Whilst heaven with envy on the earth looked down, Saw us unworthy of the royal pair, And justly claimed Maria as its own, Yet kindly left the glorious William here: The heaven and earth alike do in the blessing share. He makes the earth, she heaven our great allies, And though we mourn, she for our comfort dies, Nor need we fear the rash presumptuous foe, Whilst she’s our saint above, and he our king below.
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.
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.
In honor of the Twelfth, we present this work by one of modern Ireland’s liveliest poets.
I have willed my body to the furthering of science Although I’ll not be there to chronicle my findings I can imagine all the students poring over me: “My God, is that a liver? And those brown caulifowers are lungs?” “Yes, sir, a fine example of how not to live.” “And what about the brain?” “Alas the brain. I doubt if this poor sample ever had one.” As with his forceps he extracts a single rose.
All folks who pretend to religion and grace, Allow there’s a HELL, but dispute of the place: But, if HELL may by logical rules be defined The place of the damned -I’ll tell you my mind. Wherever the damned do chiefly abound, Most certainly there is HELL to be found: Damned poets, damned critics, damned blockheads, damned knaves, Damned senators bribed, damned prostitute slaves; Damned lawyers and judges, damned lords and damned squires; Damned spies and informers, damned friends and damned liars; Damned villains, corrupted in every station; Damned time-serving priests all over the nation; And into the bargain I’ll readily give you Damned ignorant prelates, and counsellors privy. Then let us no longer by parsons be flammed, For we know by these marks the place of the damned: And HELL to be sure is at Paris or Rome. How happy for us that it is not at home!
Your love was like moonlight turning harsh things to beauty, so that little wry souls reflecting each other obliquely as in cracked mirrors… beheld in your luminous spirit their own reflection, transfigured as in a shining stream, and loved you for what they are not.
You are less an image in my mind than a luster I see you in gleams pale as star-light on a gray wall… evanescent as the reflection of a white swan shimmering in broken water.