The bottom untouched by sunlight,
heart shrinking down
as though the future isn’t real.
Nothing to hold on to.
Musty smell of the lake,
fish and forgotten hooks.
Boats on the horizon.
Just the water before thought.
My hook snagged in the want of this world.
A silent urge to be like water,
flowing yet strong enough to hold a ship.
I draw a fish in my notebook.
Barney stopped the mower and looked down.
Full-grown, it was twitching in its soft fur.
I twitched when he mumbled “kinder to kill it.”
With a mossy stone, he crushed it.
Its liquid eyes and long ears
stayed with me for weeks.
I dreamt of it dancing in the callow,
when the moon was out.
Threading the faint light
between dusk and dawn,
thresholds of transition.
next time I saw him
climb out of the tractor.
My father lifted him up on a spade
and put him down in the back field.
I watched my mother looking out the window.
From where she stood,
she watched him scurrying away.
I remembered his tired eyes and shedding spines.
He looked back at her,
as though he knew she was following him
with her wide innocent eyes.
Near Cloonark, I step out of my skin and follow him through the trees.
Tawny antlers rising above the grass, like church spires in a town.
Spell of velvet coat, soft wet muzzle and deep brown eyes.
I know I’d go anywhere with him, following the hazy scent of memory.
I’m drinking pure silence as he crosses the stream.
He is doing what he must do to survive,
stripping the bark off ash and birch trees.
He may take something that doesn’t belong to him,
kale or winter wheat, potatoes or rye.
Or perhaps what I want, another chance, another life.
He shows me how to wait without waiting,
to be careless of nothing and to see what I see.
Digging up the soil with his cloven hooves.
The translation of something felt,
the expanse between love and not touching.
The dark deep silence, where we dream ourselves human.
My life reflected in his eyes, until I see I am him,
watching him slink towards my slough,
assuming its empty folds and creases.
I found a skin like this before and hastily cast it aside ;
a thin membrane of an old reality.
I should have treated it with kindness and not disdain.
I walk out of the woods and the clearing gleams.
Water and words, the trail I leave behind.
He’s breathing behind me, shallow and fast.
My breath whispers like a remembered undertow ;
“here, see me as I am, dark venison flesh, warm and solid.”
Water Memory and other poems is © Jackie Gorman