Thérèse and the Jug

Harry Clifton

    Marriage is the monastery of our time
        –Leonard Cohen


She liked the jug, because it was cracked.
If it had a flaw
It was perfect. Under God’s law
It was made whole by what it lacked –

Or so you tell me, matter of fact,
As you water a whiskey
Last thing at night, or sweeten Darjeeling tea
With the milk and honey of tact.

How many decades now
Since we entered the enclosed order
Of ourselves, to raid and replenish the larder
Of imperishables? The marriage vow

Grown ordinary, seems to keep house
And break bread with us, through and through,
At communal vespers for two
Like a hidden spirit. Patient Thérèse,

Our patron saint of the infinitely small,
Examines the wedding plunder, stainless steel,
Anything bedsheets might reveal
The morning after ... Total recall,

If it ever came, would be shattering as a mirror
We stand before daily,
Man and wife, success and failure –
Childless love, imperfect as a marriage

Or that fissured jug, its flaw that integrates
A world around it, so you say,
A world left behind, for the Little Way
Of ovulins and fetherlites.

Page 17, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 123
Issue 123

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 123:

Edited by Eavan Boland

Among the poets offering new work in the final Poetry Ireland Review of 2017 are Orla Martin, Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Harry Clifton,  Erin Halliday, Alan Titley, and Nan Cohen, while the Featured Poet is Belfast sensation Stephen Sexton. The books reviewed in this issue include new titles from Michael O'Loughlin, the late John  Montague, Biddy Jenkinson, Aifric Mac Aodha, Mark Roper, and Colette Bryce's Selected Poems.  Also included is editor Eavan Boland's examination of the life and work of the late John Ashbery, and the reasons for his pre-eminence among American poets of his century; and an evocative tribute to the late Gerard Fanning from his friend Gerard Smyth. The artwork for PIR 123 comes from the SO Fine Art Editions gallery, and the issue concludes with nine intriguing questions for Michael Longley, posed by fellow Belfast poets Stephen Connolly and Stephen Sexton – followed, of course, by nine intriguing answers.