Be Adept and Be Dialect

I stood between them,
the one with his travelled intelligence
and tawny containment,
his speech like the twang of a bowstring,

and another, unshorn and bewildered
in the tubs of his wellingtons,
smiling at me for help,
faced with this stranger I’d brought him.

Then a cunning middle voice
came out of the field across the road
saying, ‘Be adept and be dialect,
tell of this wind coming past the zinc hut,

call me sweetbriar after the rain
or snowberries cooled in the fog.
But love the cut of this travelled one
and call me also the cornfield of Boaz.

Go beyond what’s reliable
in all that keeps pleading and pleading,
these eyes and puddles and stones,
and recollect how bold you were

when I visited you first
with departures you cannot go back on.’
A chaffinch flicked from an ash and next thing
I found myself driving the stranger

through my own country, adept
at dialect, reciting my pride
in all that I knew, that began to make strange
at that same recitation.

Seamus Heaney, April 13, 1939- August 30, 2013. ‘Making Strange,’ in Station Island.

Memory eternal.

Theories of Time and Space

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion- dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stiches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on the mangrove swamp- buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry- tome of memory,
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you will board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph- who you were-
will be waiting when you return.

Natasha Trethewey, ‘Theories of Time and Space,’ in Native Guard: Poems, 2006.

These Low, Old Places

The ceilings are five feet high, house crowded
by history and rotting rafters he’ll have to tear out-
the tall, young man who just bought it.
Beside a stooped old apple
(too long un-pruned to be bowed by fruit),
while the day backs down
behind the ridge, he makes plans.
He wonders, for a moment, what it would have been
like to be born here, though he is hearing
the answer when peepers in the boggy places below
send up their little staggered songs
and let them fall down. If you have had
spring evenings, then you know
how it has always been here: Love always shot
with the feeling this is the last of it.
Always told to outgrow
the mountains that would block your view,
these serious, sad playhouses, these low, old places
where you want to hunker, where you can’t
stand up straight.

Rose McLarney, ‘Living Up,’ in The Always Broken Plates of Mountains (New York: Four Ways Books, 2012).