The Argotist Online
Medbh McGuckian’s poetry collections include Venus in the Rain, The Flower Master, On Ballycastle Beach, Marconi’s Cottage, Captain Lavender, Selected Poems: 1978-1994 and Shelmalier. Her latest collection is The Book of the Angel (2004). A new book about women and poetry is expected shortly.
She has attended poetry festivals and conferences in Yugoslavia and Canada and given readings in Ireland, England, America, France and Holland. She is the winner of some, but not all, prestigious poetry awards. She currently teaches creative writing at Queens University, Belfast.
I feel he would give it to me in spirit
As rivers carve out kingdoms,
The boulder field near the water mill,
My father's summer land.
He would give it in my children's
Father's name, a crucial terrain
Anchored and perturbed,
For thinking in spring about fall
And in summer about the purest time
Of winter. If this clothed throat
Like a nowhere-to-be-found pool
That shelters under the youngest mountain
Could be seen, the new breaths
Of three hundred dark roses'
Third day would tell it all,
Holding a door in your arms.
A HELL BIRD
She of the corner burned parting
Of haunted hair, she burns herself
With the fire of her yoga,
Having taken the sun's permission.
The flames erect a kind of hedge
Of red marriage veil, her soul falls
Naturally into it, to leave the world
Of acts by its silver doorframe
Her skin, that was fair the bright
Fortnight of the month and dark and dark,
Is a mapping of the seasons and odours
And splinters of foot nectar.
Her gravelly voice that is the sign
Of possesson divides from her sacred finger.
One third of her sin is the child-pebble
Worshipped in her heart of hearts,
Her left eye being a careful almond.
THE GOLD THAT IS WORN BY GOD
The star or crown that an angel
Once drew in the snow
Is either not shown or trimmed away:
This lack of desire for snow
As what winter should be,
I place around my wrist for safe-keeping,
A skin-tight coat of mail.
And since it is said one does not age
in the time spent regarding the Host,
Will these false rains
Of a pilgrim season
Become voices again
In differing fields,
Pressed against the back
Of a god-coloured valley,
Like a bed of white bronze
Looking out though the rent
In a strawberry?
He could not sleep, would not step
Back. Looking out of second-story
Windows at our fields, which wash themselves
With soil, his skin remembered
Landscapes sedimented in her
That her body welcomed,
The withheld, silk-tongued rains
That stormed her island by island
Till their incense sealed her off
From the path of itself.
Then the winds switched direction
As if there was daylight, stiffened as if
To sabotage a harvest with their stolen
Melodies and demands. He would concentrate
One night of the week, burning his mind
To the spirit spouse he carved and fed,
Her wooden self on second contact
Copied by his own inner arrow,
A wooden rifle turning bullets to water,
Circuiting the town removed from the map.
AN EARLY APOCALYPSE
I see the skeleton of the year poised in the cool moonspray,
Trying to catch at the blemished calendar of the next.
Embraced most of the day by the low and slender rainbow,
The world-jewel sweeps on with its morning noon and night.
The nowhereness of the fifth-month stayed for a moment only,
Before the earthless mountain light anointed without mountains.
copyright © Medbh McGuckian