Five Poems

Medbh McGuckian

Too Much Yellow

Near-sighted, I would not lift my eyes
From either my floor-length gown or my
Pastel mood. There was too much yellow
For my temperature to rise a lot
At sunset into new mays and may nots:
I was afraid to see the ever dancelike
Breast of cloud swirl open in the sky
As my garments. Promising a son,
To him, to memory, I could not love
His love, and all that came after
Was a mere continuation of that
August night I waited out the rain
In someone’s gateway of sudden orphan-
Hood where a flower shop had stood;
Trying to make out his disobedient
Window was the drawer for all its suffering
Going in and out again as correctly as it should
Like a child’s hand running in a man’s.

The Grayling

The rain begins with such a wetness
She is afraid of being eaten, gives
The company that lubricating set
Of smiles, commercially clear,
From the davenport: now the stars
Are informed by an assortment
Of smears, she’s at her most unmarried,
Most between-sizes, trying on clothes,
Despite the gentlemanlike trousered ankle,
The sailor’s knot of her tie – they turn
A coarse and furious blue, and rope
Their lights across like water, like a boa,
Like a corridor of air where she might
Heat herself; but she continues
Warming demijohns for saké, washes out
The thieving bed of her hair, her bowstring
Back, its terracotta fountain, that would
Still be beauty, even if you fell down into it.

January

Today the winter cries, I am the winter,
Not the belted footman ushering the spring:
That’s how my body fools itself on the calendar,
Its once-white bean fields monitor
A lip-soft ferning, little shell-pink gardens,
Their weddingday petals ending in a point.

This is a measure of your place, your plateau,
Where tufted seeds of southernwood are tied
In a muslin bag between the breasts,
Or eaten warm in bread to make them full,
And not the flower that loses perfume, but our senses
Lulled, like babies soothed with dill.

The Villa

On a day of almost sun, the flirting sea
Turns cyclamen, and moves about with two-
Thirds of her gentleness, a windless painting,
Of a pensive Renoir child. Sometimes she
Leans forward to regard her feet as if
She were the edge of a sweet-talking
Brook, a place where history and gossip
Might yet meet. And at my house, I am
Curious about her route, my slavic house,
My Villa Malcontenta which has also
Been passed from hand to hand. As the
Most elegant of ghosts, her lucid hands
Ignore the doorknobs, the lost blue of the rug.

The Bone-Setter

Good of my boneless arms, to take delight
In the hands of a bone-setter, to see
Buildings emerging from the ground
As beautiful women sleeping.

My coloured eye is sent back
Half-instructed from the great rooms
Linking one another in the dark
Below the blue. Far

Fields with their own illumination
Pass that red and stormy sky
Abruptly from orchards to the sea, till inspiration
Enters my left foot like a star.