Poem of the Week | February 19, 2008

This week’s poem is “Great Northern Divers in Ballinskelligs Bay” by Kerry Hardie, which originally appeared in TMR 30.3 (2007). Kerry Hardie was born in 1951 and lives in County Kilkenny, Ireland. Her publications include four collections of poetry, a chapbook, and two novels. Most recently, her book of poems The Silence Came Close was released with Gallery Press. She has won many awards including the National Poetry Prize (Ireland).

“[This poem was] written during a residency at Cill Rialaig in County Kerry, on the Atlantic Coast of Ireland. The village was abandoned as a result of emigration but is now being gradually rebuilt and used as working spaces for artists and writers. Cill Rialaig is inserted into a shelf on the side of a headland that drops very steeply to the sea. During my time there, I went by bus to Galway to read at the Cuirt Literary Festival with the distinguished Catalan poet, Joan Margalit, whose work has recently been published in an English translation by Anna Crowe.”

Great Northern Divers in Ballinskelligs Bay

  (after meeting the Catalan poet, Joan Margarit, in Galway)

Now, by the sea,
feet in the sea,
and the waves
washing over them,
watching these birds,
rare birds of the north,
birds with the cry
of a wolf that’s made mad
by the moon-

and the sea here so still and so pale
and the black and white birds swimming low,
half submerged and ambling about
on the ghost-grey stillness of water
like two people walking and talking
as we did that night, in the long northern light-

and I think now how simple
was simple desire,
how when I was young
I fell down into love
with every man
that I slept with-
while now I just fall into love
with the way a whole life has been lived
inside a body not young anymore,
not quick, not fine,
but thickened with all the lived life-

there are people you know for a day
and you love them and all their lived lives
and the way you can swim with them out onto water
so still and so pale that it hardly exists
except as a luminous ground
for this drifting, this talking-

but now the divers have dived,
have taken the plunge and no trace
marks the swell of the sea
lying under this shift of sea-light.