The Big House
Spring draws archival colors, brief and brittle
as celluloid, its technicolor process
too early for man, too late for a bright rebuttal,
along dirt roads, easing out travellers’ faces.
Love swings in gates, shines in new coats of white,
tuning up breezes, whistling branches and collars,
lighting out birds, examining concrete
as far as the eye can see, exploding flowers.
Bringing petitions for a timely pardon,
willing to go on record if it might save,
only true love can influence the warden.
‘I’m giving the orders now. We’re crashing out.’
Living the rest of my days the way he might have,
out of the prison now, I’ll write about it.
Why must you pace like that? You’ll wreck the place
and I won’t clean it this time. You’ll have to.
This is the ghost then, which we always joked
in bed would come to haunt one of us. You —
you haven’t really got it all together
and seem to have fallen into a deep funk
between the Coleridge and the china.
When I left here you said you had a plan,
you’d reached a new conception of your work,
but it’s amazing how things never change.
The furniture is still where I arranged it.
I see us squirming in that one small room,
you working just as when I last rolled over.
Why is it we could never get along?
You always said you’d change if I would change.
But nothing has changed. Does the island change?
Stop pulling faces. Quit your carrying on
like Lon Chaney Sr. or John Barrymore —
wanting your orange juice served to you just so
or quiet while you look over the mail.
Granted you loved me more than anyone.
In a strange country, there is only one
Who knows his true name and could turn him in.
But she, whose father too was charged with murder
And, innocent, went to the electric chair,
Believes in him, convinces him to trust.
It is the tropics where they make their tryst.
They sip refreshing drinks beside a terraced
Pool where he is thought to be a tourist.
To clear his name, and find who killed his pal,
In a dark passage he finds hope and will.
What once had seemed exotic now seems near
Because he wished to be her prisoner.
The flier, at the Wicklow manor,
Stayed throughout the spring and summer,
Mending autos in the drive,
Reprising time-old moods of love
In the limbs of country lasses
Who wondered where he gave his kisses.
Expert at geography
And mathematic, for no fee
He made the summer days pass faster
And taught them how to see the pasture
With their own eyes. The books he read,
Handled till their cloth was frayed,
Years afterwards upon their shelves
Lay early, central to their lives.