Transitions in Frost
This is the last sonata. It reverberates
Through this twisting hull, as our slow lives
Flash – for us – warding spirit in time, and I live
Now, as much in the past, as the present, in a wave
Of recollection, and age-spurred grasping for forest fruit.
But where time and light prompted sun shortness and the frost,
That hallowed dome in winter we watched, it begins to hew,
Spurring a hardening of whorled deep brown roundnesses,
Pierced teats in the soft grain of load-bearing lungs,
Yet their survival sustains only uncertainty, here,
Where life clings to scales of insulated bark,
Desperate to protect its repeated origin,
So it is that we end here, instead,
In autumn, when youth relents,
In the face of lasting death,
And birthing begins,
Deep in the base,
Of your bones.
As this first tongue falls silent, in its lulled collapse,
It comes to know a unity that starts in an asymmetric rotation,
Then – caught in unspent breath – turns to a see-sawing drift,
A final rest, bar one, upon the earth, which will swallow it.
It is life restoring life to the spring.
And now, in this somnambulant descent of leaves,
There is meaning, and the absolute,
And I am in thrall,
Ever more its servant,
Waiting on the edge,
For the call.
You who stood by the Tongue Tower,
The ziggurat and temple of the god Nabu,
Disciple of Birs Nimrud, whose lesser edifice
Is a soft hankering for speech we can not share,
How is it you, who walked to the holy city of our birth
Each year, how is it that you have forgotten how
To teach us why we must abandon guilt in the sun-
Drenched splitting of ourselves that becomes us
One unto the other?
You, who inscribed the fates, who knew why
Our fathers roiled with love for hard wood
And pellets of iron slung, only to land
In the walls of the great house, each encoded
Ghosts of messages of ardour and need:
The vituperative, the heavenly, and banal.
Yet I know, too, it is your madness that is inscribed
On the tablets we dig for each day,
And it is your sins that define you,
Not through action, but in grief,
And the clay bakes – wordless – in the sun,
And your grief, it binds us,
Threshing in the black.
Irish poet, academic, and journalist, Oisín Breen’s debut, Flowers, All Sorts in Blossom, Figs, Berries, and Fruits Forgotten (Edinburgh: Hybrid Press) was released March 2020. Breen is published in 89 journals in 19 countries, including in About Place, Door is a Jar, Northern Gravy, North Dakota Quarterly, Books Ireland, the Seattle Star, La Piccioletta Barca, Reservoir Road, and Dreich, which will also publish Breen’s second collection, (4² by 5), in summer 2022. Breen’s third full collection, the experimental Lilies on the Deathbed of Étaín, will be published by Beir Bua Press in January 2023.