Mark Hart’s first collection, Boy Singing to Cattle (Pearl Editions, 2013), won the Pearl Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award. His poetry has appeared in Atlanta Review, Chautauqua, RATTLE, The Evansville Review, Tar River Poetry, The Spoon River Poetry Review and numerous other journals. Raised on a wheat farm in the Palouse region of eastern Washington State, he now lives in an apple orchard in western Massachusetts. He works as a psychotherapist in private practice, a Buddhist teacher, and a religious advisor at Amherst College.
A cauldron of youth crammed in a rental car
has brewed up something sure to cast off gloom—
At a Burren viewpoint meaning withered stump,
three Aussie lads climb the stone wall laughing,
then strip to the buff to savor the valley below.
I guess this is how they want to see Ireland—
or Ireland see them—unfurled in all their glory
on this glorious March morning flush with sun.
What a fine elixir, indecency, as I watch
them peel off their sense of propriety
to stand in a sensual garden of bare skin,
the elemental Eden of sunshine and breeze.
But just as they decide they all want photos
a tour bus starts to wend its way up the grade.
I fumble four cameras, pretending to rush,
for I quite enjoy them feeling exposed up there
as their surge of vernal shamelessness subsides.
While limbs and trunks are shining smooth and white
I think of birches—not yet withered—and druids,
their reverence for trees, and how these three,
a green and lively grove, have consecrated the day .
St. Ciaran’s Stag
The stag thinks of his thousand mad ruttings—
and the letdown after. The ill-tempered strut,
head slammed against a brother’s skull.
A Great Male, magnificent rack
held high, nostrils flared. A specimen,
a trophy for some other Great Male.
How lonely. And here is this young saint
who has cast off lust like a useless rag,
done with the boasting of heroes.
Didn’t Plato say that strength and valor
are by nature subordinate to wisdom?
Or should we read that as simply a noble lie?
In this tale, the king of the northern forest
brings his head low in peaceful surrender,
his antlers a lectern for the holy books.
And we picture Ciaran, wholly engrossed
in his outdoor office, receiving this offering
gratefully, without the slightest surprise.
–The Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry
That whale of a peninsula,
where land risks a foray into ocean
never far from the agitation of waves,
where mountains arch their backs
above the wild Atlantic,
horizons dissolve in the mist.
In the pub, on the street corner,
purling streams of Irish
still managing to thrive—
its upstream-swimming Gaelic culture
pressed against the sea.
I drive out and out
to where it all seems exposed,
where the salt breeze tussles my hair,
far from home, yet home.
The land puts its mark on me,
the boundary here vague
between earth and heaven,
Saint Brendan forever setting out
with his faithful crew and currach
into that dazzle of salty beyond,
his paradise perhaps just a little bit
farther than I can see.