One ear to chimney-breast, on bended knee, better to hear
trapped wing-beats, he prized ajar the black ornate
cast hood. Then, slid his arm inside the flue.
As though one gloved limb were deeply sunk
in hind-quarters of a cow, to guide the head in utero.
Though here, no calf in hairy smear or bloody stink
was sensed. First, soot sprinkled rolled up sleeve
of shirt; his thumb and fingers gripped wiry claws
and held. Down, gently, drew his haul into the room.
Disheveled. Stained. Feathery mass weighed his hands.
He cupped the ample beating heart and walked.
The bird was fond of warmth, or slightly stunned.
For seconds brooded. Then, lifted wings and hopped
onto the window ledge. And flew. A freed white dove.
The Chamber is published in The Irish Times.
At the Musee Rodin I looked for us
among the lovers. We were never that
fierce, a couple twinned in flight
white marble bodies all delicate curve
back to back lying across air. And yet.
How those arms reach over his head
seize her shoulder, her breast,
how she strains beyond his hands
free and fleet as a bird. They were once
a world lost, abandoned flesh,
and in that searing rush how could they not
fall apart? Look at mouths averted,
bodies caught in space.
He is cast over her facing the heavens,
she is facing Earth. Stretched
on that rack, desire holds them
still, governs her tongue, consumes
him. Here, see how love fares
beyond death, tender as hell,
transports like doves’ wings.
Fugit Amor is published in Suntrap, Blackstaff Press (Belfast 2007). An early version of this poem was published in The Irish Times.
The First Rod: Mackerel at Inis Oírr
Cast the line off the pier
into dark stillness,
read the dusk blind,
Atlantic waters at full tide.
Wrist so deft and light
arching the throw
high and wide now,
all six feathers kiss
the black surface like stars
shooting without trace
where a shoal
in its own sweet hour
clots and ripples a current
to the hands, charged
at the least quiver
to reel in the bowed line,
amid whoops and cries,
at pains to land
the weight of this prize,
wriggling and twitching
with silvery light.
The First Rod: Mackerel at Inis Oír is published in Suntrap, Blackstaff Press, Belfast 2007. An early version of this poem was published in The Irish Times.
From early summer
their sage heads
intricate as a mosaic,
swelled to infant cabbages
like three we picked
when you came
flirting and peeling,
to dip in melted butter
and tease shy flesh
between our teeth.
The rest got spiked
the week you left,
to pincushion blue
hanging their necks.
By November our world
to a brown withered husk,
hearts turning to
skeins in my hands.
Artichokes was first published in The Irish Times, May 11, 1991 and is published in This Hour of the Tide (Salmon 1994)