Saturday 16 December 2017

My Dark Fathers

My dark fathers lived the intolerable day

Committed always to the night of wrong,

Stiffened at the hearthstone, the woman lay,

Perished feet nailed to her man's breastbone.

Grim houses beckoned in the swelling gloom

Of Munster fields where the Atlantic night

Fettered the child within the pit of doom,

And everywhere a going down of light.

And yet up the sandy Kerry shore

The woman once had danced at ebbing tide

Because she loved flute music - and still more

Because a lady wondered at the pride

Of one so humble. That was long before

The green plant withered by an evil chance;

When winds of hunger howled at every door

She heard the music dwindle and forgot the dance.

Such mercy as the wolf receives was hers

Whose dance became a rhythm in a grave,

Achieved beneath the thorny savage furze

That yellowed fiercely in a mountain cave.

Immune to pity, she, whose crime was love,

Crouched, shivered, searched the threatening sky,

Discovered ready signs, compelled to move

Her to her innocent appalling cry.

Skeletoned in darkness, my dark fathers lay

Unknown, and could not understand

The giant grief that trampled night and day,

The awful absence, moping the land.

Upon the headland, the encroaching sea

Left sand that hardened after tides of Spring,

No dancing feet disturbed its symmetry

And those who loved good music ceased to sing.

Since every moment of the clock

Accumulates to form a final name,

Since I am come of Kerry clay and rock,

I celebrate the darkness and the shame

That could compel a man to turn his face

Against the wall, withdrawn from light so strong

And undeceiving, spancelled in a place

Of unapplauding hands and broken song.

Sunday Independent

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