Here in the Indian foothills,
I share a house with a man from Greece
who speaks no English perfectly,
disappears for days on a motorbike,
leaves his laundry on the low make-shift line,
grieving an absent sun.
Side by side they hang: his shirt, my summer dress
as if they know each other well
and when he returns, smelling of engine oil,
monsoon, rolled brown cigarettes,
we have no formal language,
to share our separate joy.
Drip-drip on the balcony,
a queer, white pool gathers below.
He holds at a sleeve, looks to sky.
I open my palm for signs of rain.
It is the scent of hanging fruit
more than roots pulled
from lines of parallel dirt
after all that has happened.
I touch a pyramid of lemons
and everything is new again.
I pick one, and close my hand around it
as if to test these immutable seeds
glowing in my darkness.
For what, I do not know.
Pomona of Orchards, please:
like the finder of a planet
seeing for the first time
an otherness, I am afraid
the life I dream exists.
One cut and the hair worn since childhood
fell upon the floor
her new, bald skull
She belonged to heather
and in tail-streams
in the small, green pulse of life
at the dark centre of reunions, separations,
starved of air.
This was a protest of love, against love
sun, rain, wilderness.
From a finger, she slid a band
placed it underfoot,
until the stone
made the sound of a gold chestnut
The villagers did not unite
but instead, they set about their days as usual,
posting letters, buying fruit, forming queues in the bank after lunchtime.
They said little
but within that little lay much;
little was a gated field in which something extraordinary was buried.
They held to their inner selves
in emergencies of projected light.
over time, there happened a slow retreat from joyousness;
a packing away of the Emperor’s new clothes, for good.
Only the giant oaks
would live to remember imagination.
End of Girlhood
The first time
a tree called me by name,
I was thirteen and only spoke a weave of ordinary tongues.
It started with a leaf and next,
a mist came down from the hills, beating a lone skin drum,
looking for me.
Scarlet pimpernels dropped hints
that could not be ignored:
no red is innocent.
Badger trails called me aside for a word.
Come underground, they said,
see what we are made of.
Market Prayer and other poems are © Annemarie Ni Churreáin