The Journey East (Winter 2010)

A seasonal poem by James Harpur

Photograph: iStock/Getty

Photograph: iStock/Getty


The car revving up: the three of us
wiping mist away to see a blanker world.

Black-ice to Clonakilty – cortege of cars
in line behind a spectral hearse.

In Bandon, loops of sapphire lights;
stars falling through the river.

On Cork’s Victorian viaduct
a train made of snow. We steam below the River Lee.

Cork city now behind us;
three swans on Slatty Water . . . feathery ice.

The sun’s final x-ray radiates the trees.
Lights turn red in Castlemartyr.

Diesel-slush road. Across the Blackwater
Waterford has drifted white.

Inching mile by mile – through Iceland? Greenland?
Wexford, another country.

Dungarvan’s glittery square:
each shop an advent calendar window.

Beyond the Suir bridge, darkness again.
Then angels light the quays of New Ross.

Rosslare night; chalet on an empty estate.
Sound of wind in chimney.

Dawn ferry, sudden vibrations –
big engines rudder the sea.

Gravity plunging upwards –
O let the voyage finish now, and grant us solid earth.

From Pembroke, Wales in folds of white;
a postbox in a wall, red as a berry.

Beneath the Severn bridge
a miracle of water turned to bone.

The Somerset Levels – a white kingdom;
the motorway accelerates the dark.

The night re-icing the Yeovil road –
not now, not now we’re nearly there.

A house on Duck Street:
an outdoor light – a star that’s stopped overhead.

James Harpur has published five collections of poetry. Today’s poem is from The White Silhouette, due from Carcanet Press in 2018. His translations of the Roman philosopher-poet Boethius were published as Fortune’s Prisoner. He is a member of Aosdána