Two Poems

John F. Deane

RainbowAlready another yearis touching on high tide; windshave been raising waves across the swollen meadow,clouds grey and white and grey againbunch up, like summer crowds on the slow roadhome from the shore. Joy made covenant with methese decades back, days on the riverbankwhen trout responded to stick, twine and pin,with woodbine fragrant after rain. I ran then, laughing,from the scuttling forays of the whitefarmyard geese. These later times I might expecta flood of huge proportions, to purge us of the wars we wageon the good earth, who have grown smartwith chemicals and missiles, though we hold to prayerthat love’s unfaltering generosity might keep us safe—as Noahand the remnants of all fleshstood out one dawn on washed ground, smeltthe fragrance of woodbine after rain, and saw lovelight up againin all her promisethe dreary undersides of the clouds.Fly-TyingI watched him, hooked over the kitchen table,          the instruments of his heart’s desireranged before him: tweezers, dubbin, vise;          materials—feathers, threads, fluffs and beads;such colours, amaranth, saffron, taupe;          the delicacy, like down of thistle, like catkin-milt;the hidden hooks, to dazzle a watery eye, and all          worked between thick and nicotine-stained fingers.He opened out his folding wallet, his treasury of flies,          richness beyond delight, all beautiful and murderous.I, too, inveigled, though on a lesser scale, in my way           was searching the world’s presence for its pulse and throb;the vegetable garden, after rain, yielded its lush          pink-red worms I gathered in to his old tobacco tin.Dusk, and he was wading into the lake, he curled          the fleshly-coloured line onto the water, the chosen fliesvivid as if they lived. I, with stump-rod, twine and worm          sat by the river pool, watched the cork, dreamedand—impatient at his patience—slapped at midges.          Who has long gone into the anima mundi, restfor the soul, the spirit-wallet filled with all good things,          peace for the flesh from the flesh’s urge, to be and to bemore than it may be here: clay, and thread, bright          gaud and hook, and subsequent disappointment.

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John F. Deane was born on Achill Island in 1943. He founded Poetry Ireland—the National Poetry Society—and The Poetry Ireland Review in 1978, and is the founder of The Dedalus Press, of which he was editor from 1985 until 2006. He is the recipient of the O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry and the Marten Toonder Award for Literature. A member of Aosdána, Deane was elected Secretary-General of the European Academy of Poetry in 1996, and in 2007 he was made Chevalier en l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the French government.

Dear Pilgrims is rich in incident and in redemption. In a decisively secular age, Deane’s is a poetry of Christian belief. It explores renewal, alive with and to the kinds of witness he has learned from George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins and R.S. Thomas. His ‘I’, like theirs, makes space for a reluctant ‘us’.Dear Pilgrims includes actual pilgrimages. The poet moves through England (East Anglia in particular), Israel and Palestine, disclosing a ‘new testament’ that revisions the Christian faith through the eyes of an unknown female disciple of Christ. He vividly adapts the Middle English poem Pearl and realises it for our time. He is also a master of the sonnet as an instrument of love, doubt and faith.

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