Wednesday, September 9, 2015



for Nina Hutchinson

Once there was house and home

And books against the cold.

We are all gipsies now —

Pea-pickers, pickpockets,

Haters, procrastinators,

Wanderers in the salt dunes,

Tellers of strange fortunes,

Bathers in cold waters —

Sleeping, like John Clare,

With our feet to the pole star.

Canadian Pacific

From famine, pestilence and persecution

Those gaunt forefathers shipped abroad to find

Rough stone of heaven beyond the western ocean,

And staked their claim and pinned their faith.

Tonight their children whistle through the dark,

Frost chokes the windows. They will not have heard

The wild geese flying south over the lakes

While the lakes harden beyond grief and anger —

The eyes fanatical, rigid the soft necks,

The great wings sighting with a nameless hunger.

Recalling Aran

A dream of limestone in sea-light

Where gulls have placed their perfect prints.

Reflection in that final sky

Shames vision into simple sight —

Into pure sense, experience.

Four thousand miles away tonight,

Conceived beyond such innocence,

I clutch the memory still, and I

Have measured everything with it since.


Derek Mahon
Oxford University Press 1968

The Paris Review: The Art of Poetry ~