I honestly thought that the subject of this poem belonged to an Ireland that had passed. I was conscious of the fact that it described a state of affairs unrecognizable to an increasing number of readers, and like most people, believed that Ireland's affluence was here to stay. It’s a poem I felt achieved what was intended, but was past its time.
Who could have guessed that the country would return in a flash to days of high emigration, high unemployment, inflation, lowered wages, and empty houses.
It may not be as bleak in today's rural Ireland as the poem describes, after all we're falling from a richer place, but it is the 2011 version of same and I no longer believe the poem has lost its relevance.
Inheriting The Land.
Here the sea is no more than a sigh in a shell,
conversations speed past, pole high, Dublin to Galway
and music is the wind whistling beneath a door.
Slightness describes Summer's step,
stonework its skies; a little light drips
from its edges but it's falling from a miser's hand.
Across the fields the church, within its necklace
of dead congregations, is a rusty hinge;
a place filled with a century's stillness.
And the ivy-choked trees lean closer together
like old men guessing at each others' words.
If you were to fly over these patchwork hills,
along the hedgerows and through the lightless haggards,
you'd never meet a soul. The old farmers are sitting
in their twilight kitchens, their families standing
on the mantelpiece in the other room that's never used
with faces tanned beneath American skies.
Only the din of crows seeps into that silence;
crows more numerous than leaves on the sycamores,
always bickering, hogging the light,
building their cities, staking their inheritance.