For Eugene O’Connell

Despite its soft ephemerality,
They say the growth of elder is a sign
Of age-long human habitation.
Under the elders in our decaying farmyard
Stands the last sugán chair, rotted at all
Its skilfully carved joints, so the lightest
Tenant would cause it to collapse.

There’s one like it in the dying house
Of Padraig O’Keeffe at Glounthane Cross:
Not our Glounthane, but the one near Cordal
Where my forebears came from. I stole from there
A small piece of lino, geography-shaped
Like the booty-map in Treasure Island,
Where it lay among foxed holy pictures.

The stairs are dangerous; and no matter
How hard you strain you can’t fool yourself
Into hearing his spectrally played polkas there,
Even in that valley of ghost-houses.
You have more chance five miles east the road,
Up through the forestry where the Blackwater
Rises and you can imagine anything
In that wind that blows at you all the way
From the Atlantic which, astonishingly,
You can see: its last gleam of silver
Both at Tralee and off the Blasket islands.

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