By: Ted Mc Carthy
Tremor cordis. Remember how it was
at about twenty
trying to decipher Latin tags
in the winter garden
but nothing connecting,
language resolute in keeping out;
the soil too, locked and blank, leaves swept or ribboned,
verges black and razored;
everything neat, controlled, indifferent
as points of foil
in a bare sky ferrying to contentment
There are names we didn’t know those days: depression,
panic attack, anxiety,
we’d heard them maybe, mouthed by some comedian,
now common currency,
but no phrase can coin or catalogue
the unnameable uniqueness
of pain you think peculiarly your own;
imagine unending absences,
the frozen space between untouching hands;
summer solstice breaking on a land
you’ll never visit.
A MUTE LIBRETTO
Your life a mute libretto, typified
by those books on opera you never read.
The weeks they lay about your bed, no sound
seeped into mind except those nuggets mined
where wave has scarcely air to travel on.
Encased in rarity and damp, you wandered
where – among the dust unstirred to hidden
song, or that yawning gap of the absurd
aching to be filled with warmth and genius?
All kept to yourself. The day-sick bulb, weak eyes,
dry tightened lips, were eloquent of a world
glimpsed at a remove, piecemeal, fragmented,
knotted in a pained wish to make all whole,
the sumptuous still sought, the drab still panned.
WOMEN OF LONG MEMORY
Walk out any doorway
waiting on the wind
to blow back yesterday’s ashes
so fine the skin can’t feel.
Only the eyes smarting
under an ineffectual sun
witness the invisible,
and the old signs,
Victualler, Emporium, will be
the last of the street to fall.
There is always another town
or the same maybe, at an hour
when first walkers lace up,
ready to venture in and out
of fog where approaching shapes
solidify. It comes and goes
as if under an enchantment
but is never more
than a trick, a buzzing in the head,
an unpinned disquiet.
Reluctant as a child
they went, those women
of long memory who swept paths
along the width of their front walls,
whose rituals were a lamp
before household gods.
They worshipped a sun
that rarely showed, the earth
in their bodies took them, laid them
to be brushed by strangers.
Theirs the breath you long for
on your face when you step
onto a pavement littered
with droppings and gum, under
brackets for redundant awnings;
a strong hand on a hot
and dusty road, turning toward
that far hill you heard of
at someone’s knee, her voice
taller than a spire.
In which sport do the winners
In tug-of-war, I said, their bodies
taut and rooted
to heels and opponents’ eyes,
locked out of self and into strain;
movement stretched in a swaying evenness,
gathering themselves to earth.
Your answer, rowing; perfect metaphor
we see now for your going,
not a retreat but a gliding somehow
into a privacy we deprived you of,
not knowing then we watched you recede
and never grasped your courage; eccentricity
an armour our ignorance only occasionally
pierced: your fondness for dried wells
and soaking streets lost to our arid musings.
Ted Mc Carthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, ‘November Wedding’, and ‘Beverly Downs’.