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Irlande Vision(s) / Révision(s)

Martine Pelletier


Michael Longley et Stephen Romer

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I am touching your shoulder and pointing out the seals
Head and shoulders above seal-grey water, hand-swimmers
Who look towards us before they fold shimmery cheeks
Into the ripples and disappear. Are they mating,
We wonder. Or suckling their pups. Or just playing.

Touching your shoulder for a second longer takes me
Below the surface, and there I move among the seals
Without frightening them, a shepherd among his sheep
Going over them all and counting his flock by fives
And rescuing one lamb from the seaweedy tangle.

Michael Longley


1(for Britta Olinder)

One week late for Helena Hallqvist's ninetieth birthday,
We see her for the first time in the
gamla kyrka.
Sitting at right angles to us, she gazes ahead
At the pulpit and the candles the sun doesn't put out.

She looks up at the ceiling built like a hull, at Christ
Straddling a rainbow that fades into the woodwork.
From just in front of her earlobe three dainty wrinkles
Ripple outwards as crinkles at her daughter's ear.

'The kingdom of heaven is like this,'the pastor begins.
We are the latecomers in his sermon, the labourers
Hired at the eleventh hour and paid an equal wage
To those who bore 'the burden and heat of the day'.

We are not too late for her birthday, who have sweated
For only one hour in the vineyard and earned our penny.

Michael Longley


2-"Paris change! mais rien dans ma mélancolie N'a bougé!"

3(for Cécile)

This snow on your skin is our duty to the present
falling away on every side at every second
unshareably into avenues estranged from us.

We are elbowed out by the sites and monuments
and the grand promenades of political masters,
captains of industry and moneyed contractors.

Our meagre bundle of human happiness,
or of its opposite, presumably human,
huddles at the foot of a sheer glass precipice.

Machine-washed and replete with cunning light
The crystal pyramid of the cultural state
points up our losses and our own neglect.

You met me in these gardens, a wide smile
in a Russian hat, under trees uprooted since
by the bulldozer of public safety.

These plotted saplings are not for us, my love!
I am the poison tree they carted off to burn
when the city died into traffic and stone.

Stephen Romer


4(for Peggy O'Brien)

I come here in the dark, I shall leave here in the dark -
No time to look around Amherst and your little house,
To talk of your ill father, my daughter's broken - no,
There isn't time - tears in the quilt, patterns repeating.

And yet as antique orphan and girlish granny we
Stitch a square of colour on the darkness, needle-
Work, material and words, Emily's bedroom window
With a bowl of flowers we pick out through the glass.

An iron bedstead you brought over from Tralee fills up
The box-room where I snooze, as though I have become
For these few hours in February your father, your son, While in your neightbourhood instead of snow the bushes
Wear quilts left out all night to dry, like one enormous
Patchwork spring-cleaned, well-aired, mended by morning.

Michael Longley


Could one call it knowledge?

Pace the philosophers,
I should like to think so.

The waving mass of a laurel tree,
light filtered down through mistletoe, the close examination
of dots on your cradle quilt.

Waves and dots
the composition of matter itself!
Depending on how you look at it...

And all this
amounting to delight, delight that seizes the whole of your body.

Stephen Romer


If you were to read my poems, all of them I mean,
My life's work, at the one sitting, in the one place,
Let it be here by this half-hearted waterfall
That allows each pebbly basin its separate say,
Damp stones and syllables, then, as it grows dark
And you go home past overgrown vineyards and
Chestnut trees, suppliers once of crossbeams, moon-
Shaped nuts, flour, and crackly stuffing for mattresses,
Leave them here, on the page, in your mind's eye, lit
Like the fireflies at the waterfall, a wall of stars.

Michael Longley

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1998

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