(for Sean McSweeney)
We gathered in the stove-warmed kitchen
after chasing down laneways,
picking frockens and blackberries,
that left us purple tongued,
our skin stained with indigo
like some wild colonial tribe.
You gave us blank sheets of paper, whiter than
fresh cow’s milk and tried to teach us to draw.
We’ll start with birds, you said,
A few lines for belly, beak and back.
Mine took on the form of some grotesque,
a distorted form that could never fly.
But when you sketched the hawk in swift
brushstrokes, delineated against an infinite sky
I saw it hovering, gimlet eyed, as it soared
over the hedgerows traced in the fields far below.
I see you now, hawk-still, keen-eyed, gliding over
your Sligo bogs. Swooping down on the
deep blues, greens and blacks hidden in the reeds
to spear them, ink pricked, onto the cloud-white
of your canvas, brushed with a feathered hand.
Your fingers delivering each stroke with a raptors skill.