Ghost Train

By David Jordan

The carriage rocks you into a semi trance.

Everywhere you look there is a reflected countenance.

Across the aisle a mother and child

Play pen and paper games

With subdued voices.

A man drinks beer from a can stoically.

Strangers exchange non-committal words

And glances.

 

Then the darkness descends outside,

Bringing with it a feeling of dislocation

But also solidarity

As we are visited by the ghost, Society.

 

When we arrive our brief companionship

Is broken up with polite smiles and

Valedictions.

Society disappears once it has done its task:

To keep the darkness out,

Defeat the monster in the glass.

reflection-in-train-window

Castle Freke

By David Jordan

The sky was on fire.

The sea, monstrous

As we walked on the hazardous

Roof of the old Big House.

I was high on destiny.

 

Night fall, full of fear,

We left the fire to commune

With ghosts in the pitch black

Rooms and corridors.

 

Someday, if we ever return,

We will look for ghosts of ourselves.

We will stop and listen for footsteps

And voices

And we will watch for figments of lighter

Flame in the darkness.

 

For who can deny the sweets of memory?

It is easier to deny the raging sky

And the ravenous sea.

castlefreke

The Wife’s Tale by Seamus Heaney

This is one of my favourite Seamus Heaney poems. It’s from his 1969 seamus_heaney_in_the_studio_with_his_portrait_by_colin_davidsoncollection, Door into the Dark. I think the key to understanding the poem is the Eleusian mysteries practised by the ancient Greeks. The man in the poem is basically giving the role of the corn goddess, Demeter, to the woman, though she doesn’t know it. It’s a measure of how much he loves her but she is mystified.

I think a knowledge of the Classics helps to understand much of Heaney’s poetry.

The Wife’s Tale

By Seamus Heaney

When I had spread it all on linen cloth
Under the hedge, I called them over.
The hum and gulp of the thresher ran down
And the big belt slewed to a standstill, straw
Hanging undelivered in the jaws.
There was such quiet that I heard their boots
Crunching the stubble twenty yards away.

He lay down and said, ‘Give these fellows theirs,
I’m in no hurry,’ plucking grass in handfuls
And tossing it in the air. ‘That looks well.’
(He nodded at my white cloth on the grass.)
‘I declare a woman could lay out a field
Though boys like us have little call for cloths.’
He winked, then watched me as I poured a cup
And buttered the thick slices that he likes.
‘It’s threshing better than I thought, and mid
It’s good clean seed. Away over there and look.’
Always this inspection has to be made
Even when I don’t know what to look for.

But I ran my hand in the half-filled bags
Hooked to the slots. It was hard as shot,
Innumerable and cool. The bags gaped
Where the chutes ran back to the stilled drum
And forks were stuck at angles in the ground
As javelins might mark lost battlefields.
I moved between them back across the stubble.

They lay in the ring of their own crusts and dregs,
Smoking and saying nothing. ‘There’s good yield,
Isn’t there?’ –as proud as if he were the land itself–
‘Enough for crushing and sowing both.’
And that was it. I’d come and he had shown me,
So I belonged no further to the work.
I gathered cups and folded up the cloth
And went. But they still kept their ease,
Spread out, unbuttoned, grateful, under the trees.