The Ancestral Pile Revisted

Tim Cunningham
Six years young, hair combed,
Shoes polished, neatly parcelled
And posted from the station,
C.I.E.’s dactyl wheels delivered me,
Second class, to Newcastle West.
Collected then by Tom and plonked
On his cart for the bouncy castle ride
Down rutted boreens he mistook
For Rome’s Circus Maximus,
All the way to my grandmother’s cottage,
My father’s home before ‘the boat’,
Bari’s field hospital and the fresh war grave.
 
Delivered again this morning
In my friend’s Renault Scenic,
No hair left to comb, we followed
The not-quite-straight Sat Nav arrow
Past brown-black bogland, the white
Knuckle roots of upturned trees
And the green lapping waves of ferns
To the familiar, familial name, the hidden 
In time half acre of Ballyloughane.
 
The cottage maintained its mystery,
Refused to reappear from the mist
Like some mythic Brigadoon.
The stepping stones stayed hidden,
Stepping stones between then and now
Across the stream turned intimate Styx.
 
Years have strong fingers.
They stripped the golden thatch,
Stone by stone dismantled
The limewashed home,
Reduced it to rubble. But why
Can’t rubble be a pyramid?
 
Buried there, the evocative turf smoke,
The border collie’s bark, the croak
Of a frog spared from the scythe,
The smell of my grandmother’s daily bread,
Her tearful smile at the half door
Watching me, the shadow of her son, at play.
And, of course, the full moon clock
Ghosting the kitchen wall,
Telling hour and minute but keeping
Its vow to the secrets of time.
 
The speckled choir of thrushes on the rocks
Was pure imagination.
Page 58, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124
Issue 124

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124:

Edited by Eavan Boland

Poetry Ireland Review 124 contains new poems from Paula Meehan, Ciarán O'Rourke, Lizzy Nichols, Mark Ward, Gabriel Rosenstock, Özgecan Kesici, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and many other compelling voices. Also included is Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin's remembrance of her Cork childhood, excerpted from The Vibrant House: Irish Writing and Domestic Space, a book of essays reviewed in issue 124 by Caitríona O'Reilly. Other books considered in this issue include collections from Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Mark Granier, Tara Bergin, The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets, and the Collected Poems of the late Dennis O'Driscoll, and there's also a short interview with Thomas Kinsella along with an essay on Kinsella as poet and civil servant. Another Kinsella is this issue’s Featured Poet, Alice Kinsella, and all artwork for the issue is supplied by artists associated with the Olivier Cornet Gallery on Great Denmark Street, around the corner from Poetry Ireland.

Available now to purchase online or in all good bookstores.