Kneeling above the eyepiece of a telescope
propped on a tripod in the middle of the parlour,
you name the constellations for your daughter:
Gemini, Orion, Ursa Minor— outside
you drag on your pipe in the Bryansford air;
through the windows the brass tube volleys light shards
from the hearth into the dark, and you wonder
if anyone is camping out on the Drinns tonight
to receive it, when a trail of sherbet flashes
in an oblique westward arc across the sky and splits
into golden streams, and you lose sight of it, sure
that a meteorite is burrowed in the first field.
Next morning you scour the fields with an astronomer
from the Municipal museum, finding nothing.
Word gets round that a herd of cows came upon a cave
and clattered to their deaths. You wonder what drove them
into the souterrain that stretches from the field
to the thicket of Tollymore Forest, petrified.
Night falls again and you lean to your telescope
stopping only to refill your pipe and your thoughts
are not with the stars. Each look through the lens is changed
by the last: cast back to 1920 and you’re stargazing
on the Newtownards Road— the sound of gunfire
in York Street fights a westward wind. You focus the lens.
Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem featured on the Poetry Jukebox installations in Limerick and Derry from May-July 2023.