oak outside my bedroom window, when
I was a child, taught me fear.
night it would send its cold shadow across
my room, along the floor,
if the dark were coming for me with
a famine-hunger for my soul. Its
fingers, twisted with age, bony, groped
blindly up the bedroom wall,
for me with awful patience, until
a wind would enter this world
oak and bedroom and dark silence, storming
my dreams with grey, gnarled
of oak and birch and willow marching
through the black middle-earth of
midnight moaning a long, slow
of the nightfall, hollow as death.
song swallowed me. I fell far
the void of the moon, down through God, to
the root of morning, sinister
the sunlight creeping across my bed.
was eight when we moved from Granite View, a
grim estate of post-war council houses,
a strange townland at the edge of Saval parish called Benagh, from the Gaelic, ‘place of birches’.
place of mystery, place of dark. I knew this
place had called me, like all the ancient Irish
had been called, by some strange music;
living stream, a pipe’s lament, the cry
wild geese in the desolate winter sky,
woman’s voice that echoed through the air
made one man, though home already, homesick for
somewhere else, so that he followed her
Tir na n-Og, across unreturnable seas, leaving
behind the rock-hard world of men and
disappearing into the twilit trees
live in an utterly otherworldly vision
time unflowing, wind not blowing,
heart filled with heartbreaking harmonies
human heart could hear for very long without
becoming cold to human hurt
surrendering to that strange inhuman music. I
knew then, also, I’d one day make my art
of this place of birches, a dark song
the threshold between eternity and rock.
smoky winter’s day
the Linen Hall café.
climbed the cold stone staircase
encounter such a face
smiled from Jean-Luc Godard’s New
Femme Est Une Femme,
forward with kohled eyes
the later Vivre
she’d smoke and kiss and pout with
a vamp-vermillion mouth.
that celluloid instant
muse-like. You were you