To Otomo Yakamochi, a new poem by Michael Longley
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,
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.