Muse, June, Related
To the memory of Denis Devlin

School is out.
The house is full of children.
How fast they grow, how far
they cast their glances janus-wise
back to last June's butterflies,
forward to the yet uncaptured Mourning Cloak.

All the passions meet at the dinner table,
all men's history ever was or will be
uncoils its features while we serve the food.

That is our private joke
about philosophers of history.
But I must show the poet as a hunter,
one who would not let me be
among the children.

* * *

As a dove drives from a rock,
as a seagull rides the shaped air,
June burned searching and accurate.
If once in hours
a wave remembered the cold undersea,
shivers strayed over the fields.

Tides of silk bruised the woman,
the shadow of her eyelashes
lay heavy poplars on her cheeks.
She would sigh for tides,
filling her mind with places where slim weeds
swayed sleeping fish.
If her hand desired her throat,
if her breast strained at a stone,
there was nothing yet,
the valleys yawned hills.

But the locust trilled,
filling neighbouring hearts with lowlands away,
while a sword polished in ice
prepared horizons
white with horses
for winds assembling
broken nations on a balcony.

He stood a statue still,
his shadow growing
through the growing corn,
and stood, his shadow laid
low, the young leaves played
on by the airs moving
like a restless quill.

Blooms such as wither at a finger-touch
hid her
while the hawk, blue shark,
prowled the corn.

The cedars had trapped the sun
when he turned
scythe to field
where she bent her head.

Her palms warm strands
for questing ants,
her limbs the forest mounds,
his the silence,
a spring sighed in its depths.

When sun went out
she had been touched
so she lay quiet eyes
whose liner
slips through harbour arms.

If he turned his head
in his course,
he saw her through branches
a slip of light
until the leaves took her.

He went imagining
her tears at morning
spent on the green.
In song he poised her,
lauded victory
over his muse.

What he fancied ended
she smiled at as begun,
knowing him no freeman,
him reginal
astray from the perfect scene.

* * *

He did not know, not yet,
him hers, his elements
scattered on shore and shore
where he must run, must implore
her veiled features in desperate race
to recapture such a grace
as comes only to awaken
but does not stay to strengthen.

All his future labour,
and for what?-
The never perfect work
its own reward.

Muses, casual stimulants,
have short lives.
The true muse fleshed
nor was, nor shall be,
is a torment of oneself,
cannot be done without.

Her I would have stayed with
but the children shouting
in their scrambling play
rushed on me scattering
me everyway.

This much is certain:
he will not forget her beauty,
he must no attempt escape
from here and now.


© Brian Coffey