At Home in Winter

Eamon Grennan
Irish
b. 1941

 

I.

We sit across from one another
in front of the fire, the big logs
clicking and hissing. Outside
is bitter chill: branches stiffen,
grow brittle as crystal. You’re
sewing a skirt, your mouth
full of pins, your head swimming
with Greek and Latin. You frown
so not to swallow any pins when
you try to smile at me
slumped under my TLS and bewailing
the seepage of my days, the way
my life runs off like water, yet
inexplicably happy at this moment
balanced between us like a tongue
of flame skiving a pine-log: seeming
to breathe, its whole involuntary life
spent giving comfort. This
could be a way to live – nothing
going to waste, such fullness
taking off, warm space, a fragrance.
In plain matter of fact it’s
the sight of you bending to baste
the blue skirt before you pleat and
sew the waistband in, that enters
and opens inside me, so for a moment
I am an empty centre, nothing
at all
then back to this home truth
unchanged: you patiently taking
one thing at a time as I can’t,
all the while your head beating with
hexameters and foreign habits. So
I go on reading in silence as if
I hadn’t been startled into another life
for an instant all fire, all fragrance.

II.

I blow in from the noonwhite bite of snow
to find the whole house fragrant as a haycock
with the soup you’ve stirred up, its spirit
seeping into closets, curtains, bedrooms –
a prosperous mix of chicken-stock, carrots,
garlic, onion, thyme. All morning you’ve
wreathed your head in it, and turn to me now
like a minor deity of earth and plenty,
your hands dipped to the wrist in the flesh
of vegetables, your fingers trailing
threads from the glistening bones
cairned on the counter-top. You stand
on the edge of a still life – twist-strips
of onion peel, papery garlic sacs, bright
stumps of carrots, the delicate grass-green
stems of parsley, that little midden
of bones. Spell-stopped, I see how
in the middle of my daily life a sober house
with its feet on the ground, snowbound,
turns to spirit of chicken, airs a vegetable
soul, and breathes on me. Wooden spoon
still steaming, you turn away and say
in no time now we’ll sit, and eat.

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