My Grandfather’s Wake

Paul Muldoon

If the houses in Wyeth’s Christina’s World
and Mallick’s Days of Heaven
are triremes, yes,
triremes riding the ‘sea of grain’,
then each has a little barge
in tow – a freshly-dug grave.

I was trying to remember, Nancy,
how many New England graveyards you own,
all silver birch
and neat, white picket-fences.

If only that you might make room
for a nine-banded armadillo
found wandering in Meath
sometime in the 1860s;
a man-ox, a fish with three gold teeth
described by Giraldus Cambrensis.

Our cow chained in the byre
was a galley-slave from Ben Hur
to the old-fashioned child of seven
they had sent in search of a bucket of steam.