A gap-minder on the Gortmore road
when the cattle are on the move,
I am flap and holler, borrowed bluff
and none of it will last long enough
to see the heat of them scatter,
the brown of them take any hold.
Wait on a while, say thirty years,
for one to stray through the gate
of my sitting room, to come to a standstill
by the hedge of the window sill, to squat
and haunch, to lie low as a brown heat
splayed for refuge in the gap of four a.m.
The Round House
The hump and clatter of an older sister’s sex,
the father putting out to sea in a burlap sleep;
the heft of pelt that is ridden with lice and a spoor
of excrement or semen or caked blood;
the wheeze of that most distant cousin,
the slump of one persistent grandmother;
the general accretion of foul breath:
postholes for the home that draws itself
from the inside out and round again, from the hub
of the hearth to radial sleepers under their communal skins,
out over the heads of the banded oaks reeling in
the doglegged flight of geese that knows its way
by the grain of the wood in the centre post
where the circle kinks when the child turns over
once in his sleep so his arm falls crook
on his mother’s side, as though to clasp
or to sweep up these relatively parabolic lines
and to brush them clean away into the corners
that come later on with their allowances, reprieves,
and their straightforward (if too pointed) pecking order.
In the shadow of the windmill, we put down our lives.
Something about its girth and ballast, the sun on its back,
the shiftless, amber absolute of it, foreclosed on other options.
We put down our lives as if for a moment––a break for tea
or to deal with an enquiry in the yard––and something about
its stalwarth dereliction shut at once the chance of things
ever picking up again. Now, seven years on, this is us
finding the storeys equal to our time and too ornamental.
Even its decay does not refuse the compliment of sunshine,
the way the moon rubs up against it, or clouds distract
themselves upon its brim. What we were after then was a stopgap
for the lives we thought we’d live, that wouldn’t be banked
in small-talk, disappointments, lack of cash; the intended,
blue-sky lives that would have us tilting at an evening do,
with arms like French film-stars and mouthfuls of moonlight
to slip us downstream into bed. That was then. I lie. It never was.
This instead is the relief of getting nowhere, of knowing
from the start how it must end. The same momentum,
self-same pace that drags itself and all its consequence
over the bones of another rattled year. I suppose, at some point,
it will stop, and all the shunt and grind of the day-to-day
come creaking towards another new conclusion, a new plan:
the last sacks loaded, the carts dismissed, handshakes,
gates pulled shut from the outside and then a silence
gaining on the sails, settling there, the way birds do, and the air,
the damp, the mould will all do now. How long before the wood
lets itself down on willowherb that finds itself at bay in shuttered light;
before the doors give up the ghost; the floors shrug the way the windows
cannot bring themselves to do, until lads with slingshots
and deadeyes see to them? How long until the ivy takes a hold
and starlings, like quicksilver, like silverfish, like a fastness
of silver spilled out on the stones? And us? We don’t move.
Our way of holding on, of saying, we’ve stayed too long,
is like the way the children have of stopping play
to stand stock-still under the whir of starlings’ hide-and-seek.
That what’s missing should be called “the coping” makes me
want to lay my face against the stone; let ivy root in my teeth;
weather grout my skin, my eyes take on the evening and its down.
Let my children stand within an inch of my life, so the way
their breath aspires could be the sky, or something close, to me.