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Poetry Magnum Opus

West Clare: July 25-26, 2009


dedalus

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Warmth travelled as much from the looks

as it did from the glow of the low-banked fire

that a good country house requires in August

when you chance to live in the West of Ireland.

 

My cousins were as pleased with me as I with them

as we smiled and sipped strong amber whiskey,

but then the stories and jokes of the day gave way

to more sombre thoughts, the bringing back of the dead,

 

To the memory of not-forgotten figures who lay

no more than a mile away along the outer lane

under rustling grasses, an immemorial counterpane

to the cold unmoving clay, heavy, dark and final.

 

That can happen to you in Ireland, even without

the whiskey; even without companiable cousins.

The dead come back, but they won't say anything.

I arose, smiling, said that I needed a breath of air,

 

That I'd take the two dogs for a gallop, be back in no time.

Polite protests and smiles, but no real sense of care

as I went down to the hallway, found a pair of heavy boots

and reached for the stick that stood by the door.

 

Yerrup! says I to the dogs, tails frantic with excitement,

getting a shot of freedom at this time of the night!

G'wan the pair of you! And they shot off down the road.

I stepped out the door and the cold hit me like bullets,

 

Sudden as the real things, like those that hit great-uncle Jim

over there beyond in Poor Little Belgium, the useless mud

they were fighting and dying for; when they reckoned they might,

in the end, have been fighting for Dear Old Ireland instead.

 

No matter, there they were, their lives drained out and dead,

including the ones who came home to cold suspicious welcomes

ninety years ago. Can we ever make it up to them? I don't think so.

Jim's part of a foreign field that is forever fucking England.

 

A sheen of rain on the road; night black as the hairs on a witches whatsit,

but I can hear the wind howling, keening, through bushes on either side,

and black indeed are the tangsweet berries for I confess I cannot see them,

even in the ferocious frozen glory of bright far distant stars.

 

Before me is the rustling beckoning graveyard … the dead that gave me life.

Behind is a warm and well-lit house and my laughing, living cousins.

I whistle and I call to the disappointed dogs: Wheeesh!! C'mon, c'mon!

C'mere to me, boys! Heel and heel! Come on, there, lads, we're heading home.

Edited by dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Hello dedalus,

 

 

What a great writing style you show here - full of sonority and the sparseness of your descriptions, haiku-like in rendering gives this poem power and impact.

 

These are some of the delightful details:

A sheen of rain on the road; night black as the hairs on a witches whatsit,

but I can hear the wind howling, keening, through bushes on either side,

and black indeed are the tangsweet berries

 

 

I love the way you link the present - the convivial cosiness of the country house in West Ireland and the darker past - the sacrifice of a generation of men who made the present possible. I wondered if the reference to Little Belgium with its significance for the start of the first World War, allude to the Irish Unionists' participation on behalf of the British and then subsequent Easter Rising in Ireland?

 

 

Thank you.

Edited by goldenlangur

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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Hi Brendan, I am a fan of your writing and always enjoy the easy way your words lead me into other worlds. This piece in particular is intrinsically Irish. It incorporates the past and the present with a comfort that makes the reader feel they too belong in the country home enjoying the company of thier Irish cousins. Everyone has a little Irish in them, at least on St Patrick's Day and now when they read this poem.

 

I loved this poem. ~~ Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Thanks, as ever, for the comments ...

 

Yes, there is a connection to the First World War and the 1916 Rebellion. If you really want to get a sense of what it was like for the young guys of that time who trustingly joined the British Army in 1914 in the belief that England would reward their loyalty with a Home Rule (semi-independent) Parliament in Ireland go to amazon.com and order a book called "A Long Long Way" by Sebastian Barry. Better yet, get the audio version. In fact, definitely go for the audio version with its half-dozen different local Irish accents ... each one phenomenally accurate!! I was in France and Belgium last month where I visited Ypres and the Somme and the graves of young soldiers of the First World War where I said a (belated, useless) prayer for them ... so many many young lives just thrown away. When I finally came home I downloaded this story from audiobooks.com (a service I now realise I can't live without) and it nearly broke my heart.

 

dedalus/ Brendan

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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The whole poem is wonderful, Brendan -- in fact, I've read it quite a few times by now -- and there are too many good parts to quote. I love how you tie in the location(s) and climate, the geography, the cozy cottage, the cold outdoors, with a bit of history, thereby giving insight into the source of a choler which resides somewhere, below the surface, perhaps in a place not so noticeable to the tourist, and afflicts the spirit of the people. I will highlight this:

 

... I cannot see them,

even in the ferocious frozen glory of bright far distant stars.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree with Tony there are many parts from this poem what I would quote, the parts who are very moving. I like your concept of expressing the feelings around this subject.

 

Indeed I wish this poem of yours to see in our audio section. I can guess how would sound when you read this one...

 

Bren, I loved this poem.

 

Aleksandra

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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