Three poems by Patrick Deeley

Precursor

Tetrapod hardly covers it, old boy or girl coming out
of the sea. Tetrapod, four-foot, accurate
but basic as the mud in my mind’s eye you’re treading.
Amphibian then, since you take a fresh element,
the shelf of land, cumbersomely on, all to do
in your warty green skin. Newt might fit, or giant newt,
as you lay down a track-way of footprints
that – fossilised – will size you up, one metre in length
from snout to tip of frill-fringed tail. Behind you
the sound of breaking waves we may – even
at this remove – construe as lonesome,
or attempt pathos by describing how they overwhelm
residual drag-marks of the tail itself, but you
in your stolid progression are busy still, flicking the air
with your tongue, tasting its potential.
Then you’ve gone, wisps of dust covering all trace, slow
petrifaction come to pass, tectonic plates
shifting until there’s us today boarding the ferry
to Valentia Island and the naming of you as precursor,
first land animal, your little fossilised amble
ended abruptly where a cleft in rock strikes water
and we dance and dabble our feet in a shallow streamlet
sliding shallowly across, linking and fructifying everything.

(previously published in The Lighter Craft: A Festschrift for Peter Denman)

 
 
“But Still It Moves.”

Still it moves, Galileo, the world, the universe, the million “>million
million million million miles of observational space;
still expanding, Ed Hubble says, and still
we imagine we are the life and soul, the one sentient hub
of the place. Still we look up, look anew –
of a day to read the weather, of a night to lose ourselves
in the hush that spreads over us, call it
wonderment waiting to be met. A giant tortoise serving
as a griddle for the flat plate of the earth –
not even as children did we fancy there was that.
But Ptolemy we could picture – in our gripping of stars
and planets each to its approved spot
on classroom walls with blue-tack, or in the hoodwink
of the heavens as undeviating before we learned
how Copernicus had run all those circles
in orderly courses about the sun. You, then, never allowed
out again because you dared to let unwelcome truths
in, still Jupiter juggles its moons just as you
saw them, still the dance continues after you’ve gone,
after Newton’s apple hasn’t clocked him
on the head, merely occasioned his notions about gravity,
after Einstein has theorised on what ‘speed’
can mean and ‘spacetime’ do, after Hawking and co
envisage tying together the job lot, huge
with miniscule, while stirring string theory
into the cosmological pot. Meanwhile, for me, this night
waits to be taken to bed – maybe I’ll dream
the twelve-ton ‘Leviathan of Parsonstown’ I saw today
and whose cooped pine boards painted black
set me thinking of a barrel to beat all barrels, our very own
island’s once-upon-a-time world’s biggest telescope,
how it bulges at the middle as though
it’s gulped a deep draught of space; either way the heavens
shift – admittedly no longer reflected
through our redundant Leviathan’s speculum metal eye –
the sky adheres to its constantly changing order
and that faraway look we feel we inherit or are given to
holds us fervent, tranquil while the weight
of the world and its troubles in our watching seems to lift.

(previously published in The Lighter Craft: A Festschrift for Peter Denman)
 
 
The Trails They Leave

The wasp, the honeybee, investigators of leaves
and flower heads, all riffle and proboscis,
translating everything they take into their own
sustenance, are prescribed in this, survival
an instinct, not a concern, but the trails they leave,
the flightlines they weave, make for ghosts
we would trace, if we could, back through the air,
much as we would trace the calls of birds
and beasts, the growths of trees, the sunbeams,
evaporations of rivers and seas, the world
in its raptures and griefs, the spirals it perpetuates –
as so many spins, so many wheels, spooled
back to us through the twists and turns
of the thoughts by which we find them sensible.
 
 
Patrick Deeley is a native of County Galway in the west of Ireland. His poems have appeared widely in literary outlets over many years and been translated to French, Italian and other languages. His most recent awards include The Dermot Healy International Poetry Award. Groundswell: New and Selected Poems, the latest of his six collections with Dedalus Press, was published in 2013. He has also written fiction for younger readers, and his memoir, The Hurley-Maker’s Son, is due for publication next year.