Poem of the week: Let the Child Play

A new poem by John F Deane

John F Deane in his Dublin home.  Photograph: Alan Betson

John F Deane in his Dublin home. Photograph: Alan Betson


Because he, too, had dream-memories: of a time before time,
the wild meadows of being, bright and hymning, of olive groves,
flamingos, of body non-

recalcitrant and spirit light as air. But an age and ages without
companionship - and he sees in vision a boat in its tossing, dark
faces watching him;

remembers the breath-catching, tall mountain spaces, the honey
highland gentian, the praises of his father, though down in the
troughs and hollows

he must confront the tears of a child in epileptic fits. Had his own
nightmares, too: the threatening spaces of Egypt; a thudding and
violent hammering;

his own face peering at him, distorted and bloodied, his mouth
open and unable to scream; body in revolt, spirit
deadened to stone.

There is a golden haze that floats over the buttercup meadow,
sunlight shining through the softest rain - and the lightning falls
in a flash of fire, down

out of the darkened sky, the sea, too, on fire, rulers of this world
tossed out like dung. Child, the mother said, don’t be afraid, we
are here, we’ll hold you.

  • John F Deane’s most recent collections are Dear Pilgrim (Carcanet) and Achill, The Island (with paintings by John Behan)