Read sample poems and listen to audio recordings (*) of Sean Haldane reading.
Fishing where the cold and vicious tide
Swept between rocky islands, I dragged in
A bull-head, spiny, with lurid scales.
I cut it off the hook and threw it back.
That month on the same coast, changed in sun,
She and I found beaches of pure coral
And swam in that sea whose foam
Stung our bodies, quickening desire.
At evening we stepped through walls,
Lifting the stones aside with shaky hands,
To find a patch of grass and blown bog cotton
Where we could lie in shadow cast by boulders
As the sun sank and spilled its fire.
One night we ate dulse, then drank poteen. Rage
At her unfaithfulness burned in my brain.
I turned and staggered, shoved her to the ground.
Then we walked back together in cold shame.
Next day we crossed by boat to Inishmore,
She gaily singing to the other men,
And when we climbed to Dun Aengus fort
I muttered to myself I’d smash her head
On the sharp teeth of the chevaux-de-frise:
Each spike of stone went straight into my heart.
Desperately I tugged her behind the wall
Of the fort and pulled her to the grass,
Begging her to hold me. She refused.
Then we all lay together on the cliff
Three hundred feet above the emerald sea.
I felt myself vertiginously dragged
Close to the edge, while she talked happily
And flirted with my friends, taking one’s hand
And reading in the lines. I’d nothing to say.
I didn’t belong up on the sunny land:
No more that spiny fish, my jealousy.
She wept in silence when I turned away.
Ember Days *
Love took possession slowly as disease
And blindness came upon me gradually
As your flaws of complexion and of character
Faded. Not that I replaced them with false images
In my mind. Simply, they were consumed by fever.
So when, on September evenings, I come home,
Light the barbecue, drink wine on the porch,
Waiting for heat to incandesce the grill,
And I miss you – part of a long absence, not knowing
Who is with you or where you are – I can’t say
I deceive myself with an ideal.
The blindness of my love for you is real
As the invisible flame which reduces charcoal
To ember and ash. It seems the barbecue
Burns under my ribs, in lack of you.
My heart raced towards its pounding finish,
My brain light as a cross country skier
On the lunging skis of my body
As it surged up and over the leaps
Between long rhythmic pacing.
Then I lay perfectly still.
I didn’t want to move, but my mind
Went wandering: perhaps a spark
From your inner hearth had passed to me.
Or had it passed from me to you?
Outside I sawed wood for an hour,
Then waxed my skis and set off
On another race. My eyes streamed,
My face glowed under my woollen mask.
Ice breathed into my lungs puffed out in plumes.
At twenty below the spark was still alive,
And when I came back to you it burned
Somewhere deep in me. Our casual kiss
Was of two fires lit from the same brand –
Though now I knew which way the flame leapt first.