I root my fingers, burying them back and down.
A twist into black, acidic soil,
deeper than anything man-made.

I push to the graves of the lake families,
generations who lived and died by the water.

I pay my respects in the only way I know,
by kneeling in the sodden earth
and sinking parts of me towards parts of them.

I do what no record does and remember their passing,
their assimilation back to the land.

I want them to teach me how to inhabit this place,
to reanimate and diffuse their knowledge into my urban bones,
our times merging under a canopy of living skin.


What Has My Body Done

As much as the tree shares bark and branch,
the sky was promised leaves.

As much as the lake can’t count itself in fish,
but mutely panics into a river.

Have you ever watched a magpie gut a field mouse?

Witnessed it slink threat-like from rushes
with a small body pierced in its thick black beak,

all brightness pulled out, picked over
like the ransacked contents of a jewellery box,

sifted until the thief can raise its head, satisfied
with a mouth full of still-warm heart.

When she turns her face towards you,
the half-moon of her silhouette backlit by late October,
she asks “what is god, Mammy?”

Quick as a tongue against teeth
with words that sound like they are all thought
you crouch, turn her to the view,

the red lemonade leaves of the Cherry Blossom,
dripping silver of the Birch peeking through moss.
You tell her to look and with eyes so like yours, she looks.

You say “my god is the trees and the breeze.”
At two, she knows both tangibles, has understood
your idea of god against the soft peach of her cheek,

her baby chin, her tongue in the rain falling,
wind on that sliver of skin where her wool hat fails to kiss her eyebrows,
how air teases fingers poking from pink sleeves,
too busy to keep their gloves.

She counts and stores in her mind
all the parts of your god that are hers,
the mess of Cherry Blossoms by the gate,
her big curving Birch with the fairy door healed into the bark.

She has walked the tiny stone path of the fairies to that tree’s base,
laid her palm flat on the trunk to read the story of the knots.
She tells us how butterflies visit its mossy coat for their dinner,

knows that trusting the tree with the press of her hands will steady her,
that she can stretch up from her feet,
let her spine and head tilt back
and between the strength of Birch and the dark Spiddal soil,

she is safe to raise her face and peer up
through the offset rungs of branches to see her world
mapped in clouds that linger in the cold Connemara sky.

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Liz Quirke
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