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Clare Island
Quand irons-nous, par delà les grèves et les monts
—Arthur Rimbaud, Une Saison en Enfer
Deep in the unknown
empty quarter
of that country
There is a lake
and in the middle of the lake
there is an island
And in the middle
of the island
stands a mountain
And from its top
the oceans of the world
are visible:
We are less different
from each other
than islands from the land
This is how we
came here
like the cormorant
Inhabiting two species
the water and
the stone walls on the mountain
Peruvian marks
of lazy-beds
stretched all across the countryside
Sailing out of Roonagh
a red queen and a white queen
dance across the bay
Coming midday
into harbour
with a thin moon overhead
Strip away words
lesser words
and few
Seeing things
from nearer to the ground
to focus small:
Grains of salt
around the rock-pool
flat sea and open sky
is vastness
Is silence
sound and vastness
of everything grown in
Like fence-posts we stick up
on the horizon
figures masts and tower
Over and beyond
islands are like lakes inverted
upside down
The sea above
the giant hollow places
far beneath
My father told me
look at mountains paintings
upside down
Over there inside my head
still watching
light and shade on Minaun

When you walk around an island
you do not come back
to where you started out
This is the Imram
and the fact:
the day itself has changed
And light and time
the moving measure
of us all moved on
The ritual
of couples landing here
and setting out
At once
on bicycle and foot
to map the edges of this Ark
The tower house is present as
the sea is
always present and the wind
That blows the county flags:
as sheep
as sea gulls up above the wind
And cloud and mountains
blue on grey on blue
all life: and signs of life
A shovel lying on the ground
a coal bag
underneath a bush
Blue clothes-pegs
paint tins
bags of sand cement and stones
Children in the schoolyard
in the sun
girls and boys
With helmets hurleys:
a sliotar in his hand
the teacher
Is explaining
all the expertise
of poc and stance
Above the glittering sea
that stretches out
to Inishturk
And fuschia green and red
is everywhere
all Mayo red and green
Please do not touch
the curraghs . . . 
the archetypal care
As Liam Brady heard
a woman say
in Connemara
Half a century ago: a mhac
ná bí
ag briseadh bád
Everything comes here
by hand
by sea and history
One way and another:
Marique Potens O Maille
In the cloisters
of the monastery of Oliveto
there is

A Signorelli fresco
of the angels visiting in mufti
one woman
Cutting bread
another pouring wine or water
from a jug for them:
The stuff of day to day
unconsciously rehearsed
as this
The scene repeated here
a young girl
pouring tea into a cup
Sand in the breaking waves
stones talking
in the flow back undertow
The low-tide rolling talk
of stones
along the beach
And the one-eyed dog
who waits
all afternoon in hope
Of stone or stick
thrown in for him to fetch
clocks off goes home
I see him next day
hard at work
driving sheep down to the boat
I saw that red-gold hair before
in Philip’s tomb
in Macedon
Burning red-gold
oak branch diadem and filigree
of twigs and leaves
That living artistry of wind
and chance
that crosses time
Comes down to us
like amber
floating on the Baltic sea:
A woven beehive
and a sea-wise cloth
such wisdom Ariadne brought
Standing at the end of Europe
by Grace O’Malley’s grave
in the Atlantic
The sea-light
seeping through the stone and windows
the fading painted figures
On the walls and ceiling
the unseen acts of reverence repeated
That we apply
the sanctity we bring to things
are what survive:
These damaged boars and stags
still living here
that sleek elastic hound
Going the road from
sea to sea
where the valley rises up
Knockmore and Knocknaveen
and a woman on her bike
Comes cycling from the sun
none but us both
in that stupendous space
And loneliness:
the simple endless moment
of being there
And nowhere else
and knowing it: and then to leave
a moment so inhabited
Arrival and departure
all going to and coming from
in the unending
of ferrying
the present to the present:
We land and gravitate a while
take credit for the weather
The wooden benches
for the passer by
stare out to sea:
A line of great stone heads
we shade our eyes
looking out to where we were
They do not come again
the flashing lines
these glancing
Points of contact
if we don’t
quickly press them to the page
The moments when
each frame becomes another
then another:
Making now for Roonagh
one young woman
hands round sweets
The rolling sea is luminous
a young man spends the journey
looking back

Editor's Note: 'Hurley', 'poc' and 'sliotar' are terms associated with the popular Irish sport of hulling. Curraghs are small fishing vessels common in Ireland's western seaboard. 'Ná bí ag briseadh bád' is Irish for 'Don't damage the boats'.