Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Time’s Joke

The skin on the back of your hand, dear,
Lies fleshless and loose from the veins.
Like a frog staring hard on the sand, dear,
It rests, contemplating it’s pains
On the cloth of Swiss lace
In a state of pure grace
Adorned by that dull, tarnished band.

Your fingers are trembling lightly,
An aura of ice haloes round.
Your nails have been pared back contritely,
Now grey as the shale in the ground.
The hand I first took
Never shivered nor shook
But grasped with a clench of delight.

You don’t catch my heart-searing gaze, love,
Your eyes are like buttons of steel.
This pointless addition of days, love,
Won’t touch very much that you feel.
But I still catch a trace
In your soft, worn-out face
Of the girl smiling out of the haze.

Do you remember Felicity Connors
And the time that you swam round the bay?
How you both put the fright’ners upon us
Near the end of that bright, cloudless day?
And your hands looked so old
With their ridges of cold
And I rubbed till the wrinkles were gone.

I’ve no towel that can warm up your hand now
Lying speckled and white by your cup.
This chapter’s unheard and unplanned now -
Each day we are making it up.
Just two elderly folk
Who can’t laugh at time’s joke,
Coming close to the edge of the strand.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On Jackson’s Bridge Lock

I sat on the footboards in midge-ridden heat
And sighed at the pleasure of dangling feet
And gazed at the splash-thumping water below
From the lofty-eyed perch of my gallery seat.
And yes, I was God and the Lord of the Flow,
Welling up at my back in an ocean of woe.
“I’m Canute, turn ye back, for my peace is complete!”
And the lip-lapping waves murmured “Let it be so.”
And thus did my world, so minute and banal
Slip away in the heat of the Royal Canal.

The hours had flowed gentle since leaving Twelfth Lock
Past hawthorn and bramble that hid Castleknock;
Clonsilla, where moorhens did silently glide;
And Leixlip, asleep at the head of the clock.
And always this handrail stretched out by my side
That brooded so long ‘pon my every stride.
Hewn from wet marshlands or blasted from rock,
Uncaring, it seemed, of the toe-tapping tide.
And long past the grey, chiselled walls of Maynooth
I rested awhile, contemplating the truth.

Like the swish of a tail, did my hand flick the spate
Of food-frenzied flies that did whirl and gyrate.
The sun bathed my brow and my heels idly tapped
A pulse beat against the great riveted gate.
Behind me the waters hypnotically lapped,
Beside me the barley shone strong and sedate.
Far away in the distance, a grey heron flapped
Along these calm contours so carefully mapped.
O’er the hill to my right in a hymn deep and glum
Swam the westward-bound traffic’s insatiable hum.

Was it midges or cars that buzzed constant and loud?
The sun shuffled into a solit’ry cloud.
I hauled myself up with a sigh long suppressed
And a beady-eyed raven blinked slowly and bowed.
Rebolstered and buoyed by that much-needed rest
I resumed my intransigent, rhythmical quest
Toward the deep haze that dropped close like a shroud
‘Pon the narrowing water away to the west.
And so I departed that welcoming lock
And followed the towpath that led to Kilcock.
Shortlisted in the Inaugural Attleborough Poetry Competition 2008. One winner, the next nine highly recommended.