Response to E.gress | Poetry by Kerry Hardie
Big, strong, rumbustious with life,
he liked the most animal
cuts of a beast,
the fridge shelves revealing
liver or kidneys,
sometimes a pig’s cheek
flat on a plate. Oh, the pathos.
Its closed eye, the sweet fold
of its bloodless ear.
Bloodless as Sweeney, after the curse,
hopping about up there in the branches,
lepping and staring and muttering,
singing his hollow green songs.
Oh where ha’e ye been, Lord Randall, my son?
Oh where ha’e ye been, my handsome young man?
Is it you
or is it the Other One?
Other One? Have you gone mad, woman? What Other One?
Maybe you mean
that auld crone in the mirror
with thick skin
I talk to her when
there’s nobody listening,
she’s lonely, poor crater, what harm will it do
to throw her a word
when there’s nobody listening at all?
But sometimes they listen.
When they do they think she’s me—
I ha’e been to the Wildwood, Mother mak’ my bed soon,
for I’m weary wi’ huntin’ and fain would lie down.
Fain. Now there’s a word I know I knew once,
I remember it well but now the meaning escapes me.
Where did I lose it? Out there in the Wildwood?
Maybe somebody stole it on me in the night,
the night-staff here can’t be trusted, but you can’t say anything,
if you do,
they look at other and smile into each other’s eyes.
‘She’s daft.’ That’s what they’re saying.
But it’s the Other One that’s daft,
the One that looks like me but isn’t me—
There’s a man I see here and I know well
he’s one of us and he has Another One
in the mirror who wants to live inside him
and mostly he won’t let him, but sometimes
he’s too tired and the other one gets in. It’s a terrible thing,
sometimes you can’t go on fighting, you can’t find the energy
to see off that Other One, or explain
to people that it isn’t you. Never mind, they say when you try,
Never mind, don’t be worrying yourself.
Sure, they’ll be coming soon to take you out for a bit of a run—
Then I ask them who they are.
Why your son and his wife, of course, they say,
don’t they come every Sunday to take you out?
Then I don’t say anything because I’m not too sure
about this son they’re talking about, or his wife either.
Maybe he’s the man who has Another One inside him,
or maybe that Another-One-man is not my son at all, and nothing to do with me?
Last night her feet wouldn’t keep still
and I told her to get out of the bed but she wouldn’t listen.
Instead she laughed, she said it was the poppies running about,
I said What poppies? She said the poppies in the poem, had I forgotten?
And I said of course I hadn’t, but she had—
then I asked her would she tell it to me the way she used to?
Oh certainly, she said,
I’ll give it to you now—
Mad Patsy said, he said to me,
That every morning he could see…
More, I said, there was more of it,
There was something about an angel.
I closed my eyes. An angel walking on the sky—
There, you see,
I can do it as well as you,
and I told her I liked it better than Lord Randall
who was poisoned in the Wildwood by his True Love,
or poor King Sweeney with the curse put on him by a saint,
and she said I was right, and there was all different kinds of madness,
there was Sweeney-mad, Mad-Patsy-glad and plain sad-mad,
and when all’s said and done, she said,
what’s a line or two gone missing, after all—?’
Sweeney or Shuibhne: a king, whom legend has it was turned into a bird by the curse of a saint.
Lord Randall: an anonymous ballad, probably from the Scots border-country.
In the Poppy Field: written by the Fenian poet and prose writer, James Stephens, who founded an unnamed organisation which was later to become the IRB.
Kerry Hardie has published seven collections of poetry, her most recent being The Zebra Stood in the Dark (2015) [Bloodaxe Books, U.K.] and a Selected Poems. She has published two novels, (Harper Collins; Little, Brown) and is finishing a third. Her verse play [written with Olivia O’Leary], To Find a Heathen Place and Sound a Bell was broadcast in 2015.