In The Burren

Here one could grow old listening for
the trickle of a speck off a capstone.
The Neolithic, snug beyond memory,
yields to a dominion of fern,
gem lizard, and gentiana verna;
the walls running over the hills
are methods of lost madness -
a time gauze over the eternal.

We, who shun the aerosol
buoyant above the lobster-pot,
whose hypothesis of solitude
feels the campsite near the cliff
like a blue and orange wound,
go peering into chinks and crevices,
straining away from recollection. 
Precision of flora, inchoate bird.

But the wheat ear flits away before us,
because the scree is teeming 
with our dream companions,
their maps, their blank-verse voices,
their quaint antiquarian speculations,
and suddenly the nacreous horizon 
is drowned in the sepia shades
of plates from old topographies.

So even the naturalist turns mythologist.
I conjure dreams of a balmy climate here,
the pinscreams of mosquitoes 
by the orthostat, the night jar's reel,
St. Patrick's dust-blown gown, his Arab stare,
and that frantic rustling in the scrub,
that flash of scale, as grass snake and adder
wound down to die in a tepid sea.

But Cromwell could not complete the job
the Gaul began, and today's tourists
are happy to omit what he could not find:
the gibbet, fresh water, the grave
and Protestant polity - I am
neither gentleman nor pagan;
the Gulf Stream pushes insistently
with its doubt, its damp, its moderation.

I can only become the thing I look for,
an image of these warped dwarf thorns,
wintering with the merlin, knowing the rock
and the seasons of this rocky place
until I earn the right to turn in fear
and hobble away into the interior
when spring brings the first tripper
yawning and stretching near his caravan.

Shunning story, to become story!
A dream figure glimpsed now and again,
an odd rumour of the credulous,
my tattered anorak a parody
of Crusoe's prudish goatskin, a castaway
who never bothered to salvage his past -
I need only my scant secrets:
precision of flora, inchoate bird.
Page 69, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 14