Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘From the long room’ and other poems by Ted Mc Carthy

By: Ted Mc Carthy


The First Fruit
The first fruit is the fruit of dreaming.
A layer of day peeled and held up to the light:
three girls pose by a distant mountain wall,
the sea stilled, noon like a silenced bell.
One holds and apple and a white chess piece
her skin faint now as worn mother-of-pearl,
her smile the mildest darkening on grained gloss.
Atoms of ink are black stars in the universe
between the eye and unassuming grace
crowned by the sarcophagus of the Great Blasket.

The Virgin Contemplates Birth
A godlike way of looking at the world,
detached as a child observing gravity
yet at the same time visceral and so completely hers;
in the heat wait trees, pruned and perfect
but nothing’s perfect as the one uncertainty
that doesn’t matter: see it through her eyes.
She eats, teeth puncturing the asymmetric peach,
no drop wasted, she licks the bitter from its wooden comb.
How casually she mentions weight on hips!
Man out of sight drops, an unwanted stone.

Something is assumed. Green smears to white,
olive to absence, stubborn husks unburied,
her footprints among others known by instinct
suddenly gone. Into what gaping question
did they merge? Sea advances in still clouds
beyond those sullen buildings; here the roofs
simply wait as everything, those steps,
the second and the perfect weight it held
-which disappearance checked each element –
hovers unmentioned as a final secret.

Caught in a Lost Corner
Apotheosis. Jewelled beads on silk
radiate from a forgotten eye,
a sun disc, a pomegranate slice.
The skies reordered swirl in a steady spiral
about the merest dot of red: vermilion
of the priest of Shakti, heart of the Sangre de Cristo.
Heaven on earth, pure abstract mosaic
of sky as womb, the living wonderfully fallen,
stone upon rainbow upon renamed stars
that are cells in the gemmed veins of the universe.



But since there is only one sky
and the view (so we tell ourselves)
will be different,

where is truth? In that surprise
and the stab of wonder we know
will pierce a child a hundred years hence,

or in the certainty
of our aligning two miles and a horizon?
Maybe age and dark

are the true gods, and the lights
they scatter across nothing are the spatters
of a child’s painting.



Being my home now, my idea of home,
I check in, check that everything’s in order,
flick through photos of an ageing Janet Frame
‘Dear J, where is the heart and the river?’

Heart is with the body, firm as life,
river, just beyond where the eye stops seeing;
the mind an ever-vagrant losing, half
what it is, half someone else’s being;

all it knows of itself it finds in snatches
like a low guitar played in a distant room
or silver glimpsed beneath a swirling surface
or a half-remembered nursery rhyme of home.

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