On first hearing ‘The Gloaming’ *
I entered a forest
and walked, alone at first,
into its deeps.
The wind coursed through the trees –
an invisible ship,
its sails whiffling and hallooing,
its weightless heft juddering.
The half-light, the secret light
that filled the spaces between the trees
stayed constant, even as their leaves,
bronze or silver-green, flickered –
leaves of the oak, the beech and ash, the alder.
And each kind of leaf had its own voice,
distinct among the other voices
yet at one with them.
I tuned myself to those many tongues –
their words entering
through my skin, through my eyes,
felt in the pulse of my throat.
I saw, then, that others were present,
waiting stock-still between the trees
in the silence that belonged there, too –
a rooted growing silence.
We stood, populous as some long-dead army,
but living; unarmoured, and unarmed.
And all of us touched the wind,
it did not touch us,
and we touched the pelts
of long-lived trees
but never – as always –
the birds, so many of them
calling, telling their stories
of belonging to that place.
Through their voices we saw them
perched on high –
a singing that came, vehemently,
from the smallness of their bodies,
from pulsating throats,
as if they would sing themselves
Now the forest was filled with drowned light –
a deep-sea silence starred by bird songs,
*The Gloaming is a contemporary Irish-American music group consisting of musicians Martin Hayes, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Dennis Cahill and Thomas Bartlett.
The Unquiet Garden
for John McIlroy
A storm-wrenched tree
clothed in electric gold
divides the garden.
Quick dark presences
hop lustily around it,
stalk through undergrowth
like shadow thoughts
glimpsed at the mind’s edge
as I sit within the tensile
silence of this room,
my gaze opening to admit
When John, my Irish friend,
comes to tend the garden,
there’s one walks by so close
he imagines, half-believes,
it might somehow carry
the spirit of his dead brother.
‘A lovely thought,’ I say.
‘He must be very old,’
says John, now in his nineties.
And we watch our shared
familiar, his eyes unwarily
taking account of us as he skirts
the space where we work.
On the garden fence
outside my kitchen, he seems
to be looking in at me
while seeming not to (he knows
I know he knows I’m here).
Up on the apricot tree
another kind of looking, then
silver palaces in the air:
a living silhouette,
not knowing how many songs
are yet to be sung,
his feet planted among
the unleashed delicacy of
Diane Fahey’s fourteenth poetry collection, Glass Flowers, is forthcoming from Puncher & Wattmann in November. She has been the recipient of various poetry awards and writing grants, and holds a PhD in Creative Writing from UWS. She lives on Wadawurrung Country, in a bayside town on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria. dianefaheypoet.com