If I have previously posted this poem on the subject of racial memory, please
forgive me. Probably my own memory is going! If I didn't, I hope it speaks
to some of you. I wrote it a couple of years ago, after displaced memories
seem to crop up.
ECHOES, GAZING ACROSS IRISH HILLS
The dunny hills I see across
have been ranged before and yet before.
Shards of memories uncalled
pull my eyes beyond the waiting rocks
and then away again.
I hear the hurried creak of carts,
wheel-wood turning slow in rounding terror,
and ponies, matted fur dark with sweat,
whose soft breath whiffling against the weight
mingles with the slate-black call of crows.
I hear men's voices shouting over furling wind
in battle's high confusion.
I hear the women's screams
come on sight of a familiar form, abruptly still
heart's blood seeping into the waiting earth -
they sway, awareness smiting into skull
the jagged famine fear of what will come.
I touch the earth and tremble
at its ramming beat of hooves, drums.
The dunny hills hold tight their memories
entrapped in rock crevice, tree crotch, water seep.
The dunny hills seem still, glacial, slumbering, silent.
They wait to pull me through their unimagined, terrored past.
I catch its odor.
Hairs prick and bones tremble at the snow -
although now August,
I feel the heavy rise of snows past
and taste the fear in meager fires
thrown against the ceaseless probe of winter,
snatching life from sodden, dwindling yield.
I smell the vengeful reek of soaked and sweaty hide
the rough-cured fur of enemies
unseen behind the night-blown flakes
hidden amid those death-sheeted hills.
Their stink is alien to the rocks on which they crouch.
The rocks have caught and held their cold smell even now.
I cannot quell the din of past,
a past unknown to my library skills,
nor pinch my senses off
from earth-surrendered evidence
running in my veins
as I feel its shaking power
as I see it fading in and out of mist
on those dunny, ancient hills.
I cannot stop it
It is not mine to choose.