The chalk path like an old scar
ran jagged through the hills. On either side
the rivulets made suture marks where flesh,
millennia ago, was torn aside.
At least, that’s how I saw it then. Now looking back,
I see a living thing, a serpent
writhing in the clutch of stunning views.
That day, a dozen goddesses invited me
to walk their breasts, to fill my eyes
from skirts they’d spread a hundred feet
or more below my feet, skirts laid
with fruit and cereals of every hue:
ochres, greens and oranges, deep wells of blue,
impenetrable blacknesses and reds
as fresh and vivid as new wounds, I saw.
Silvers were there where sequined rivers ran
between deep banks of pewter, apricot and tan.
On days like that, one’s more alone
the nearer one approaches bliss.
And so, my loneliness was like a moorland fire:
slowly it had smouldered in the grass,
caressed the air - and seemed no more
than if a furtive lad had lit
a fag behind the woodhouse door.
A backpacker, she’d packed a punch
to spread the flames across a continent.
Our bodies, tinder dry, ignited in our bed.
The landscape changed as if to mourn the deed.
Dead trees became the norm. For days
they lined our path like flightless arrows
fallen from oppugnant skies. If they
were Cupid’s, they had missed their mark.
But we strode on, took all the mountains in our stride,
then strode on down to where
a cowpat landscape lay with dunghills at its back -
And there we whispered our goodbyes.
Alone again, I came upon the lake by night,
looked down upon it from The Devil’s Tooth,
saw charcoal waters imaging a mouth
that feasted on the sky.
Regulus, I saw, Denebola, both bright in Leo,
and the moon. Beyond them, wet with rain,
a glass town shimmered from a distant shore.
She called my name.
How had she come to know it?
Who was she? – And from where?
M87 is a black hole, man, three billion times
as heavy as our sun. The beetles rule the world:
two hundred families, each one
with thirty thousand species to its name!
Did you know that?
She kept it up
until we walked into the glass town hand in hand,
our bodies then a strange irrelevance. We overcame
their gravity. The lake - its lightness -
gave new meaning to our lives. Inevitable then,
that we should overstay its welcome.
As love gained strength the great lake shrank
and took on the dimensions of a glove.
But still I pulled it on each morning and gave thanks.
It had become for me what life had always been:
a detail etched upon a detail, a patch of light,
a soft complexion borrowed from a bank,
a ripple or the movement of a fish.
The lake no longer held the universe; Denebola
and Leo and the moon were gone.
Just one small detail (in her kidney) grew;
just one much larger detail died…
and all the skies that ever were came down into the lake,
and the lake dried.
Seamus Heaney's Human Chain.
It was news to him.