On Hearing the Chieftains

Of means to veil
war’s bloodied pasture,
the harp is most holy,
unwound from a young
girl’s sleep in a
dream of water rising.
The bodhran’s distant
thunder, like a storm.

deep in our veins, draws
grass of April tresses
on a much-trod precipice
where the love of decent
men settles forever, a
dust. Song binds a youth

to the sky that chooses
him from afar in cries
of dread and hypothesis,
describes a scale weighted
and cruel, a balance of
so mean a death and music
summoned from pipes and

flute, both weapons of
desire to pierce the heart.
A woman without age,
traced by the bow and
ankled in dew, pinches
night’s hem with her finger,
gives voice to the fiddler’s
vision of the moon. What

ghost in her needs dance
I cannot tell. Dawn hesitates,
a morn too shining, while
her hand, a wind in the
rushes, caresses the night.
The melody haunts like
this: a kindled blood’s

invention whose stars
configured and moist, ebbed
in time’s pulsating hue, rhyme
sad for a mother’s lost
children, their names
consumed in a hearth’s
enraptured flame.

(for Gerard Dion and Sharon FitzSimon)

(from the book "Corkscrew")