Friday Poem

What the Old Woman Said

I will tell you this. There was a garden by the pump. Fallow land given me.
My father built flowerbeds. Offshoots of paths. Geometric patterns.
Cuttings. Bulbs from my mother. The texture of earth.
Stone. The smell of water. I could grow anything.

I will tell you this. There was a pond. Wrinkles of mud. Pups that were drowned there.
Dragged to the bank. Sacksful slit open. Way beyond saving.
Names that I gave them. Returned to the water. Each small splash.
Spirals expanding. My own face rippling.

I will tell you this. There was a heron. Constant. Returning.
Stilt-leg. Growing above water. Curtain of willows.
Everything still. A crowning of feathers.
Inflections of music. Nothing was moving.

I will tell you this. There were meadows. Light. Nectar from clover.
More flowers than I could name. Armfuls I carried.
Stems that I split. Smelling of summer.
Chains on my neck. Ankles. The bones of my wrists. Knowing nothing.

I will tell you this. There was a boy. Eyes like the sky.
Eyes like my father's. Children imagined. Rooms that were borrowed.
Rooms that were painted. Stories invented.
Histories. Futures. We knew everything.

I will tell you this. There was a man. Veins under skin.
Bones. Barely there. His stuttered breathing.
Green light on a screen. Intermittent beeping.
False light. False music. Someone was dying.

I will tell you this. I had seen his face on the shroud.
Running and bleeding. Wounds on his hands.
Pictures on glass. Coloured and leaded.
Faces on statues. A cross through his heart. Light always fading.

I will tell you this. There was a room. White. A white plate on the table.
A man at the table. Notes in his voice. A tune that I knew.
Beauty in the movements of his face. His arms. Frisson of wings.
Touch. Touch me. But he already had. I had forgotten everything.

I will tell you this. Some days are unbearable. Horizontal planes.
Moment to moment. Each long tick. I have been lonely.
Last night. A dream of a heron. The span of his wings.
Sounding through air. Listen. Listen. I am disappearing.

by Eileen Sheehan
from Song of the Midnight Fox
Doghouse Books, Tralee, 2004