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About this poet

Michael Longley is an Irish poet, and author of eleven collections of poetry, most recently Angel Hill (Wake Forest University Press, 2017). His other collections include The Stairwell (Wake Forest University Press, 2014), which was awarded the 2015 International Griffin Poetry Prize; The Weather in Japan (Jonathan Cape, 2000), which was awarded the 2000 T. S. Eliot Prize; and Gorse Flies (Wake Forest University Press, 1991), which was awarded the 1991 Whitbread Book Award for poetry. He lives in Belfast, Ireland with his wife, the critc Edna Longley.

Heron

               (In memory of Kenneth Koch)

You died the day I was driving to Carrigskeewaun
(A remote townland in County Mayo, I explain,
Meaning, so far as I know, The Rock of the Wall Fern)
And although it was the wettest Irish year I got the car
Across the river and through the tide with groceries
And laundry for my fortnight among the waterbirds. 
If I'd known you were dying, Kenneth, I'd have packed
Into cardboard boxes all your plays and poems as well
And added to curlew and lapwing anxiety-calls
The lyric intensity of your New York Jewish laughter.
You would have loved the sandy drive over the duach
("The what?"), over the machair ("the what?"), the drive
Through the white gateposts and the galvanised gate
Tied with red string, the starlings' sleeping quarters,
The drive towards turf-fired hilarity and disbelief,
"Where are all those otters, Longley, and all those hares?
I see only sparrows here and house sparrows at that!"
You are so tall and skinny I shall conscript a heron
To watch over you on hang-glider wings, old soldier,
An ashy heron, ardea cinerea, I remind you
(A pedant neither smallminded nor halfhearted):
"And cinerarius?": a slave who heats the iron tongs
In hot ashes for the hair-dresser, a hair-curler
Who will look after every hair on your curly head.
That afternoon was your night-season. I didn't know.
I didn't know that you were "poured out like water
And all your bones were out of joint". I didn't know.
Tuck your head in like a heron and trail behind you
Your long legs, take to the air above a townland
That encloses Carrigskeewaun and Central Park.

From Collected Poems by Michael Longley. Copyright © 2007 by Michael Longley. Used by permission of Wake Forest University Press.

From Collected Poems by Michael Longley. Copyright © 2007 by Michael Longley. Used by permission of Wake Forest University Press.

Michael Longley

Michael Longley is an Irish poet, and author of eleven collections of poetry, most recently Angel Hill (Wake Forest University Press, 2017).

by this poet

poem

Poem Beginning with a Line of J. M. Synge


Brown lark beside the sun
Supervising Carrigskeewaun
In late May, marsh marigolds
And yellow flags, trout at the low
Bridge hesitating, even
The ravens' ramshackle nest--
Applaud yourself, applaud me