Two poems of piping


For Seán Garvey

(i) The Blackbird and the Worm

The piper and the piper’s son
Argued the finer points of fingering
The Blackbird: how do you draw out
That one long note to turn the tune
And keep it whole enough to let it flow?
But the tune bobbed out of reach, adrift.

Then the piper said to his piper son:
Feel the turn the way a blackbird draws
A worm from earth, taking the strain
Steadily until the worm yields, and earth
Yields the worm for the blackbird’s young.
The piper played as the piper said.

And the tune flowed from one to the other,
Each in time making his own tune of it
Like cut worm wriggles in two living halves.
Then it tightened again, like an anchor rope
Between them, easily taking the strain
Between the piper and the piper’s father.

(ii) A Dream of Music

Dream or not, by now it has fingered
Itself into the memory of what is real:

That piper there at the edge of the cliff
At nightfall, playing the air they say is seal-music,

And his piper brother taking up the note
On the other headland, dark across the bay.

And, dream or not, I remember the notes
Gathering themselves to take to the sea,

Skimming the gilded surface like shearwaters
And, amplified above their own reflections,

Wingbeat for wingbeat getting louder and nearer
Until brother inhaled brother, in the one breath.

Paddy Bushe’s collections include To Ring in Silence: New and Selected Poems and My Lord Buddha of Carraig Éanna.