A poem for Tuesday

If you were to say I have themes, fragmented identity, I suppose, would be one of them. And it's one I fully expect to live with forever and that I know I've done to myself. And I also know it's the source of magic as well as fraughtness, so it's not something I seek a cure to but rather like to look at and wonder about and feel myself and my way around in.

And Philip Larkin's Home is Sad always seemed to capture some of it. But I've been warned many times about my affinity for Larkin. On Sunday night, this poem swooped down on me. And it was everything to me, foreshadowing as well as reflecting. I read, waiting for it to break away from me and spiral in its own direction, but it didn't and I felt it was there just for me. And I talked on Friday about certain books as horoscopes and this poem might be one too.

I found it over on the SHOp Poetry Magazine website and it's by John F. Deane.

The Swallow
You grow—like flowers from their soil—
from the name and notion of your heart-place:
Bunnacurry, Achill, Mayo; you are listening

—at the fleshly distance—to the music
of the teeming hours, the prophecies;
you dissipate, though slowly, what has been your essence

until you turn again, prodigal after years, on your journey
back towards truth: the escallonia hedge, the baby-wail
of the out-of-the-vertical back gate,

and to father, decades dead, watching. Now you stand
at the harvesting of what has been
the wild acres, terrified at the suddenness

of the years' passing, your quick tock-tick
out of uncountable millennia, here at this damp meadow-edge
to marvel at the swallow that has swooped across you

low over the meadow, that flash
of red-rust feathers on the throat, and it is gone
in a fling of its wings off up beyond the ash-tree hedge;

you write it down, then, in wonder, in words
that are nets of air that cannot hold
the mystery. You are working now towards silence,

admitting the absence of your father though he is still
present in phlox and oxeye daisy, how you are—
in this one moment—clothed again in home, become

the breeze beneath the swallow's wings, become
the sky, the murdered insect, the swallow,
become the prophecy and become, almost, the music.


  1. Damn that's a good poem. Jane, stop enabling my book-buying habit - you know I'm going to buy this now, don't you?

    1. I bought three issues of SHOp and just spent the evening with them and I'm in some kind of mad rapture.

      On the other hand, you might submit to them so it's technically research, right? Oh dear, I'm such a big fat enabler.

    2. Okay, we'll call it 'research'. Yes, that works.

    3. Some background reading... http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/1120/1224326838805.html

      Okay, I know I'm just being a fantasist, but I swear the ones I got today smell of stone cottage.

    4. Ooh, thanks! And I believe you.

  2. Hello Jane

    "The Swallow" spoke to me and brought tears of nostalgia.
    My first holiday away from home at age sixteen was to Achill Island.
    The last two verses and the absence of a father and the presence of the swallow are only all too familiar.
    Like Hila I am going to be looking for more.

    Thanks Jane

    Helen xx

  3. Beautiful poem that reduced me to tears at my desk in San Francisco. Thank you. I'm from Wexford, moved to SF in 1989, and lost both my parents in 2011. My heart is very near the surface these days.


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