Pentecost

John Burnside

For Lucas

Morning; the usual walk
to the harbour:
the tide half-out
the fat mud fretted with bird-prints
light slurred with oil
and slicked reflections
ice white or coffee brown
strawberry red
or a blue that never arrives
at daylight.

We are here so you can name
the world you know
one object at a time:
fishing boat, lighthouse, herring gull, open sky,
those shoals of fish that skirt the harbour walls
searching for food
a work you never tire
of watching
as they break in hungry waves
against the weed.

On James Street there’s a hut above the firth
that might have been a boathouse
or a room
to dry the nets
its windows edged and barred
with yellow stonecrop
rosebay willow-herb
the dust that hangs for days in spiders’ webs
then falls in spots like rain
falls in the rain
and turns to ink
a script I never learned
though guesswork takes me far enough at times
guesswork and hope
on days when every thought
recalls a children’s prayer
a complex wish
expressed too clearly
in too simple words.

On James Street there’s a hut above the firth
the pigeons have reclaimed
an unofficial
dovecote where we stop to watch the birds
that flare out from the chill or baking heat
beneath that roof
the slow discoloured wings
unfolding from a core of lime and rust
their fuddled
music more like gossip than the sound
a god might make
taking the shape of a bird
and entering his creatures
one by one
to bless them with new grace
and unknown tongues.

I never quite forgot the holy ghost
I learned in school
a spirit I would name
and then abandon
as we leave behind the words
that children say in prayers
a complex wish
we think about for years
and never tell
other than when we walk out with a son
or daughter
in a world we do not know
and name the things
one object at a time:
fishing boat, lighthouse, herring gull, clear blue sky.