Nightingales and Crows

By
Sam Burnside
1 January, 2007
(from a suggestion made by Bronagh)


A comfortable gathering on this first day
Of this new New Year that has fallen upon us:
An unusual coitus of friends and relations, gathered
At the big table, dining off Granny’s duck soup,
Off the cheese and bread, off her home-baked mince pies;
The wine bottle, waved seductively (yet discreetly)
By Grandpapa, now disrobed down to black tee-shirt.
(Dishabille, as he might have it…)

The ebbs and flows of conversations become
Tangled and mellow and emollient, dissolving into
A Finnegan’s Wake
Of lyrically painted pools and pots of piss and shit,
Of caked dunghills and rutted green middens.
Casual talk of Sligo, comparing schools in Dublin,
Throw-away remarks about eating-houses
In London, in San Francisco in Cape Town; then,
Talk of the black townships, of Archbishop Tu Tu; and then,
The Doherty tribes and their nickname; then, Scalp Mountain
And a painting of Burnfoot, given as a gift.
This brings us back home. Then coffee. Then, more talk,
This time
To how a dead friend’s fence was cut and mended in the night,
Of Raython inhibitors, and such things, Ireland’s change
Of railways and roads
In the 60’s and Ulster Buses, and cases loaded
Step by step
Up ladders
And then,
Suddenly,
It is over,
We scatter,
Like leaves on the wind.

There are no horses loose among the apple trees
On this black winter evening,
Only shadows on the walls of the tigeen, as we pass
(A murder of Crows, a watch of Nightingales
in Ballyshaskey)
So, we leave, well-set-up
For the long haul,
For the unfolding,
For the mystery,
Of another year.