Work: sowing what we could in a bog-seam
until the lumper failed us, the horse potato,
the patron saint of butter. We couldn’t pay.
Without a handle on our hunger, heather lay
crudely over the land. We did what we could.
Now we curse the bailiff’s turf and around
our cottage bank a fair fire. So what if our
muscles spindle to thread? Bear witness.
Watch while our nets split from witchery
and crops bleed frost on a plank of dew.
Your name will be honored as ours are:
forgotten. The cottage will kneel to scalpeen
and burn the grass around, scorched reeds,
mustard needled to flame and crested soot.
You’re our roots and heat. We’re your cuttings
stashed in a pocket. The air flexes
through old stone, dampened vine and stem.
The walls un-vetch and chimney flies naked.
If our people can’t have it, nobody will—
this ink surviving, an X on onionskin paper.
2. St. Brigid
She was a poor girl minding her cow
and had no place to feed it but the roadside.
Then a rich man who owned the land
came by and in a fit of pity said,
“How much land would it take to give grass to the cow?”
“As much as my cloak will cover,”
she answered, and the man said, “I will give that.”
She laid down her cloak then, and it spread
out miles on every side, wool unfolding
shadows of fields, the hills like warmth rushing in.
But soon a silly old woman came by
and stopped and said, “If your cloak goes on
spreading, our whole island will be free,”
and with that the cloak stopped and spread no more.
Tumbling from sky the buzzards
sweep fetchless, legs rearing out
and down as they land. Their knived faces,
voices claw-like: Hark, what goes here?
You wouldn’t think it
but each has its own character:
Bald Bitch, The Warden, The Pillar of Pall.
They’re studied. You’ll never touch
the artifice of their masks
or smell their breath, like rot.
Before approaching, they talk,
settling things. It’s a privilege, really,
the company of their flock.
One of them flicks your hair, flaps back,
then they rummage your clothes by the roadside.
4. Daunt’s Rock
From this dark, salted deck
creaking the sinews of its beams
I wish I could swim to your barnacled back,
drenched in my woolen pluck.
My legs trailing seaweed
and shoulders tied with twine.
I’d suffer your weather and little games.
As if there were such thing as anchor.
5. Their Ship Near Its Longing
Home was an island moored to an empire.
Home was a blister of blood in the yolk.
Home was the storm that broke the mast
when nobody warned the colleens.
Home was a biscuit wrapped in a kerchief.
Home was a kerchief draped on a face.
One way, launched from the harbor at Cobh
as they keened the magpie’s gray.
Home was beyond the valleys of sea,
a drink for the picker, a drink for the drum.
Home was a prospect, those last few waves
toward the shuttles of Lowell’s looms.