The Mayo Tao

The Mayo Tao

- by Irish poet Derek Mahon, born November1941 – Selected Poems (Penguin, 2000)

I have abandoned the dream kitchens for a low fire

and a prescriptive literature of the spirit;

a storm snores on the desolate sea.

The nearest shop is four miles away –

when I walk there through the shambles

of the morning for tea and firelighters

the mountain paces me in a snow-lit silence.

My days are spent in conversation

with deer and blackbirds;

at night fox and badger gather at my door.

I have stood for hours

watching a salmon doze in the tea-gold dark,

for months listening to the sob story

of a stone in the road, the best,

most monotonous sob story I have ever heard.

I am an expert on frost crystals

and the silence of crickets, a confidant

of the stinking shore, the stars in the mud –

there is an immanence in these things

which drives me, despite my scepticism,

almost to the point of speech,

like sunlight cleaving the lake mist at morning

or when tepid water

runs cold at last from the tap.

I have been working for years

on a four-line poem

about the life of a leaf;

I think it might come out right this winter.

Stretch stone pitched footpath between Grasmere and Easedale Tarn - by Graham Robson