Friday, February 23, 2007

Poetry Corner: Medbh McGuckian

Sky in Narrow Streets

Rose posing in air-hungry water
With a duellist's stance:

Sky so disordered by decomposing colours
It takes light from the house:

Unhellenised moon, harsh yellow petticoat
lined with red, prevents the leaves from moving.

My watercolour of trees, seascapes at dawn,
Noon and night, the unmade furniture of earth,
Promise to pay what is never going to be kept.

I am a knife-rest or a spoon-rest
For your winter's love, the hollow bitten
Into the midday dream of your address.

I drive words abreast
Into the interior of words;
It is murder or kindling when two meanings
Rush together from such a distance,
No multiplicity can distress them.

There is a month that can take care
Of itself, there are flowers
That go on opening down the stalk:

When I have over-yellowed the parchment
From the honey of my walls,
Or added a living shape to my bowl of deads,
There is a lovebird green between the tree-roots
So transparent, it is the flowers that are obedient.

This needed gleam, as one comes out
From the supreme surrender of an arch,
The relative silence of a kissing sound,

Is from the tree being seen
In a different place in the garden,
And everything I had thought about trees, nowhere.

The Albert Chain

Like an accomplished terrorist, the fruit hangs
from the end of a dead stem, under a tree
riddled with holes like a sieve. Breath smelling
of cinnamon retires into its dream to die there.
Fresh air blows in, morning breaks, then the mists
close in; a rivulet of burning air
pumps up the cinders from their roots,
but will not straighten in two radiant months
the twisted forest. Warm as a stable,
close to the surface of my mind,
the wild cat lies in the suppleness of life,
half-stripped of its skin, and in the square
beyond, a squirrel stoned to death
has come to rest on a lime tree.

I am going back into war, like a house
I knew when I was young: I am inside,
a thin sunshine, a night within a night,
getting used to the chalk and clay and bats
swarming in the roof. Like a dead man
attached to the soil which covers him,
I have fallen where no judgment can touch me,
its discoloured rubble has swallowed me up.
For ever and ever, I go back into myself:
I was born in little pieces, like specks of dust,
only an eye that looks in all directions can see me.
I am learning my country all over again,
how every inch of soil has been paid for
by the life of a man, the funerals of the poor.

I met someone I believed to be on the side
of the butchers, who said with tears, 'This
is too much.' I saw you nailed to a dry rock,
drawing after you under the earth the blue fringe
of the sea, and you cried out 'Don't move!'
as if you were already damned. You are muzzled
and muted, like a cannon improvised from an iron
pipe. You write to me generally at nightfall,
careful of your hands, bruised against bars:
already, in the prime of life, you belong
to the history of my country, incapable
in this summer of treason, of deliberate treason,
charming death away with the rhythm of your arm.

As if one part of you were coming to the rescue
of the other, across the highest part of the sky,
in your memory of the straight road flying past,
I uncovered your feet as a small refuge,
damp as winter kisses in the street,
or frost-voluptuous cider
over a fire of cuttings from the vine.
Whoever goes near you is isolated
by a double row of candles. I could escape
from any other prison but my own
unjust pursuit of justice
that turns one sort of poetry into another.

All this and a lot more available from the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry website: