Map of Dreams

Selected Poems

Vera quae visa;
Quae non, veriora
(True, the seen;
the unseen, truer still).

The barn was warm, moist
and dark enough so that,
in from the bright outside,
Éamon at first saw nothing
but took in the raw odour
of straw, urine, manure
and felt the presence of cattle.

And then they moved.

Huge and magnificent,
they moved their milk-white bulk
like slow and pregnant moons
through the small night of the barn.

They turned toward the door
where he stood transfixed.
They held him steady
in the gaze of pinkrimmed eyes
until he felt himself slip
under their humid spell.

Only when he bolted from the barn,
heart pounding, his breath
hooked to the back of his throat,
did the boy, stunned by sunlight
in a field as broad as the sea,
come back to himself.
She was carved in Hamburg
and given there the bright
blue eyes, the golden hair
and what the cook calls
when prey to mid-night funk,
her equivocal Teutonic grace,
for, oblivious to all entreaties,
she remains the steadfast one,
one eye fixed on the horizon.

Half her face is charcoal,
burned when lightning struck
in a storm off the Canaries;
others say no, not an accident:
torched on purpose by a misfit
who tried to woo her from the quay
while the ship docked at Calais.

The same holds for the tear.
They say it is but paint
carelessly dripped in Hamburg;
others swear that streak
appeared years later and at sea:
grief for Pedro whom, in fear
of the plague, we threw overboard.

Our glory is her hair
that frames her face in tight
gold curls then moves
to the intricacies of braids
only to be set loose at last
and flow back towards the ship
as if grandly swept by wind or wave.

I, Diego, son of Juan
and Catarina Queluz,
terrified, true enough,
by the sea that roils

and hisses around our ship,
but being otherwise
of sound mind, bequeath
what little is mine:
its dark sun ringed
in mother-of-pearl,
to my sister, Angela,
my rosewood guitar.
To my brother, Luis,
my horse, saddle and spurs;
(the boots do not fit him
and go to my cousin Ramon).
My hunting gun, my dogs,
given me by my father
who also died at sea,
I leave for my brother Carlos;
The Catalogue of Grief
The Romance of Seven Sages
and The Labyrinth of Tears
I leave to my sister Isvera

but Claudia Particella:
l’amante del Cardinale
is an evil book and so
I leave it to the bonfire
and ask destroyed, unread,
the five volumes of my diary
buried beneath the third
floorboard of my room.
To the pharmacist I leave
my stuffed Antarctic penguin,
my collection of fossils
and The Healing Herbs.
Green as her eyes are green,
green as sometimes the sea,
I give back to Marina
the sweater she knit me.
Let her each day undo
one knot until the whole
is undone: Let her then
turn away and forget me.

A pig-iron disposition
annealed to a silver soul,
the boatswain kept to himself
except when a full moon
sat on his shoulder
and His Royal Gruffness
became suddenly blessed
by the gift of palaver.

Then it was the mermaids
adrift in our moonlit wake,
begged to be brought aboard
there to sit, shivering,
arms around each other,
asking of the sailor
that he tell once more
the tale of Fergus
whom they had drowned.

And once he was done,
that he tell it again,
the grief in his growl
soaking each word,
until daybreak neared
and, singly, they slipped
overboard, to mingle their tears
in the salt of the sea.

From the lantern light
swinging at the stern,

bringing out the gold
glint of her braided hair

to the phosphorescence
we leave behind:

beholden to vagaries
of tide and wind,

by drift of chance
the ship is tracing

a new map and that map
the contours of this dream.

Land forever postponed,
island yet to be found

below the dip of the horizon
where he aims to strike

the magnetic heart,
the lit centre of his life.

Or perhaps not. Not
a pinpoint on a map

but the map itself.
More than the map:

the drawing of it,
this sailing forth:
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