Katherine Duffy is an Irish poet who has published two collections with the Dedalus Press. Her pamphlet, Talking the Owl Away won Templar Poetry’s Iota Shot award in 2018. Recent work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Skylight 47, The Word Ark (Dedalus Press) and Places of Poetry (Oneworld). Website address: www.kateduv.com
Coming down from the Monastery
Seven storeys, then three
hundred odd steps, coming
down through air softly
structured with wild herbs,
knees pulsing, sweat
blessing my back. In the
cliff behind me, faces
of child and mother look
flatly out from their gold
time. I’ve left them, yet
they’re with me; I hold
them like breath as I
come down the track to
the ting of goatbells, sun
resuming duty, the big
blue flaring to the south.
They came here alone
in a boat. They travel
light — small, parched
features a talisman
from tall space.
the rough path absolves
me of thought. I tread,
breathe, and they keep up.
Look up and count the ruined towers
on the ridge above the Chora of Amorgos,
the wind their lover no longer. Now
it works with time and salt to bring them
down. We’ve been up there and know just how
ferociously it can batter and claw. Eleven.
Most are raddled; two still have some shreds
of sail. One shows signs of being restored:
a single glazed window, a clunky roof,
the makings of a bijou dwelling,
I wonder if the secrets of grain still
circle in their gapped and stony minds.
The miller kept ten per cent for himself
or sold it to the bakery. The remainder
was taken back to the houses. Eleven
patient shapes. What sustains
the islanders nowadays is something other than
flour, pouring with the sun through their fingers.
At dusk, in this village,
men beat squid on stone.
Tourists slowly obliterate
the rampant colours of cocktails.
Boats stink, and breathe,
soft as pets, by the pier.
At nightfall, this village
heaps offerings of light
against the mountains’ blindness.
Home, shop, disco-bar, each
donates its own extraordinary glow
livid as fish-flesh
about to rot.
Now this village glitters, wears
the wink of landed scales.
Dolphins! The cry went up.
Strangers gripped each other’s wrists.
Songs occurred to the musician on board.
Brass sparked in the hazel eyes
of the moustached hotelier.
Dolphins! The air was bright
with significance. They raced our ferry,
their every leap a slick epiphany.
Even the Greeks had shaken off
the beginnings of siesta, like salty drops,
and were ushering their children from the pullman lounge
to see the dolphins. Delfinia!
the air festooned with imagined
smiles, vanished smiles.
Poetry in this post: © Katherine Duffy
Published with the permission of Katherine Duffy