POEMS BY CIARAN CARSON

Time period: 1966-1972

Poet: Ciaran Carson

Permanent URL: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/1bc0v

Source: Ciaran Carson papers, circa 1970-2010


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LETTER FROM ALASKA

Silence is for miles around

an undistinguished white.

To fish

is to break new ground.

This is our lifeline:

breaking white

to find a deeper blue.

Yesterday,

we thought of you,

all those miles away.

Our letter may have trouble,

getting through:

the snow covers everything.

Land and sea

have lost all meaning -

we build from what we see.

our igloos keep us warm.

Our needs are small.

This is the world's last infinity.

Here, you get away from it all.


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ARANMORE ISLAND

1. Erratics

If sheep were stone,

these stones have dropped dead

in one another's tracks.

Their pebbles are rounded up

from the droppings of the last Ice Age

where ice drifted in packs

from farther north,

fleecing the ground for foothold

then going back,

perching these stones in high places;

and coming back

again and again, each time I find my traces

following each other back like sheep.

They are not stones but clouds

counting one another to sleep.

2. The Fault

The fault was in the stone. It seems

no love could be attached

to this bare rock adrift

from land. We always watched

and build our walls against the draught.

Yet our doors are left unlatched

expecting always some lost kin

to come with what the wind blows in.

3. American Wake

All their days seem stone

they've piled on stone.

Their walls are nets for native soil

that will not settle down.

Each year another man will sail

out west to break new ground,

and break the knots

their women spun in rosaries of net.

Each year another man recovers

the lines that slipped his fingers,

coming back, and reaching back to find his own

in this graveyard slowly burying itself in stone.


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THE ISLAND REVISITED

I open

the clean lines

of the barred gate

I left unlatched.

The walls are pitched

white against the moon;

the half-

door swings back

to let me in.

The lamp stills

me in

spilled light.

I draw back

the sheets

of your pain

and watch

your child, my child,

break free.


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WHEEL

Through course of time

the wheel has run down.

The millrace is a choke

of earth, a whisper of weeds.

These rotted slats

were once tongue for clattering water

that spun a fine sheet,

driving power

for mill and linen loom.

I touch the rusted hoop

that collars warped wood;

half-afraid,

step inside, then begin to stride,

leaning all my weight; tread,

till the wheel answers

with a racking cough

and a scrape that shudders spine;

swings.

I am its water; its voice mine,

spilling down the throat of a century.

The wheel turns.

The past springs to life.


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POST MORTEM ON A MASS GRAVE

Having cut

the fresh trees on their grave

we found the soil

kind to the spade,

the bodies

well-preserved.

Reading a date

between the lines,

this man's stump

is evidence of frostbite.

That was the year

the snow killed the wheat.

This man's tongue

protrudes from his teeth.

That was the year

of the drought.

We then

gathered the shot,

(it has, we note,

the appearance of grey seed),

marking the holes

where the bullets found their heads.

the M.O. makes a clean cut

between one man's ribs,

examines the heart,

washes clean is hands.

No need -

The blood has long since dried.


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THE CLOCKWORK PIGEON

How long have our wars

struggled to get off ground?

Once we used wax from our ears,

we must have flown

close to the sun, were drowned.

Yet still we tried to breed

success, scrambling fire

with heavy water, sowed the seed,

holding our ears against next year's

explosion. Our battery hens

have left their broken shells

over half a hemisphere.

Then the black-out and the silence

as we hatched a new plot.

Our light bulbs mushroomed overnight,

we dug for the underground.

Our radar screened our exile.

So, the first Pigeon Transplant.

We released it to the outside rain

and huddled against the next missile,

deaf to the cluck of its transistor brain,

as it came home to roost

its metal head, the whirring

of our ears which were its wings.

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