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Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

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Diary: Where water used to be

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Three PoemsMichael Longley
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For Eddie Linden at Seventy

I’m thinking of the pope and you, Eddie,
As I dander towards the New York Public
Library to peek at the field notebooks
Of Edward Thomas wandering in England
In pursuit of spring before poetry and war.
Somewhere between Dorval and La Guardia
I encountered John Paul among the clouds
Like a surge of energy from the engines.
Now he lies stiff and full of chemicals
In precarious white hat and purple slippers
Saying the rosary over and over.
It all depends on the embalmer’s craft.
The Poles cry out for his leathery heart.
John Paul was musarum sacerdos (part-time)
And you, Eddie, are a priest of the muses too
(Aquarian Order), your Vatican City
All the practitioners, the bad and good.
A shell blast killed Edward Thomas, a gust
That still riffles the pages in the library
On this bright popeless early April day.
Through the Door of the Sacraments I follow
John Paul and Edward and Eddie Linden.

Call

Alone at Carrigskeewaun for the millennium
My friend sits at the hearth keeping the cottage warm.
Is it too late to phone him? Is it midnight yet?
That could be me, a meadow pipit calling out.
Otters are crossing from Dooaghtry to Corragaun.
There are mallards and widgeon and teal for him to count.
Three dolphins are passing the Carricknashinnagh shoal.
He has kept for this evening firewood that is very old.
Bog deal’s five thousand years make the room too hot.
How snugly the meadow pipit fits the merlin’s foot.

The Wren

I am writing too much about Carrigskeewaun,
I think, until you two come along, my grandsons,
And we generalise at once about cows and sheep.
A day here represents a lifetime, bird’s-foot trefoil
Among wild thyme, dawn and dusk muddled on the ground,
The crescent moon fading above Mweelrea’s shoulder
As hares sip brackish water at the stepping stones
And the innovative raven flips upside down
As though for you. I burble under your siesta
Like a contrapuntal runnel, and the heather
Stand that shelters the lesser twayblade shelters you.
We sleepwalk around a townland whooper swans
From the tundra remember, and the Saharan
Wheatear. I want you both to remember me
And what the wind-tousled wren has been saying
All day long from fence posts and the fuchsia depths,
A brain-rattling bramble-song inside a knothole.

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