Sunday, April 05, 2009

In a state of "watchful anomie"


Derek Mahon

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.

When snowflakes
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.

Sometime before
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)

No comments: