Summer 2004 vol 3.2
Selected Poems
Medbh McGuckian
Colmo: Virgin of the Snow

As the year begins in Florence,
The stars north of the equator that never set
Push dying spacecraft further out
Like thinner back leaves.

The white roses do nothing to rescue it,
Becoming lowered eye, ivory ear,
Raised lips, then flowers again,
The cooler white of a silk.

Only the two big clouds were planned
So that both saints can stand,
Important, inner saints, aristocratic,
And expensively dressed,

Gold over powdered shell gold,
In the most protected part of the room.
Given that some wood would
Have been lost, the wings of both angels

Would have hung straighter.
And the edge of the inside wing
Of the most damaged angel
Must once have equalled the usual blue

Shadow meandering across the lap
Of the other seated angel.
The highlight on the ‘M’
Confirms the presence of silver,

But a sixth nail is missing
In the gap between her head and its element:
The closeness of the nails to each other
Is like snowflakes.

The Bird Calendar

I never thought of them together
So close to other boats,
This creasing at the wrist of a sunburnt
Male arm drawing her hand
In its unfinished sleeve,
With this brown-gold crouching Venus
Shown with her mouth bound
Over a valence of shot greens and mauves.

Each time I came back crushed
By the swept-back curtain, the gold
Thread in her silk hair-bag
That once had a narrower fall,
The graceful cascade of sheets
From a notte, a night-scene,
Marked by his opalescent touch,
The elegant pink slipper he has signed.

Only years separate them within,
Like the faraway red on a childbirth tray,
An April setting in the winter of words,
The abandoned plough which signals autumn.
I listen to the streets breathe a second,
Hundreds of miles of new streets
Breating a saffron scent of make-believe
Countryside and warmer buildings,

And call it his Japan, his view of the road,
A more untouched road piercing the forest,
Reconciled to the river as a cushion
For the bridge, the leap of its comforting
Arches: call this slim luxurious window
The garden as a happy refuge
Or a site for danger, this squarish leaf
A sharply defined, glistening tree
By the principle of glittering
And the assumption of enough blue
To give the feel of air to the blue
Enflowered cathedral rougher than the russet
Of a poor twisted Christ of the twelfth century––
Simplified, in the moist outdoor imitation,
Evidence of a sky, a simple blue sky,
At the lighted edge of the wall.