“I want a poem I can grow old in.” – Eavan Boland
Maybe it was there all the time, in the room with the high ceiling
and the fireplace and the mirror rimmed in gold above it,
and if I went back to that house in Ireland where she took us in
out of the rain, I’d find it. If I stood in front of the mirror I’d see
how grey and speckled with black its glass was and then I’d see
lines spreading around my eyes like rays in a child’s drawing
of the sun. And if someone called my name from somewhere else,
in another part of the house, I’d turn my head to answer them,
and the ligaments in my neck would push against my skin
and I’d catch sight of their slanting lines in the mirror.
And my voice would sound different — older, softer, sadder
maybe, like the fine rain that blows and falls outside the house.
There’d be a lag in it, a space where one sound stretched
out to reach the next. And in the slack of that lag the words would
start to feel they could go anywhere – out of the window and up to the sky
above the sea to watch the mountains forming and collapsing
on the top of the waves, and then, fast as a whippet, they’d turn
and rush back to the shore at low tide to pluck a green-lipped mussel
off its rope. And I watch them as they pushed into its black hinge
to prise it open and draped themselves over the frills of its flesh.
And I’d let them because now I’m old I know, they always go back
to the sea.