Turf

by Michael Murphy

In my Calvin Klein pyjamas
And an ivory cashmere dressing gown
I am crashed out on our double bed.
Last night, I trimmed my beard
And clipped my fingernails, laying

The cuttings in the embers
Of yesterday’s turf fire. This morning
When Felix opens the living-room
Door, a draught will wake the fire
And the white ashes glow.

I can smell the sweet turf.
We could be in Mayo, listening
To Michael and Pauline calling in
The milk herd to the yard
While overhead there’s a noise

Of starlings on the telephone wires.
A lamb calls to its mother.
Between the fields the sky is growing
Light. There are no clouds. Not yet.
And then there are. And then

The flying shadows of the starlings skim
The whitewashed walls, and we see double.
But when the flock veers towards the sun
It is as though half the birds vanish
Into thin air. How strange to be alive

On a double bed in Liverpool,
While Felix brings me offerings
In the ash-coloured light.
He thinks I am asleep, and quietly
(He breathes as quietly as he can)

He ferries toys from his room
To this, and lays them on the altar
Of my chest. I must keep my eyes closed.
I guess by touch what it is he brings.
Later, I will peek while he is out of the room.

But not yet. Now I am in Mayo
And Eira will be helping Pauline
Feed the new-born calves a bottle.
The turf will be waiting in the shed
For me to fill a wicker creel

And carry it in to the living room.
The match is waiting in the box.
The flame is waiting in the match.
If only they were waiting for us, the days
We didn’t use, the things we didn’t mend.

Now Felix means to mend them
(A split indigo felt-tip pen, a three legged
Friesian cow – Whisht! – torn comics,
A hair slide that no longer grips,
Blue-tack that’s lost its tackiness)

By building a pyre round his father –
Whose face isn’t lost and drawn,
Whose hair isn’t falling out
On the pillow, and who takes him
By the hand into a turf-dark shed in Mayo.