Piercing night, her Eveready
raises flurries of sudden sheep,
small grassy tuffets into rush,
eerie Chamaecyparis silhouettes,
cow-parsley sputniks; torch-rays
glancing outlines on and off
each raggedy hawthorn bush
the lane-side ditch now sunk
in rugged battle trench
and then, a sinister surprise –
as she’s tilting pebbles,
elongating them in ovals
to prickly thicket height –
two amber glints off fierce
nocturnal sky-wide eyes.
Being with a beam,
the lanes lie down or levitate
to her slight electric touch.
from its hot vermilion glow –
held to the hollow of her chin –
send her younger brother
stumbling backwards into flight,
‘wisp in the hedgerow
still – flickering – after him.
Later, she’ll turn pages
in a sphere of dimming light,
curled snug in an eiderdome,
her small-backed underworld,
rapt in a linen cloud of white.
The handyman came early morning with his satchel of well-worn tools,
swung a heavy sledge to dislodge ‘big brutes’ socketed in lime mortar.
He resized an opening, offered a large casement to the space, plumbed
all by eye, before an after school clan invaded to trample layers of dust.
Lit like a stage the room looked aged, in places was bare to the hemp weave,
while the long sofa’s shrouded curves made it feel that a body lurked under.
Just as the light died, he let us help with the redding up, while he inspected,
strolled about in an end ceremony of little nods, and under the breath grunts.
We came down to a bright airiness, enthralled by the clear aspect gifting
a sunlit presence the run of the garden, out to tall church-yard trees drooped
over the wall, young foliage fluttering, and next door’s sleekit tom as it skittered
in the flower beds, sensed it was seen, from where we had fingered our initials.
Landscapes excited, shifting brilliances, black birds riding the swaying aerial,
laundry straining to fly, rain dancing on the corrugated roof, or blue skies high.
Now when kitchen light flooded the yard we played out late, its glow drawing
in big furry moths to buffet the invisible; keeping things of the darkness out.
Sometimes it is the sudden shaft that glimmers
over the wet slates of the red-brick houses
while I cycle to work in the break
between showers in early September,
an ancient message through the clouds,
just as the schools go back.
Sometimes it stops me in my tracks
as I struggle with the shopping,
the forest-fire sun behind the mountain,
or how the rainstorm over the city fractures
the late afternoon into a prism
when the evenings draw in.
But mostly it is just the ordinary
wedge of a weekday morning through curtains,
someone’s hair at the dinner table, its glint
as they lean in to talk about their day,
or the sodium of a street lamp through venetians,
the television as it flickers on silent.
Light: The Old Farm
These are the days when the light moves slowly on.
When summer, wrapped up gently as any precious gift,
Ebbs slowly – and in leaving us seems sweeter than before.
I search for beauty in the fields around the farm
And find berry-clustered hedges, limned in leaf of gold,
Glowing brightly, still-life like, rich with colour,
Holding the weight – if not the heat – of the lowering sun.
For autumn light brings with it a fading memory of warmth
And falls in layers of stillness now – a slow retreat –
Pressing more lightly in against the shortening day.
These days I carry close to me – as something treasured –
My memories of this farm on a clear summer’s day.
Dawn brought with it, then, rich promises of toil.
Unwrapped in soft blue mornings, filigreed with mist,
Thick swathes of grass, falling freshly-mown behind my father’s blades,
Dried, crisp and fragrant, under a golden sun.
We carried light within us – in childish voices and in laughter –
From fields to kitchen, then racing back outdoors:
Each voice, a note of busy happiness we did not know we sang.
Later, in the room we shared, folded and tucked in tight,
Summer light pooling in golden shadows at the foot of each small bed,
Mist softening, again, the edges of the glorious day,
Roads, hedges, cattle, cats still warm with the memory of sun,
And a waterfall of birdsong echoing through the falling dusk.
The fading light of autumn, now, is a different, sombre thing.
The yard is stilled: old houses empty, tractors gone.
The choir of birds is silenced too: some have already flown.
Those remaining have withdrawn from the immediacy of the day.
Leaves are weighted now and still: caught on the cusp of colour, waiting to fall.
Only shadows fill the quiet, lonely byres.
The pale light of winter will be a barren gift – something to yearn for and yet lose too soon.
Such meagre light will prove a mere echo of the generous summer sun
And will not fill the faltering heart or thaw the frozen soil.
The frosted light draws out, instead, the scents and sounds of the fading year:
The sweetened smoke of peat fires fragrance the still, cool air,
And in the icy, lowering darkness a fox’s bark echoes harshly across the empty, frozen fields
While glittering stars burn cold
And the old farm lies quiet and still.
He still has a few acres in County Tyrone,
barely enough for a small flock of sheep,
a clutch of hens and the cockerel that rises
above them, garnet comb and pyroxene
wings flashing in sunlight. But he makes
his living shining light through stone.
Today he’s off early. Spring is unwinding
nature’s clock, turning his thoughts to nights
spent in the lambing shed watching new life
labour through darkness towards his torch
while outside on the hillside foxes lope
between boulders, scenting the afterbirth.
Belfast behind him, driving south through
flurries of snow, the waters of The Lough
are black as tourmaline, the fields’ mosaic
pale-green olivine, cleaved and furrowed
brown amphibole. He polishes the glass,
lets their colours shine through.
Total Internal Reflection
Morning is here, in bed, and resting with me.
I’ve been hemispherically absorbed, apparently.
10:29am. The absolute and insignificant light,
not the sun, is becoming an optical phenomena.
The electric light is still burning, pen in hand,
thoughts in the head. Observe the illumination
of little things that make up the greater things,
that make up the universal spectrum of things,
the absolute and insignificant, the absolute in
the insignificant. I will feel my limbs and hang
my X-rays back on the wall. There’s foodstuffs
in the cupboard, fruit in the bowl, milk, Muller
Lite yoghurt and one carrot in the refrigerator.
Microwave works, my folks, friends – alive, me
breathing without wheezing, without blowing
out their warm candela. Nails: unbitten. Eyes –
20/20ish. Books on the shelves, Book of Optics
on the floor, old Valentine cards still blu-tacked
to my wood-chipped wall: these ions of friends,
the frequency of love, and I’ll lie on to 11:30am.
My morning shower is being thermally imaged
and I know my only school run today is noon.
The god of relaxation is asleep under the duvet.
I close my eyes and think of old typewriters, 50’s
sci-fi movies, bright white teeth, people singing
in cars, and children kicking footballs in parks.
My beloved (a Physician) has left me a love note:
n1 sin 01 = n2 sin 02
Copper pipes in the roof space clank about.
I hear Kelvin, my flatmate, on the toilet, ponder
on the deep refraction of Rainbow, his one love,
lying next door in radiant energy, igniting the fire
in his eyes. Have I really been hemispherically
absorbed? I check the time:10:55am. Wonder what
to do the next half hour. See things in a new light.
I don’t think of you in technicolour
on the big screen, running through fields
of yellow birds-foot all tinged gold;
or astride your warhorse, champing
and sweating, ready for battle.
When I look up on clear Winter nights
I’ve no longing to search for you among
the flecks of light in the darkening sky.
You are not light years away.
You’re my shadow stretching behind
me on plump pillows of white hydrangeas,
still fresh with rain; their scent
drifting through gaps in the syllables
of words we have no need to speak.