Jan De Wilde is a Flemish poet associated with Orpheus Books. His poem ‘Galway’ deals with an intense summer spent in Galway city which he would like to see published in Galway. He writes in Flemish and English. He lives in the city of Gent Belgium.
-for P.H., J.B., & P.M.
And the wide sea,
Memories retrieved into the present,
Gifts to the giver,
The slow tide blackens the stones,
Blackens the mind
Midnight and after,
Her hair in my hands,
A tin whistle’s wail from the shelter
(Memories can be made from less than this)
And the drone of accompanying voices,
We believers among the multitudes
(They were not so many but I remember it so)
The inscriptions of our hearts the gift to be given,
The sense, the living sense of a purpose,
Music an invitation to a dance of the soul in April
As if orphaned from time or were its children
With a better knowledge of the whole.
And the wide sky.
Evenings and mornings under the longitude
And latitude of faith.
The symbols seen everywhere,
The self itself a symbol.
We joyous brothers marching over the lawns of history
Like god’s children with a mission.
The music is still playing,
The wailing attempts harmony
And sometimes achieves it.
The tide washes the stones
And washes my mind constantly
Until I am worn down to a polished pebble
Some mason might choose to work on.
See now the grass before me,
Hear the finch though it is October
And the frost is gathering somewhere against us.
October but the heart is spring,
Ever April in all the implications of a month
So let it be unto this generation.
So let it be in the words of our mouths
And the crash of our hearts on beach-stones.
So let it be when the finch is silent
And the sea is cold. So let it be
In the fire we gather about to share good histories.
So let it be, so let it be:
We are not other than what we remember and carry.
Echo and echo.
Sea’s clack on stones
On the mind twined to the heart.
What do I carry but that music’s wail
And an image of rowan berries.
Such things survive.
I am not other than I: the world
Is not other than the world.
Songs of pilgrim and finch
Burrow with passions within me.
I am here but there. Always there
The past is upon me this October night
Silence and expectation.
Song and the memory of song.
Much is forgiven and much regretted.
Boats are still moored at the quayside –
Will we cast off or remain?
All is other now and elsewhere
But memory is not sterile.
The pilgrims trundle on
The music wails
The shelter is crowded with would-be
See us there in all our expectations
See us as the blessed and chosen.
See us as we saw ourselves
In all the tinselled finery
Before the promise proved to be false
And the prophecies mere wishful thinking.
Yet love remains: for that place
And those brothers. And if much is
Forgotten I no longer know what
Nor suspect an absence in the heart.
There where we gathered they gather yet
But to what purpose o zion, to what?
And if all is other all was other then –
We in the fire without alarm
We children of mirth, bearers of flame.
Beauty, beauty, beauty.
To walk among its residue
To feel the weight of shadows and stones,
To pine, yes pine for absent moonlight.
A young girl grown crone-like
A pibroch over stone and gorse and seaweed
And the sweet invitations
Grown hard and stale like bread in a pantry.
Where are the berries and nuts
Where the sea’s welcome voice
Why is there no music?
Silence, silence, silence.
No bird wings.
It is October
The masons have all retired for winter
Or some longer hibernation.
When will they return
And will there be a returning –
Music and voice over stone and gorse,
Some recapitulation of the light,
Some infinite form of living?
The children sleep and must not be woken
By lamentation. And must not wake
To lamentations of sky and earth
Nor the wailing voices
Of disappointed pilgrims.
Hush, hush now
The night is upon us and we do not sleep.
We wakeful and long enduring.
We among our memories.
We among the residue.
The present is aftermath.
I whittle wood and bone
To shape some thing
That will hold against
How will I know if I succeed?
How will I measure failure?
What will be the difference to my death?
Pibroch of night I sing you.
Night’s calligraphy is a Celtic script
Or manuscript of interlacings
(I wound in my own weavings).
Who guards the islands against the darker
It is as if exile has come upon me
And it has. Old fards of memory
Shuffle towards a pier but
There is no ferry. It is long gone.
Departed or cancelled.
Either way no hope for sailing.
And companions, my captains,
Where are you?
Are you on the boat
Or at the pier?
Why do I not see you?
Are you one of Dante’s many
Or so solitary
That a cloud blocks you from my view?
This pibroch is of absence
And longing. I have longed and long
And on many a night sang the plaintive
Lament. Nothing becomes us like sorrow.
We creatures of memory, we survivors
Alone on an island. We singers
We with no song to sing but the song of night
About us like a shroud.
We shuffling towards the pier
Though the ferry has left without us.
Light on the water’s surface and sheen
(Is it moonlight?
Or are lamps lit on the quays?)
Ripple of water towards wall
And Spanish arch
Towards mind’s awaiting
Towards the present acts of history.
But you would have less than this
To dream your days with?
Light of trawler masts and roof slates.
Light in the fire of the eye of the observing one.
Comely and not cumbersome.
(Perhaps we can read the script they weave).
Wholesome thoughts. A music’s offering
Apt for the dispensation of time.
For arrivals and departures.
For the hesitations and half-beginnings,
For residue and revival.
You there, my brothers my captains,
What are your destinations?
And do you seek companionship?
What may I add to your cargo?
What will I be denuded of in the crossing?
The voyage out contains the voyage home.
All departures are arrivals. Nothing so near
As the next destination,
Nothing the soul knows more of
Than compass and chart,
What are the names of your boats?
Light and water rippling.
Inscriptions on stone
Like a fisherman’s poem of evocation.
As always the islands are calling
As always we are replying.
An oil stain’s rainbow.
A promise and timetable.
From less than these
Chronicles have been composed:
Come, let us compose.
Where are the lovers we sing for?
Who now holds her hair and combs it?
Who separates shadow from form
Word from word’s evocation?
Who are these sailors
And why have they come among us?
And to what purpose?
And with what songs do they come singing
Where their echoes and shadows
Flood the quays in quivering light
Like a tuning fork set ringing?
That note, that light.
Surely this is not exile.
Surely this is more than a temporary destination?
Sure this has some purpose with the light?
Yet if we come seeking shelter
Who will condemn us
And if we are silent then surely
Someone else will sing?
Let us annihilate the annihilations
With a sprig of green in our hands
And a tune on our lips.
Come o brothers my captains
Let us be fruitful unto one another.
Come, share the bronze tinted dream
With those empty of dreams.
Give them flame and song
As it has been given to us
And let there be fruitful discourse
Between shadow and light.
Was it always intended to be so
Or is this a moment’s combustion
Water, shadow, and light compose a dialogue
We should be sailors of
(All be it only in the dreamscape of ourselves).
Water, light, and shadow
Echo and song
Echo of water in the song
Echo of light in water
Shadow because of the light
Darkest where light is brightest
(At the base of the lamp)
Repeating and failing
Folding into itself
The devotees departing
The dream ending again.
Some myth is stirring the earth.
Will we believe it?
Some myth, and not nostalgia
For the debris of the unachieved.
October longs for April
Yet is content to be itself.
Language would be music
We who in these times…..
Who in times past….
Compass, chart, and prophecy.
Seasonal landscape, green and brown.
(Did we find ourselves among such patterns?)
Rhythms of April and August.
Like willing workers in a vineyard.
Loading baskets and wagons.
Apples and pears.
Berries and nuts.
(There was singing in vineyard and field and orchard)
Then relentless October.
The promises not to forget and then the forgetting.
The long wait in the railway station.
The public address occasionally crackling to life.
The wind, the cold wind through the open spaces.
The shunting wagons.
(No singing now)
The shuffling aboard.
The wail of a whistle.
And the last look behind me at the receding city.
Sweepage of leaves.
Rain in the afternoon and children’s voices in the distance.
(Is this the life I have willed?)
And the prancing horses of the constables on their way to the State Funeral.
Monologues to the not forgotten.
Autumn turning to winter.
(The frost gathering somewhere against us)
Rain in the dark afternoon.
(What will we gather against the dark?)
(Or what is it gathers against us when to everything there is a season?)
Come, let us unite against the desolations
And the curlew’s cry.
Let this be more than mason’s madrigal
Or poet’s lamentation.
Come, let us attend the residue about us.
Even this has its cadence.
Hush, the present is aftermath
Though some few apples remain
In the clay dish
Like remnants of flame in bronze saucers
Carried by absent devotees.
Recollection is memorial
Like stones erected at a wayside shrine.
Come, let us remember
Nor fall among the deniers
That such as that summer existed.
Even this has its cadence.
My hand pulses with memory.
My eyes see the loved landscape.
My mind holds those songs
Each of which has its own cadence.
Even in October.
Even unto the solstice fire.
When the winter will turn
And the fire burn to renew.
Foreign coins rattle in my pocket
I am elsewhere
This is memory’s pibroch for the dead.