When I let the chickens out, I hurl mixed corn
in a golden arc across the frosted ground.
I know it’s junk, they shouldn’t have it, they don’t
need it, but everyone deserves joy somewhere.
I’ve been looking for something I once had and miss
and want again. I meet him in the beach café.
He has soup. I sip tea. He has over-wintered
vegetables on his allotment. I see it on his hands.
I imagine all that soil on my body. Sometimes
you know what’s bad for you, might be good.
I phone my mother every morning to start her day
– the way she knows it’s me, the way she says,
hello dear, before I’m speaking. She needs someone
to complain to. A mother is a precious thing. I know that
now I’m sure to lose her. She’s losing nouns and I have
to rummage in my brain to help her find them. I tell her
yesterday I thought I’d lost a dog and lost my voice calling.
I found her back at home, shaking, not sure if coming home
was good or bad, or neither, or both. There’s no reward
for coming home if no-one’s there, no one you love, no-one
to put out a hand, or smile to see you. My mother knows
and tries to hold me in her voice. Mothers do what they can.
Sometimes they don’t get much to work with. She knows
I’ll chase that golden arc, hoping for the joy in it.
I hope so much, hope the wine, the food, will taste
as it’s supposed to, hope that friends will stay,
their elbows on the table, The Low Anthem singing
To Ohio across the garden, where all those flowers
I fell in love with will be just a promised on their packets:
night scented stock, musk mallow, lunaria, pale phlox.
In this falling dark, when hens shuffle on their perches,
I hold my breath, listen to the sound of my loud heart.
illustration from painting by Jeanie Tomanek
After we had loved each other intently,
we heard notes tumble together,
in late winter, and we heard ice
falling from the ends of twigs.
The notes abandon so much as they move.
They are the food not eaten, the comfort
not taken, the lies not spoken.
The music is my attention to you.
And when the music came again,
late in the day, I saw tears in your eyes.
I saw you turn your face away
So that others would not see.
When men and women come together,
how much they have to abandon. Wrens
make their nests of fancy threads
and string ends, animals
abandon all their money each year.
What is it that men and women leave?
Harder than wren’s doing, they have
to abandon their longing for the perfect.
The inner nest not made by instinct
will never be quite round,
and each has to enter the nest
made by the other imperfect bird.
~ Robert Bly
from Eating the Honey of Words
by Derek Mahon
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart;
the sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
Go find someone who knows.
A woman, your mother,
They will show you how to begin.
Cast on. This is not easy.
It involves loops. Relax.
Tension flows in, twists and knots.
Feel the warmth of the wool.
Allow the click of needles,
the rhythm of the stitches
to knit you calm.
It is not grief that shapes our days,
but peace. Console yourself
and as you knit,
death will not come close, but lies,
its belly to the fire to warm its fur.