Letter from John Morrin, Royal Airforce Base, Aden, A
Khormaksar, 28th October 1949.
The heat in this place thins the blood.
The doctor says watch out for colds
for six months after going home.
The new calf
My father knots a rope behind the calf's hooves
- only the hooves have come out so far - tells me: Pull!
The cow jumps and bellows, the calf seems to resist,
my arms are hurting. It's no use, my father cries
but I strain at the rope until my hands burn.
Achilles in the farmyard
He set down a round of ash
with exact concentric rings,
quickened his mind, swung the axe
and cleft the wood so cleanly the halves
stepped apart like dancers.
We seldom speak of you in this house
where you stabled your plough horses.
You are that silence between sounds we rarely note.
The grocer sits and smokes behind his counter
- pock-marked lino top with tobacco burns -
explains to any listening idler
how to get rich, run a country, rear children.
The barn door
I shove the barn door. Half off its hinges, it pushes back.
Its face is implacable, like the face of an old Sioux chieftain
contemplating endurance, loss, my inadequacy.
Sunday tomorrow. The house goes still.
Her father steadies himself at the basin,
foam like January snow on his face.
Her mother holds a finger to her lips.
The blue guitar
When the blue guitar came
your dolls had already
become strangers to your hands
slipping without complaint
into the lost corners of childhood.
Bodies in the machine
He must have put in his nights in this chair
in front of the Bakelite wireless and smoked
while nettles clustered in his front porch
like eager visitors denied admission
though a young ash had sprung up brazenly
in his bedroom, waving out the window
even while he snored, here, out for the count.
Canis lupus familiaris. That’s dog
in Latin, he’d brag. Too bloody familiar,
she always threw back, resenting his mongrels
who mocked her in their dog thoughts, she suspected,
trailing her as she stomped around finding fault.
The hairdresser pauses
The hairdresser stands behind me,
her hands flowing over my hair.
We could be under water
in a glass tank, an exhibition
of absorption or of peace,
like the breathing of an accordion
before the first note is played.
The infant Jesus to his mother
I watched you pick up a feather
out the back, beyond the shed.
You smiled at it then hid it
in your pocket with the others.
Jesus loves Angela
It began on the beautiful day,
that's what she called it, the beautiful day
an angel stopped her on the Newbridge road
and told her of Christ's desire for her.
He flits from the butcher’s stall across Main Street
unbuttoning his beige coat. The usual need
drives him to Kelleher's discreet side-door
for his morning blessing, large Powers no water.
Since the final fight, details now forgotten,
when pride sealed up their hearts and mouths
they have made their own mute liturgy:
the scraping of a chair announces dinner,
the car engine turning signals Mass.
The red heifer
The river field sinks into the dark,
raindrops drip from the slates of the cowshed,
the paper sprawls across the kitchen table,
it says it's hot in California.
The doctor's pleasure on Saturdays
was to drive out to the hotel
and behind its ivy-veiled facade
its dark and crimson draperies
to feel up the chambermaids
the fillies de chambre he called them
in an unreserved guest room.
Taking the plunge
The boy in the photo hangs above the Atlantic
like a drop of rain from the edge of a leaf,
paused in mid-air between diving board and water
on tiptoe, arms spread like a dancer, balanced
between this moment and the next.
You've been great
A bronzed man pirouettes
on the TV in the corner
for his afternoon audience
in the nation's dayrooms.
Watching you walk to work
I watch you walk down the South Circular Road.
In dappled shadows, leaves and sunshine
you seem to dissolve into dancing dark and light,
before you vanish in the bright distance
into your efficient world of telephones,
enquiries and tomorrow's appointments.
With Niamh in Harcourt Street Children's Hospital
The intravenous drip machine doggedly
hums through the night,
breaks into fits of frantic ticks
as if it wants to fight its way out of the room.
A woman runs along city rooftops holding her hat
She flits past blackened angels,
chimneys higher than houses,
walls heavy with wealth.
I have been writing poetry since around 1990. My work has appeared in Irish and British literary journals and has been published as a collection in The Blue Guitar (Salmon Poetry, 2011) and previously in a short collection called You've Been Great (Smith/Doorstop, 2008) which won a Poetry Business prize the previous year. I have an MA in English and Creative Writing from Lancaster University.