She pricks blood from a bush,
eyes as bright
as time to come
that casts no shadow on her years.
If memory serves me right, she says,
a year after her return,
the blackberries are nowhere as sweet
as the snow we had last year.
The shimmering tide
is high as the sun
that fills every cove of her pulse,
and a thorn in her talk, unknown to her,
skins the tips of my fingers.
She wants me to taste
the black sweetness,
grown bitter as truth
on the tip of my tongue.
If I could take this day
and all the short days
already past, I would,
catch time by the throat,
and choke it until it stopped
so she could taste time and again
the leaving light of this day
soundless as last year’s snow
that never fell (nor will fall)
to this earth.
These two here in front of me
think he’s singing to only them
when he plays a loving lament,
their fingers ache to be home
where they can play on each
other till morning. The lonely
and old flames are amazed
a man they’ve never met
has the broken tunes of their dreams
off by heart on the tip of his tongue.
When he touches the strings
that tied them together the first time
ever, the married couple in the corner
move closer in spite of themselves.
When the sleeve of the man’s shirt
brushes his wife’s shoulder, a young fella
at the other end of the room
takes off his summer jumper and asks the barman
to turn the heat down for God Almighty’s sake.
The girl made lovely by sorrow prays
he’ll never rest until he finds her.
Outside, a fleet of sirens storms the night,
squadcars, ambulances and fire-brigades
running from the fire that can’t be put out
in the smoldering hearts of the men inside
who are late again for the neverending funeral.
Beside the bridge, the morse code
of loneliness broadcast on flurries
of air is clear as day to the man
who has just jumped. The water is smooth
as a sheet and he is deaf to the world
as the music fills his mouth,
washing away a world of worries.
The singer keeps on strumming
the strings that stretch from the heart
to the mouth of his guitar.
His cry is soft as the river, a blanket of water
drawn up over all our sleepy heads.
© Louis de Paor. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2004 by Mary O’Donoghue. All rights reserved.