What goes by the name of love is banishment,
with now and then a postcard from the homeland.
– Samuel Beckett, First Love
I’m looking for a card,
one that holds the oriole
on the black pear tree –
will it be brazen or sweet,
junebug or whippoorwill,
Tupelo or Baton Rouge?
I drape myself in maps,
drift in colours and signs,
sleep on my seven books
of owls, frogs, alligators.
I want a card that quickens
codes, spills the secrets
of words, sends letters flying.
We used to name things,
now we travel the lines
past ghost-shack and scrub,
sun-bothered lizards skittering
under creosote and cocotillo.
This card must distil the frenzy
of the firefly as it waltzes
with its own blazing corpse.
The Card © Mary Noonan
To clear my head of talk, I walked the beach
and found a pebble, a cuckoo’s egg,
held it and saw it was a map.
An oval stone striated with slate-grey markings,
one side bore tracings that arced and criss-crossed:
polka of narrow roads,
sandpipers darting in bleached grasses,
contours of a shoreline, the lines on my palm.
A gate opening into a small field.
The curve of the stone offered concentric swirls,
a talisman you carry to ward off the evil eye,
or the nipple of a breast.
Here it is – an amulet, runes and traces
to light and guard you, a cuckoo’s egg
in the wrong nest, a gate opening
into a small field, a circle ploughed
round a lone hawthorn tree, a map
of the way between us. I carry it.
Carry © Mary Noonan
No Direction Home
i.m. Gregory O’Donoghue 1951-2005
I wrote that the final days of August would find me
washed up, propped in a place where the light of day
is tight and mean. You approved, gently tending –
even poems lamenting summer’s end were safe with you,
lines too concerned with the small ambit of seasons
to encompass the impact of a true ending.
And so it was that August swept you off your feet,
quenched your breath with ease as she dragged
hurricanes and swollen waters in her train.
In the middle of your fifty-fourth year –
one of the bald facts mourners swapped at the grave,
suddenly aware that they did not know you.
I knew only the grace of your yellowed fingers,
that elegant pen, your hand feathering its tender script
across a page, your hooded eyes, your mug of gin,
the small room where we met once a week.
I saw you sometimes, walking lopsidedly in the street;
once, at a launch, we talked about Bob Dylan
but in the moment I heard of your death I knew
that you had guided me to a place – a room, a page –
where limping and stammering come into their own,
a vast, airy space inviting me to stand my ground,
to bellow in tantrum, to rampage, to thrive
in my brokenness.
No Direction Home © Mary Noonan