intrusions into
leaves and lace hems.
And now he lays
the rod on its spindle.
It is red. It is
ruddy and cooler.
It is cool now
and as clear as
the distances of this
county with its drumlins,
its herons, its closed-
in waterways on which
we saw this morning
as we drove over
here, a mated pair of swans. Such
blind grace as they
floated with told us
they did not know
that every hour,
every day, and
not far away from
there, they were
entering the legend of
themselves. They gave no
sign of it. But what
caught my eye, my
attention, was the safety
they assumed as
they sailed their own
images. Here, now
and knowing that
the mirror still holds
my actual flesh
I could say to them:
reflection is the first
myth of loss. But
they floated away and
away from me as if
no one would ever blow
false airs on them,
or try their sinews
in the fire, at
the core, and they
took no care
not to splinter, they
showed no fear
they would end as
this one which is
uncut yet still might:
a substance of its own
future form, both
fraction and refraction
in the deal-wood
crate at the door
we will leave by.