Friday, July 1, 2011

Irish Poem of the Month: July

Poem Beginning With A Line From Cavafy


Derek Mahon


It is night and the barbarians have not come.
It was not always so hard;
When the great court flared
With gallowglasses and language difficulty
A man could be a wheelwright and die happy.


We remember oatmeal and mutton,
Harpsong, a fern table for
Wiping your hands on,
A candle of reeds and butter,
The distaste for the rheumatic chronicler,


A barbarous tongue, and herds like cloud shadow
Roaming the wet hills
When the hills were young,
Whiskery pikemen and their spiky dogs
Preserved in woodcuts and card catalogues.


Now it is night and the barbarians have not come.
Or if they have we only recognize,
Harsh as a bombed bathroom,
The frantic anthropologisms
And lazarous ironies behind their talk


Of fitted carpets, central heating
And automatic gear change -
Like the bleached bones of a hare
Or a handful of spent
Cartridges on a deserted rifle range