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Eating chips with the saints
AT DOWNPATRICK, NOVEMBER, 1999

O strange animals          At the Abbey Well           Crag Inspector

 

Eating chips with the saints
AT DOWNPATRICK, NOVEMBER 1999

 

        This way to the floodlighting, ladies and gentlemen,

        and this way to the Visitor Centre.

 

The world is collecting its winters and as we pass we collect ours,

floodlit some of them, some gently candle-lit, some fierce with fire,

some hardly visited by light at all.

 

        This way to the illuminating manuscript, ladies and gentlemen,

        and this way to the old plays

 

I am eating chips with the saints after dark,

looking out over a town so lit up it must be someoneís party here every day,

and the noise of traffic is constant, souls on their way.

 

I wonder if soul is renewed like skin, like heart, like other tissues of us

         after crying,

                                  after crawling, laughing, running, thinking, writing,

                                                                      crying,

                                                picking up the loose thread

                                        of soul-stuff.

 

        No-one gets a medal for bringing the festivities around again,

        no command has brought winter on and the need for warmth,

        when it reaches us we sing meaning at it and warm our souls.

 

I am eating chips with the saints after dark,

sitting on the great stone, half-believing conversation is possible,

laying a few chips on this cold stone,

not betting on it but here in the flesh

asking a blessing.

 

Our Lady is taking off with her child on a magic carpet.

Through her lowered eyes she will see

                                        the shipwrightes and fysshers and maryers

acting out the great flood.

                                        She will see the play change and change again,

she will see our world of floodlighting.

 

        This way to the floodlighting, ladies and gentlemen,

        and this way to the walls completed to be lit.

 

I am eating chips with the saints after dark in the roofless world,

at the edge of thought, turning over words.

 

 

David Hart

Commissioned in Millennium year by the Royal Mail for its Christmas stamps presentation pack.

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O strange animals

 

O strange animals

that care in us,

 

strange strong animals

lie waiting for an end in us,

 

oh dry animals

that mourn in us,

 

coiled serpents

are knotted in us,

 

rare butterflies

look for flowers in us,

 

dear dark animals

stretch dying in us,

 

bats fly in circles

in our caves,

 

oh strange animals

heal us.

 

 

David Hart

Published as a poster Waiting Room poem,

in collection, Setting the Poem to Words

Five Seasons Press, 1998, ISBN 0 947960 19 8

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At the Abbey Well

 

Letís meet one evening at the Abbey well,

Iím thinking weíll sing quietly at the Abbey well.

 

A body disintegrates in that silent place,

hear the boneís sharp ring down the Abbey well.

 

There is a man who knows exactly whatís there

or seems to, when itís raining, at the Abbey well.

 

No-one knows a monk who knew a monk who

knew a monk who drank long, at the Abbey well.

 

Natural water with minerals, still , by the bottle,

across borders, in places far flung, from the Abbey well.

 

Hear now the cry of the wounded, stricken hart,

here, here, precisely here, stung, at the Abbey well.

 

David Hart

on display during residency at the Southwell Poetry Festival

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Crag Inspector

                                                         (opening page)

 

                       When the deadó

 

                           When the dead in their nightshirts

  parade before us their unfinished lives

                           and on their long journeys call back,

call back to us night after bleak night,

                           the shadows lit through the windows

  glowing warm must be hallowed

                           with a candle kept lit shaking

and the welcoming hearth fed dried sap.

 

                                          The island is a woman

                 waiting at the edge of the world,

                      the sky is a trowel ready to scoop up soul

                when the woman sings to tell time

                      to give them up.

 

                                                              There is real grass here,

      real sheep, the sky I have known without windows,

                      real clouds, stone walls, a track, a tractor, gates,

  real gulls, real swallows, real rocks, real sea, waves, butterflies,

                           my own heart cranking, my old eyes

   in need of washing, dated dirt on them,

                 real grass, real rocks, real clouds being shaped

        and reshaped, real oystercatchers, real waves,

                           real sheep, real gates, walls, a track. People

 

                                                                    in their flesh walk the island,

  they chat and laugh. They grasp the island with their cameras.

        The stray mongrel that I am inspects crags, sings to himself

  fragments of old tunes and makes up new ones,

        goes back to his hut for tea.

 

 

David Hart

From Crag Inspector, a poem of Bardsey Island, a full length poem published by Five Seasons Press 2002,

ISBN 0 947960 29 5

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