Where we are now
POEM:THIS IS THE CONCLUDING poem in a sequence, The Venice Suite, that no poet would wish to write. Its memories are unique to me, yet its voyage of loss is undertaken by thousands, sometimes with huge support, like I was privileged to receive, but often in isolation.
In 2010, my wife, Bernie, collapsed while swimming with one of our sons. She had no symptoms of ill health and no thoughts of death before death cruelly thought of her. I was beside her when she died from an undiagnosed ruptured aneurysm on a trolley in the Mater hospital in Dublin, still awaiting the doctor assigned to her.
I was numb with grief, and I have no recollection of writing poems. But, sorting through drawers, 18 months on, I found multiple scraps of paper tucked away: barely legible lines scribbled on envelopes that were not poems but notes left to myself during the first dark year of mourning. Reshaping them into poems allowed me to confront that initial grieving process and try to imagine myself into the different life I now lead.
These memories are unique to me, but their underlying emotions are not. Thousands of people articulate the emotions expressed here with greater eloquence in the silence of their hearts than I managed by reconstructing thoughts first scribbled down on whatever scrap of paper came to hand.
Three years have passed since a day of incessant snow
That halted at midnight, when I ventured with our boys
Through the unchained park gates opposite our house
Into a white moonscape untainted by footstep or bird claw.
Squadrons of swollen clouds impeded any moon or starlight,
Allowing an eerie luminosity to emanate from the ground.
Branches overburdened, benches twice their natural size:
Each everyday object transformed into a source of light.
The ordinary made wondrous: rendered gleaming at midnight.
We three raced home to try and lure you from your bed
To share in our witnessing of this miraculous spectacle,
But you complained you were sleepy, snuggled down,
You waved aside each entreaty as we begged you to come:
“Not tonight,” you said, “not now, but I promise the next time.”
None of us could have conceived that when the snow next fell
It would cover your grave for weeks, leaving us shell-shocked,
Mutely comforting each other as we mourned your absent radiance.
Two years after your death I have finally built our extension,
With six feet of balustraded decking, five steps above the garden.
Our sons have converted it into an impromptu amphitheatre.
Tonight its recessed lights are abetted by the colossal supermoon