My mother times the journey to miss mass

in Ennis, Crusheen and Gort. The Morris Minor gleams

through narrow streets of huddled cars

as each town funnels towards a landscape of fewer trees,

hedgerows of alder, ash, whitethorn

yielding to dry-stone walls –

stippled rock reaped from thin-grassed fields.

 

She is going home,

no longer truly ours;

even the light steals her,

 

skin a shade darker, intensifying the black

hue of her hair, eyes alive in a scene of nibbling sheep,

rumps marked red, blue;

black and white collies chase-coiled at wire gaps.

 

She turns to us, huge in her absence,

as though we are supine and she’s falling, falling

towards us. She licks her fingers

to smoothen our hair, our smiles.

 

Ahead now her home place,

crooked row of evergreens, windbreak to the south-west

of the house; turf rick hunkered, part igloo

home for dogs, rowdy in their yap-yap welcome;

the yard a muddle of hens, geese, cautious cats

sat like camels on windowsills. My mother’s midstride feet

a nanosecond of flight

on her run to the door.

 

Within, above half-length lace curtains, a puppet show.

Her troupe takes her coat, kiss her, while we wonder

at the pewter patina on midday windows,

split-coal black of roof slates, pup-belly pink

of quoin stones –

 

light’s precise splendour keeping our mother close

to us, as though it’s our duty to bind ourselves

to the place she loves.