Joan McBreen

Filíocht Nua: New Poetry

AT THE GRAVE OF KATE O'BRIEN ( 1897–1974)

In Faversham on a bitter April day,
restless birds fly over
the wet stones and grass.
Three times we walk among the paths
and graves and cannot find yours.

Is your only need now the sway of trees
and secret meetings with tufts of time?
But we have travelled far to leave here
without bringing you one spray
of thyme and mock orange blossom.

A sudden downpour, pierced
by shafts of sleet. We stumble
on your headstone. It leans to one side
in all its brokenness.
One crow flies into the sky.

HOMAGE TO OMEY

Afternoon sun on my back,
irregular slap of water on rock,
and then, a skylark.

Fine sand blown over
the hill’s top, over the lake,
swans, and the sound they make.

Aquamarine, the colour of the sea.
Nobody to say my name,
no one to listen to me.

Nothing to remember
but the currents swell and shift
and the island itself;

again my head thrown back,
my eyes shut, clear music in the air
and the smell of sea-wrack.

SPRING HAIKU

Frost on the grass
one bird in the bright
air. And tears.

PEOPLE ON TRAINS

They pose for you,
stare out windows, belong
where they are, out of the rain.

They look at litter
blown on platforms,
at the woman and the boy

who cries for his red balloon,
flown into the last light
of a winter afternoon.

People on trains sit still,
arrange and rearrange themselves
until the whistle blows.

BLACKBERRIES

My fingers reach for ripened fruit
in a lane near Ballinakill
One by one, I drop them in a bowl
until it is heavy, dark.

Look: I stand on the earth,
the air is mild; unseen creatures
rustle in the ditch; movements
of my hand disturb their darkness.

A beam of light falls on a spider's work
which I have no desire to destroy.
You walk towards me
and add your black hoard to mine.

The church gates are locked
and the rain-barrels are full-
you wash the berries, pick
them clean. The water blackens

and harsh stars appear as night falls.