Closer Than Coldness, poems by Noel Duffy
Noel Duffy’s debut collection In the Library of Lost Objects was published by Ward Wood Publishing, London, in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish poet. His second collection On Light & Carbon followed in autumn 2013, followed by Summer Rain in 2016. His poetry has appeared widely, including in The Irish Times, The Financial Times and Poetry Ireland Review, and has been broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4. A new collection, Street Light Amber, is due to published in summer 2019.
I entered the garden from the Western side
and found on the grass a standing stone:
grey granite, rectangular, six feet tall.
It was cold and bare there in the garden
with the rain drafting sharp lines down
on the grey-hung day, the stone no ancient
or romantic pillar but rock freshly hewn,
plain, almost ugly, to look upon – how
misplaced it seemed there in the stark cold
amid the bare branches and green lawn.
All winter I sat beside the stone.
At first, perplexed I just watched it,
occasionally placing my hands gently on,
following the regiment of its turns.
Later, frustrated and tired, I reflected upon it
merely, rarely touching its granite now,
huddled beneath the shadow of its form,
growing more despondent with each passing
day, staring blankly at its persistent walls,
lost within the lattice of my thoughts.
In time, I just clung to this changeless block
until, in the end, my fingers grew worn
in my cold and hard and desperate embrace…
That night I fell asleep and dreamt it breathing.
It was warm and green and summer when I woke.
That evening I left the garden walking East
and travelled out into the wide world to learn
from those who knew the nature of stone.
I listened carefully to their words
and returned to the garden I had left
a season before. Patiently, I work now,
and discover the sculptor’s craft of line
and touch, revealing from this strange form,
the statue of a man, myself, as autumn comes
What the Crow Saw
Sitting in a bleak pool
watching the waters move,
mercurial and black, the crow’s eyes
rippling against the stark sky.
Washing the lullaby child
at the Old-Stone lake,
holding him, the one still sick
or his mother’s milk.
Rocking him with a comforting lie,
concealed by him, a knife.
Then the killing of him with
a savage stroke and terrible doubt –
and thus, he ends the infant’s life.
Sadness sails strange heartbreak into the chest,
sadness that seeks the opened flesh, with long
white hands to stop the blood’s escape.
The burden of love’s task takes grip within,
like rain in trees after the storm is gone.
Beating the battered hour into a cup,
to contain within it, his crimson loss:
“Do not let the waters spill,
for the sake of this Holy well,
O do not let them spill, or plunge
down into dark destiny unwilled.”
All this the crow saw:
a man sitting by the water’s edge,
blood on his hands,
a deathly wound to his side –
holding a dead child.
Closer Than Coldness
Forsaking sleep I rise in greyness,
walk through the open door,
mutely welcome the laden dawn;
rain-pressed earth crouched in leafy-death
Into the silent garden I shuffle
in nakedness, to gather with bare
hands the shrivelled foliage;
blood-touched heart closer than finger-grasp
Cold feet upon the soaked ground,
my voice, like shedding trees, floats
murmured words into the morning air;
moon-pushed hope cradled in whisper-thought
And I, standing by the stream
muck-covered, offer my decayed
treasure to the water
thinking of you-love, me and soil
© Noel Duffy