for Frank Kavanagh, died 27 January 1984
In the heartland the hills move.
Roads shoot through the earth,
Turn, then disappear far off.
Our horizon circles leaving no escape;
We paint our family red on kitchen tables,
Uncertain children tracing questions in a mess.
For thirty years he sat, the centre
Of our family’s compass: North, soft hills
Too steep for grazing, but pleasant enough
To look at; South, and the other side
Of a languid river, another property,
Larger and richer with level ground;
Stretching East to West, his oblong piece,
Made more interesting by having at one point
Where the river turns, a steep fall to the waterline,
Large trees, and blackberry scrub which pricked
Our legs until they bled, driving us home
In an ancient truck, proud of the wounds.
Today, his no-time friends and no-where relatives
Have their collars pinned and waistcoats
Tight around the grave; all the vegetables
Of green and ordered gardens, the photos
Of men with beer and women in frocks
Are spun into coarse rope.
His pain like a nightmare stretched
Around the farm, fine as barbed wire
Fence, enclosing dreams a thousand years.
Outside the farmhouse, our breath
Spiralled steam-tubes in morning’s
Slow, grey colors of sky and hills:
There, inside a shed—is his
Very private life of rust and disorder,
Where the sheep is hung by its forelegs
Still, and hot—where a knife draws
Lines in blotched skin, and it opens
Steaming like our breath
Steaming through the still cold air
Of this city: clinical and truncated
As television murder: with no fire,
No blood, lifeless as geometry,
As pencilled lines like days of geometry
Dressed in dream and black wire.