That was the year
of the black nights and clear
mornings, a mild elation touched with fear;
of watchful anomie,
heart silence, day-long reverie
while the wind made catspaws on the sea
and the first
rain of winter burst
earthwards as if quenching a great thirst.
A mist of spray
hung over the shore all day
while I slumped there re-reading La Nausée
or knocked a coal,
releasing squeaky gas until
it broke and tumbled into its hot hole.
Night fell on a rough
sea, on a moonlit basalt cliff,
huts with commandments painted on the roof,
and rain wept down
the raw slates of the town,
cackling maniacally in pipe and drain.
I slowly came
to treasure my ashram
(a flat with a sea view, the living room
furnished with frayed
chintz, cane chairs and faded
watercolours of Slemish and Fair Head);
and it was there,
choosing my words with care,
I sat down and began to write once more.
wandered on to the rocks
I thought, home is where the heart breaks -
the lost domain
of week-ends in the rain,
the Sunday sundae and the sexual pain.
I stared each night
at a glow of orange light
over the water where the interned sat tight,
I in my own prison
envying their fierce reason,
their solidarity and extroversion,
and during storms
imagined the clenched farms
with dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
spring I found in there
the frequency that I'd been looking for
and crossed by night
a dark channel, my eyesight
focused upon a flickering pier-light.
I slept then and,
waking early, listened
entranced to the pea-whistle sound
of a first thrush
practising on a thorn bush
a new air picked up in Marrakesh.
And then your car
parked with a known roar
and you stood smlhng at the door -
as if we might
consider a bad night
as over and walk out into the sunlight.
Selected Poems (Viking/Gallery in assoc. OUP 1991; rep. 1993)