I’m not sure about the brooch, she said,
it makes me think of forty five, forty one, forty…
the three dots drawled in her wake, the velvet
stuff of dream logic.
(The brooch was a dagger’s blade,
a sharpened ruby with diamonds at the hilt, a million glitters
worn on her waist like nonchalance.)
It made as much sense
as something else dreamt, years ago,
just after I’d left school. I stood before two doors,
above each one in Gothic script, a sign:
the first said, Men,
the other, Fools.
He says, I’ve got something for you.
I’m sitting on the stairs, between Economy and First,
he’s already walked around me once.
We’re waiting for take-off, still on the ground
(but in dreams of course a transatlantic jet can fly
with a hole in its side.)
When he gets back he lands
a canvas bag in my lap -
it’s small, rough to the touch,
around its open mouth a fraying blue tattoo,
a hieroglyphic logo signifying
I’m cool, even without altitude.
I plunge my hand in, feel my way
through playing cards, know in my heart
I’m rooting for the Fool.
for Debi O’Hehir
You’re awake with the birds, the dog-
fox someone saw once at the gate,
your silhouette as splendid
as the shadow-deer, the horse
you’ve got the measure of
Nothing that eludes you breaks
the silence here— the lake accepts
the morning’s right
to take your dive
I was in San Francisco
then, so I can put a date
on when it was that you began to fade, to go.
I sent you a postcard: the Golden Gate
pulled through a gauze of mist, Alcatraz,
a shadow cast in slate.
I can’t ask you now. Five years have passed
and you are far beyond an answer,
the distance is too vast,
I’d told you all about it though, I’d swear
instead you chose to place me where
I’ve never stood,
almost, but not quite, a continent away,
a colder neighbourhood.
I found that card today
in the handbag that I bought
for you, that afterwards I couldn’t give away,
I see in it another landscape, caught
by always winter, winter-sealed,
I’m realising what you saw revealed
Alaska’s lowered sky,
that under it for miles, like sentries, reeled
(I have it now, in my still selfish eye)
against the snow, those black, appalling telegraphs
of I and I and I.
This poem first appeared in The Gibson Memorial Poetry Competition
Published by The Thomas Hardy Society, Dorset, 2009.
Drogheda and Dunleer
I saw a leggy hare
crossing an open field;
the train seemed slowed
to the animal’s lope, back-
lit as the chasing sun
caught up with his shadow,
his ancient, shape-
shifting, unrequited traipse
to the cover of trees.
But in the time it takes
a gaze to angle, steady, aim,
the hare and I weren’t there —
his life, my life, lost
in the lick of wheels
on track, that instant
velocity of always