for Paddy Flatley
Was almost my life since I’d seen him last: How old are you Paddy? I said.
I’m ninety-two or ninety-four — my death must soon be upon me.
Like that he squared with truth and laughed. He sang a drinking song,
A praising of a man-made well on the mountain, a condensation in the glass,
Though the cup and mouth had been supplanted by catheters and tubes,
The wee drop more basic as it dripped above his head, but in his mind
Nothing had surrendered, only life retreated from his bony legs and hands
For a final loiter in the eyes: ninety-three years’ harmonious commerce
Assembled at the gates to find the hidden still in things.
He left in 1925 the plain of yews County Mayo
For the grave works under Manhattan digging the Hudson Tubes.
Was cold and frightening down there, Paddy said, nothing like . . .
The dark lids close at dawn. . . . He passed and was buried,
He’ll live on through eleven children and grandchildren fivefold of that.
Your blood’s drawn round one last time though in you the course it kept
Has changed: now the morning dew evaporates along the blades.
I filed by and let go the flower — remember my first visit:
Who’s this now? an Irish question’s lilting song. I said Paddy, I’m Patrick too.
Elegy is an Act of Defiance
Like the green water that briefly shows clear
As it rushes over the lip of the spillway . . .
To each a glint, a flash, the miraculous disclosure,
While we merge headlong into memory.
And yet I stand here before you today,
An old oak, persistent as arthritis:
Elegy is an act of defiance.
There are obelisks on the edge of town,
Granite angels dissolving and forlorn —
So much sentimental clutter, a waste
Of arable land. I could never stand
That weary trope memento mori, as if Icarus
Needed to be reminded about gravity.
You’d think to live this long means mainly to recall,
But every new prospect compels the mind to more —
Swans, like limousines, pull away from shore.