It’s only in imagination
I break the curfew and make my way on tiptoe
through bog cotton and bog pool to Coum Eig.
Why it’s called Coum Eig, no one seems to know.
The coum is dark and cold, facing north.
Cradling no lake, it’s void of reflection.
Wheatears dash between boulders, flashing
the white arses for which they were named.
Coum Eig, Death Coum – what’s in a name?
Rock is reaching its own slow solution.
Can I pick the trickle of water deep under grass?
Is roseroot in flower, high on the cliff face?
A peregrine starts to sound its alarm.
I mustn’t disturb it any further.
And I had thought to be so quiet.
Perhaps I’ll never see the yellow poppy.
In some dark corner its briefness burns.
I came here when told I hadn’t long
to live. The wheatears I saw then are not
the ones I see now. In Death Coum,
what survives? What survives is Spring.
Mark Roper’s most recent collection, Bindweed (2017), was shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. A Gather of Shadow (2012) was also shortlisted for that award and won the Michael Hartnett Award in 2014. A Gather of Shadow (2012) was also shortlisted for that award and won the Michael Hartnett Award in 2014. http://www.mark-roper.com
A masterful poem, beautiful phrasing, dealing with absence without becoming overly sentimental.