Ancestor

We arrive at our destination.

The trees with their bitter apples
Hold the evening light. Down the road
A horse stands in a churned-up field
His coat long against the winter cold.

There are dead flies on the windowsill
Weeds in the farmyard,
Rusting farm machinery
And time, like a venerable fish
Seemingly immobile,
Flexes his inexorable gills.

We are here in this moment,
You wrapped in your sheepskin coat,
Me bundled in scarf and woollen hat
Reaching out to catch what eludes us.

The late sun makes a brief appearance
Without heat or conviction.
Despite appearances to the contrary
We are not lost – we are waiting.

We watch the wind ripple the surface
Of water pooled in the farmyard,
A small expanse that sucks the light and swallows it.

We know that this journey
Had not yielded what we longed for –
The charity of belonging.
We are all attention, but nothing is revealed.

I try to imagine my great grandmother
At the kitchen window looking
Out to where we now stand.
But I cannot conjure the past into this present.
Nothing haunts me, though the ghost yearning persists.

In the growing darkness the sound of the river reaches us.
And the drowned dog, caught in the flow of the river,
Is carried towards the sea, like an offering from an ancient war.

We stand and listen once more.
The starlings gather,
The darkness falls,
Nothing but the road home lies ahead.

Kevin Mc Dermott is a Dublin-based writer. He is the author of six novels for young adults. His writing for radio includes plays, feature-length documentaries, essays and short stories. His poems have been published in journals and magazines, and broadcast on RTE, the Irish national broadcast service.

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1 Response to Ancestor

  1. Absolutely marvellous poem with vivid imagery and a powerful diction

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