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Witness by Heather Brett, Irish Poet, Writer and Editor
Heather Brett is an important contemporary Irish poet. “Witness” is an absorbing fourth collection where the everyday is raised to a higher plane and skilfully interspersed with a variety of tone and pace. Brett’s “Witness” is poetry of resilience and endurance to outshine the darkness.
‘In something approaching alchemy, her unflinching eye weaves personal tragedy with the intimacies and scale of nature in such a way that it brings a measure of peace and can be borne.’
for Anne Marie
Bay-willow on the turn;
the leaves levitate
ablaze within their redness:
the flowers spent, soft pods split,
yield a froth of silk to whiteness,
to tiny spiders,
to the sharpening wind.
I take my grief to the stones,
lay down my sorrow on timeless grass
ease this weight of loss;
address the leaves in the listening trees,
submit to the waiting green,
enfold a shadowed expanse of sky,
burrow, in cool and porous rock.
Stone remembers: holds tight within
the scent of coming rain,
the frivolous and fickle winds
layer after layer laid, bone on shell on skin:
Fireweed and forest: longing, loss and give
cellular ages of existence
under a ceaseless and alabaster moon.
I eat the last of the white peaches from Sedona.
Delicate inlay of texture and taste.
The sun hasn’t quite reached my window yet
but the patio is alive; tiny prehistoric,
long-thin-tailed lizards that jack
and pump themselves on the brickwork;
bees hover and burrow in the lemon rose of the cacti
and stripped agave amid the creosote
push its spikes skyward,
pierce the shadow of a turkey vulture,
wings outstretched, feathers spread,
rifling the sizzling air.
Glint of blue-green-black butterfly flap,
crickets that pulse and trill from the milkweed.
I think of that particular point where one stops
watching, stops listening,
folds back the formed word on the tongue, stops feeling:
and I wonder how long I’ve been sitting here
a study in loss, but breathing.
for Katie and Margaret McAleese
The second leaving,
a Spring day in March
and a railway station in the north.
and the very last time you see your sister.
She gets an hour off from the mill
to say goodbye forever.
Then Belfast, the docks, the pier awash with tears.
A boat to Southampton
for the liner out.
You’re on your own now,
the first leaving back
when you fell for the protestant,
threw your hat in with the other crowd,
broke free from every sort of rope
that bound convention.
March sea, the cheaper fare.
A full week moored to your cabin
while the ocean swells,
waves tilt and thicken with ice.
Ireland behind you,
the Atlantic below
and a new found coastline beckons.
Those were the years of telegraphs and distance
thin airmails and funerals,
snow drifts, and lamps for the darkness.
All the leaving and the waiting,
to go or get there or even return,
two sides of the same tossed coin
a silver bright half-crown,
or perhaps, that unfamiliar dollar.
Heather Brett © 2015