The Camp-Fires

Michael Longley Click to

longleyMichael Longley is a native of Belfast and has served as Professor of Poetry for Ireland. His Gorse Fires won the Whitbread Poetry Prize in 1991, and The Weather in Japan received both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Hawthornden Prize. The most widely known of his two dozen collections of poetry include The Ghost Orchid and Snow Water, and his newest volume is Sea Asters (Andrew J. Moorhouse, 2015).  "The Camp-Fires" was first published in the U.S. in Shenandoah 45/4.

All night crackling camp-fires boosted their morale
As they dozed in no man’s land and the killing fields.
(There are balmy nights – not a breath, constellations
Resplendent in the sky around a dazzling moon –
When a clearance high in the atmosphere unveils
The boundlessness of space, and all the stars are out
Lighting up hill-tops, glens, headlands, vantage
Points like Tonakeera and Allaran where the tide
Turns into Killary, where salmon run from the sea,
Where the shepherd smiles on his luminous townland.
That many camp-fires sparkled in front of Ilium
Between the river and the ships, a thousand fires,
Round each one fifty men relaxing in the fire-light.)
Shuffling next to the chariots, munching shiny oats
And barley, their horses waited for the sunrise.