Since the trouble with his heart
she tries to keep him in
but before the breakfast tea is cold,
he shrugs on his coat,
lifts his cap, blackthorn stick
and heads out across the fields
to count cattle and sheep
check how far the flood has risen,
break ice for cows at the pond.
There’s not a pick on him;
he feels every breeze like the beech
that shelter Rooney’s field
but he will not wear the scarf
or gloves she offers daily.
Back in the kitchen for a fry,
he warms his cheek against hers,
shows her his hands,
thick as fencing stakes, swollen,
purple with the cold. Laughing, he asks
did you ever see such shovels?
(published in The North, No 50, 2013)
Stopping by his jacket
on a hook at the end of the dresser,
she breathes him in,
cigarettes, silage and brylcreem.
She touches rough tweed,
worn collar and cuffs,
pocketed coins, hay seeds
and the cold steel
of his bone-handled penknife.
She recalls mornings in fields
white with hoar frost, when the heat
between them would thaw the frozen pond.
He’d cut dark twine, shake out bales
in slivers of warmth for breathing clouds
of Friesians, circled round, waiting.
When the children came, he stayed longer
outside, always a lamb or a calf to mind,
a fallen wall that needed him.
(published in The North, No. 50, 2013)
The shrunken turlough
mirrors bare trees,
frosted fields, a quiet sky.
We fork silage, heave out
oats and barley to curly headed
yearlings in breath-filled sheds.
A ewe in-lamb is stranded
on her back. With a pull
to her foot she is up
before jackdaws peck out her eyes.
We talk about the land,
the ditches he dug out
in the fifties, gorse bushes
he burned in the sixties,
hedgerows he was paid for
in the nineties. He clambers
slow over the gate.
I see his sunken cheeks
and remember other mornings
herding, reaching up,
carry me Daddy.
(published in The Stony Thursday Book, No.6, Autumn 2007)
Originally from a farm in the west of Ireland, Jane Clarke now lives in Co. Wicklow. Her work is widely published, including in The Rialto, The North, Poetry Wales, Ambit, The Stinging Fly, The SHop and Southword, among other places. She has won or been placed in a number of competitions and was shortlisted for, among other prizes, the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition 2013, the Hennessy New Irish Writing Literary Awards 2013, the Hippocrates Prize (2013). She is currently completing her first collection.