3 Poems by Paula Meehan

from Mysteries of the Home
(February 2013)



I know this path by magic not by sight.
Behind me on the hillside the cottage light
is like a star that’s gone astray. The moon

is waning fast, each blade of grass a rune

inscribed by hoarfrost. This path’s well worn.

I lug a bucket by bramble and blossoming blackthorn.
I know this path by magic not by sight.

Next morning when I come home quite unkempt

I cannot tell what happened at the well.

You spurn my explanation of a sex spell

cast by the spirit who guards the source

that boils deep in the belly of the earth,

even when I show you what lies strewn

in my bucket — a golden waning moon,

seven silver stars, our own porch light,

your face at the window staring into the dark.


My Father Perceived as a Vision of St Francis

for Brendan Kennelly

It was the piebald horse in next door’s garden
frightened me out of a dream

with her dawn whinny. I was back
in the boxroom of the house,
my brother’s room now,

full of ties and sweaters and secrets.
Bottles chinked on the doorstep,
the first bus pulled up to the stop.
The rest of the house slept

except for my father. I heard

him rake the ash from the grate,

plug in the kettle, hum a snatch of a tune.
Then he unlocked the back door

and stepped out into the garden.
Autumn was nearly done, the first frost
whitened the slates of the estate.

He was older than I had reckoned,

his hair completely silver,
and for the first time I saw the stoop
of his shoulder, saw that

his leg was stiff. What’s he at?

So early and still stars in the west?

They came then: birds

of every size, shape, colour; they came
from the hedges and shrubs,

from eaves and garden sheds,
from the industrial estate, outlying fields,
from Dubber Cross they came

and the ditches of the North Road.

The garden was a pandemonium
when my father threw up his hands

and tossed the crumbs to the air. The sun
cleared O’Reilly’s chimney

and he was suddenly radiant,

a perfect vision of St Francis,
made whole, made young again,
in a Finglas garden.



The first warm day of spring

and I step out into the garden from the gloom
of a house where hope had died

to tally the storm damage, to seek what may
have survived. And finding some forgotten
lupins I’d sown from seed last autumn
holding in their fingers a raindrop each

like a peace offering, or a promise,

I am suddenly grateful and would

offer a prayer if I believed in God.

But not believing, I bless the power of seed,
its casual, useful persistence,

and bless the power of sun,

its conspiracy with the underground,

and thank my stars the winter’s ended.



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