Between Hovers

And not even when we ran over the badger
Did he tell me he had cancer, Joe O’Toole
Who was psychic about carburettor and clutch
And knew a folk cure for the starter-engine.
Backing into the dark we floodlit each hair
Like a filament of light our lights had put out
Somewhere between Kinnadoohy and Thallabaun.
I dragged it by two gritty paws into the ditch.
Joe spotted a ruby where the canines touched.
His way of seeing me safely across the duach
Was to leave his porch light burning, its sparkle
Shifting from widgeon to teal on Corragaun Lake.
I missed his funeral. Close to the stony roads
He lies in Killeen Churchyard over the hill.
This morning on the burial mound at Templedoomore
Encircled by a spring tide and taking in
Cloonaghmanagh and Claggan and Carrigskeewaun,
The townlands he’d wandered tending cows and sheep,
I watched a dying otter gaze right through me
at the islands in Clew Bay, as though it were only
Between hovers and not too far from the holt.

from Selected Poems (Jonathan Cape, 1998), copyright © Michael Longley 1998, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd

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