Literary Orphans

Three Irish Form Poems
by Paul Brooke

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Singing from the Ground

—a Droighneach, an Irish form—

 

The farmhands gather to eat and all seem delighted;

harvest of the dried corn is done in the bottomland,
And I’m struck by a guth or a puth of tobacco.

Both seem to hold memories of Ireland.

 

I’ve forgotten most of the language, most everything,

but there sings from this ground a rún, a harvestmoon,

gallagh-gunley, spreading its shape across stubble fields,

across streams, and across the sea.  The harvestmoon

 

once brightened the heather fields of my ancestors,

moonlight poured on their backs as they sheepherded

near craggy bluffs.  That same moon is out, shimmering

on us; the men finish supper, and they realize

 

they must gather the rest of the crop, combining

before gushing rains muddy the fields, rendering

them impassable.  I reap all night, imagining

mounds of grain, dreaming of my farming ancestry.

 

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Falconry
—a séadna, an Irish form—

 

Flying berkuts, Mongols hunted

hundred-pound wolves.  Kubla Khan

kept hundreds of falcons,   Britain’s

hawks sinned, herons mostly slain.

 

Falconers now seek a balance

between hunger and the need

to overpower, no longer

misreading nature.  I feed

 

my young; I do not slay simply

to slay.  I begin with a cling

to the aerie, where the tiny

fledgling can be found, its wings

 

not ready.  Hours of training—

teaching the eyas the hand—

are spent every day; wisely,

I find only fresh game and

 

choice meats.  When full grown, the rufter’s

rehood and the jesses tied.

The lure is then twirled and lengthened;

I slide off hood, let her glide

 

flat, then she rises; she’s scanning

sky.  She feels a thousand eyes

sweeping over her; there’s terror

inside her turn of wings.  I

 

read the writing, these blue pages

of pursuit, scripture etched by

talons; this raptured crowd allured

by style, culture, and reigned flight.

 

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Monet’s Water Gardeners

—a rannaicheacht ghairid, an Irish form—

 

his lilies

wait inside to miss the freeze

in black bags in the basement,

clipped and bent, anxious to squeeze

 

up tendrils

of stalks and dozens of thrills

for the water gardener

whose age has whittled his skill

 

he’d go wading,

preening each plant: removing

brown growth, deadheading spent blooms,

dusting luminous, stunning

 

even him-

self with the results.  those whims

had to end.  the gardener

remembers Monet, the brim

 

of his wide

hat nodding on the bankside,

as he prepared his brushes

and his crushed paints.  the boat slides

 

by,  Monet’s

pond workers stop for the day;

the boat is crammed with offal,

beautiful lily rafts sway.

 

the water

gardener sadly ponders

the scene.  the leaves are decayed

and yellowed.  the flowers are

 

brown corpses,

floating face down,  his senses

cannot ignore the eyesores,

the deformed look of lilies.

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Paul Brooke’s poetry has been published internationally in Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, and England in The Brobdingdagian Times, Litspeak, Magma, and Takahe, respectively.  In the United States, his work has been featured in such journals as the North American Review, Rocky Mountain Review, Flyway, International Poetry Review, Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing, and the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature and the Environment. He is the author of three books including Light and Matter, Mediations on Egrets, and Sirens and Seriemas (to be released in 2014 by Brambleby Books).  Brooke is a mix of English, Irish, and Swedish blood and his grandmother, Geraldine O’Connor, was an inspiration to his life and his writing.

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–Art by Sarah Hardy