To Otomo Yakamochi, a new poem by Michael Longley

Michael Longley  at his home in Belfast. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Michael Longley at his home in Belfast. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

On receiving the inaugural Yakamochi Medal

You, Otomo Yakamochi,

Poet and governor, and I

Minor bureaucrat, and poet too,

Meet across thirteen hundred years

To talk about birds and flowers.

Lover of cuckoos and wisteria,

For you I have saved meadowsweet

And willowherb and loosestrife

And the meadow pipit’s few notes

And the skylark’s aria.

We gaze on our soul-landscapes

More intensely with every year –

Small boats passing Inishbofin,

Small boats on the Nago Sea,

Wokami River crimson-lustrous.

Barnacle geese our messengers

Across space and time, Otomo –

Tormentil closed by the rain

And centaury, tiny boxes

Yellow and pink, Japanese.

Anything however small

May make a poem, a snail, say,

Tucked into the marram grass,

In the distance Tateyama

Or Mweelrea, holy mountains.

I picture you at the White Strand

Galloping through the breakers,

Spring-tide and rain and spray

Kicked up by your horse’s hooves

Drenching bridle and stirrups.

A small townland becomes my life,

Carrigskeewaun, grandchildren

Wading in the tidal channel –

Otomo, my soul’s a currach

Disappearing behind the waves.

Today’s poem is from Michael Longley’s new collection, The Candlelight Master, published this week.